ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Alnwick Hall mansion offers a glimpse into the Gilded Age

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

It’s a little like stepping inside the walls of Downton Abbey, except this abbey, known as Alnwick Hall, is nestled in Morris Township. A survivor of what was called “millionaires’ row” — a four-mile stretch of more than 100 millionaires and their elegant estates, erected during the gilded age.

“The house was built between 1903 and 1904. Percy Griffin was the architect. He was right here from Orange, New Jersey. He modeled the home after Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England and he built if for Edward Peter Meany. Hewas a businessman,” said Megan Cassie Schubiger, Co-Chair of Mansion in May 2017.

The 20,000 square foot stone mansion is on display for a few more days. It’s part of a fundraising event that draws visitors from across the country, featuring the work of renowned designers and architects.

“Mansion in May is our designer showhouse. We’re one of the premiere designer show houses for the eastern region and we hold it every other year. We love to do historic homes and we raise money to benefit the Morristown Medical Center,” Mansion in May 2017 Co-Chair Katie Nolle said.

“This year the funds from Mansion in May will go directly for establishing the new Center for Nursing Research and Innovation,” said Mary Courtemanche, president of the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center.

Designers submit plans months in advance, donating their time and resources for free, recreating each of the 30 rooms, 11 baths and storage areas. And there’s no shortage of original detail: stained glass windows made by Heinigke and Bowen, apprentices of Tiffany; intricate woodwork; and the ceilings, plaster, wood, hand-painted, more than 80 percent are original. The rooms are a mix of all genres.

“This year I think what sets this mansion apart more than any other in the last handful of years is the integrity within each room. There’s a special feature, whether its a ceiling, a wall, a floor, that the designers have embraced that integrity and designed the rooms around that feature as opposed to decorating them,” Nolle said.

“There are hidden doors where servants would come in and out of rooms unseen. And then we can tell by the structure of the rooms they’re smaller, the stairways are really tiny,” Schubiger said.

But it gives you a sense of what life was like at the turn of the century when the progressive era created a boon for wealth. The original owners of the home were known for hosting some of the premiere social events for the area and designers went to painstaking lengths and hundreds of hours of manpower to hand-paint ceilings and walls, getting it just right.

“I wanted to keep a nod to the original part of the house and that is what I think has what created the warmth of this room. I really was happy to see it all come together with the contemporary and the traditional,” Michael Curren from Curren Design Associates said.

Seventeen garden spaces were recreated and the rain hasn’t stopped more than 20,000 visitors from coming to get a glimpse. Whatever isn’t sold inside for the fundraiser gets packed up and moves on to a new location. But the magic of the mansion gets to stay.