Approximately fifteen years ago my husband and I took a ride on a beautiful March day, to visit my hometown in North Jersey. Since it was a beautiful day we extended our visit and drove down Ravine Lake Road in Far Hills. All my life, whenever the family car took that route I’d look to the other side of the lake and wonder about the little boathouse clinging to the edge of the hill. At the top of the hill…which really seemed like a small mountain…..I could see a series of huge rooftops, but because of the dense vegetation, that was ALL I could see. For years I’d wondered what the mysterious building could be….until that afternoon in March. As we drove back up Ravine Lake Road we noticed a stone gateway, which had at one time been a glorious entry to the estate whose name it bore: Blairsden. Now it was falling down and covered with weeds, but I knew that it had to be the passage to the house I’d always wondered about, hidden behind the trees on the mountain.
Curiosity got the best of us, and we parked the car and walked up the overgrown road to the top of the hill.
Here you see the pathway that we hiked. My first peek of Blair Mansion was the picture at the top of the page, and it was breathtaking. Of course, we were trespassing. The mansion was beautiful and fascinating, but all I could think of were the potential headlines: “Pennsylvania Teachers Caught Breaking and Entering.” It didn’t quite go that far, but our car was in plain sight down at the bottom of the path, so after a quick look around, (and into the window of what is now the main Great Room), we hiked back down the path and headed for Pennsylvania.
We never forgot the experience, and over the years we often talked about Blairsden, never thinking that we’d actually get to see the inside. It was just such a conversation, this past March, that led me to look it up online. I was amazed and delighted to find that the mansion would be opened for one month during May, as a fundraiser for Morristown Memorial Hospital. We paid $50 each to go in and spend as much time as we wanted freely looking around, and let me tell you, it was worth every penny, as well as the hour trip that it took to get there.
You know, I don’t believe in ghosts. But when I visit old homes and see and touch old things, I feel a connection to the people who once lived there. I was well aware of where I was when we entered the Blair sisters adjoining bedrooms. They lived there. They slept there. Probably fought, laughed and cried there. They’re not there now. But something was left behind…..something.
Still, each of these rooms was decorated and furnished by a different designer. So, although we were seeing a historic building, most of what we saw was not original. Bedrooms and guest rooms had been decorated as offices, breakfast rooms, dressing rooms, children’s rooms, and sitting rooms. There were wonderful tiny spaces everywhere, which, at one time, probably made great hiding places or tranquil areas of solitude.
So anyway…I’ve tried to put the pictures in the order that we saw them. I haven’t posted them all, but here’s some of what we saw. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.
The main entrance to the house is not actually the one that we saw the day we climbed the hill from Ravine Lake Road. It is actually still possible to drive up a narrow, winding driveway from the Peapack side of the mountain. We disembarked at the reflecting pond, and walked parallel to it to the main entrance, which can be seen at the far end.
Pardon the reflections. This is the main door. My son called it the “zombie proof door.”
The main entry had several impressive details. Two of these can be seen below, followed by the main hall that runs through the first floor of the house. The lamp held by a human arm is original to the house, and there were four of them. The sculpture is prominently placed in the middle of the front wall.
Just beyond the two large pillars we turned left, to climb the double staircase. It really was like something out of a medieval castle. Take a look.
At the top of the steps we walked through a small sitting area, then turned right and passed the stairs to the third floor as we proceeded to view some of the 31 bedrooms.
(Don’t forget to click on the pics for a better view.)
We also saw some of the servants’ areas. Even in the early 1900′s they had a manually operated service elevator for getting guests’ luggage and trunks up stairs.
One of the decorators had turned the governess’s suite into a breakfast nook, complete with oven, stove and refrigerator. The current owner apparently does;t want to keep it that way, so it will all have to be taken out after closing tomorrow. I LOVED it!!! Who would take out a cozy little kitchen area when the main kitchen is practically down the block?!
From upstairs we could also look out the windows to the terrace below.
Back downstairs, we saw the billiard room, with its leather wallpaper.
One of the sitting rooms had a skylight ceiling, which I assume is original.
Next I want to visit the Hudson River Valley and see some of the “Castles of America”. Want to come?