Blairsden, The Peapack New Jersey Estate and its history.
I’ve been working with a local historical society for the past few years and while being the webmaster I get to see the email requests that come from the site. Hands down, the most popular request is from curious webbies looking to find out just what’s happening up at the Blairsden Mansion in Peapack.So before you get all excited, maybe you’d like to learn a little about the real history of Blairsden, before we get into some of the weirder tales and current stories that have been floating around the internet and in local publications.
On the Historical Society of Somerset Hills website is a hidden article (because I haven’t posted it yet (as of December 7, 2007). But here’s the link. Preview it at http://www.historicalsocietyofsomersethills.org/blairsden.php
The article takes a bunch of information that I’ve been gathering over the years. Then again, I’m one of those freaks that respects the law and won’t go over there to scout the property, becuase the one time I tried to do it with my daughter, it took a whopping 2 minutes for the local Police to be right behind me threatening to arrest me if I didn’t get off the land. (Geeze, I thought I was safe with my four year old with me- no dice). So there’s definately alarm triggers out there around the waterfall.So why all the excitement with this place. From a historical perspective, not really that much happened there except it was probably the biggest estate built in it’s time here in New Jersey. If it’s big enough, probably the most noteable was that Clinton Ledyward Blair’s four daughters all got married on the estate. It’s also known that Blair had just about every boxwood tree dug up in a fifty mile radius and had them carted up the mountain to the estate. Seems like the guy had a real ego problem (BIGGEST, mostest, largest…you get the idea). See can’t write this type of stuff on the offical historical society site!
Then there’s the locals. And there’s really a bunch of funny stuff that I’ve been receiving over the years and that’s just another reason to post this to a blog (so when you read this and you’ve got something to add, well then just post a comment and tell your story).
Video Humor about Blairden
I caught these beauties about Blairsden on YouTube and had to laugh…..
Then this other budding film director came up with this one (I have to admit it must have been a local, cause there are a bunch of local Scenes around Bernardsville, but I have to admit it was pretty funny- not to mention if I were a teen again, I’d be all over Blairsden!
Love the Dumass Reporter – Hope She Got Arrested!
So with video’s like these two, how can the authorities expect any thing less then always having a bunch of kids going up the mountain looking for a thrill, or historical buffs climbing the backside cause they want to see what was once the “grandest of grand” beauxs arts estates! I can hardly blame them. Can you?
Funny thing. I was at a local historical presentation and a lifelong resident (John Smith) starting asking questions about Blairsden. He asked the audience how many people have been to (or inside the estate) and about three quarters of the audience raised their hands! Geeze I thought, “I’ve been wanting to get into this place for years and look at everyone who’s already been there! Holy Crap!”. Funny thing is that John’s also pushing to get into Blairsden as well, but without any luck.
See, both of Blairsden’s neighbors have open access. You’ve got Natirar, pronounced NAT -arrrr- R, a recent purchase by the Somerset County Parks Commission for Twenty something million, and a subsequent lease of the estate out to Sir Richard Branson from England, who’s going to create a monster health spa and restaurant on the current grounds.
On the other side you have the Matheny Rehab Facility for CP patients. Of worthy note, the Matheny Center actually was part of the Blairsden Estate and the Carriage Barn is actually a building they use today.
So back to Blairsden. While the front gate (off Lake Road) is still closed, and the rear gate (off Peapack Road) in Peapack, just note that I’ve checked this out on Google Maps,and there is no direct road that goes over the mountain. There is no Blair Road, and Highland Road does NOT go thru and over the mountain. In the winter, you can travel up and around Ravine Lake and you’ll get a pretty good view of the estate up on the hill.
But I wouldn’t recommend bothering the new owners. Now it hasen’t been confirmed, and I’m still digging, but there is word that work on the estate has been progressing nicely. There are supposedly two guys, yes two guys (don’t ask me if they’re gay either, cause I don’t know), who supposedly bought the estate from the Sisters of St. John the Baptist, the same ones who have a lock on the Mosley estate up the Road, that was recently sold to Morris County (geeze these Government Agencies know how to spend our tax dollars don’t they!). Anyway, the gentlemen were working under an organization called “The Foundation for Classical Architecture”. I’ve tried to do a bit of reasearch on this and have come up empty. While it might just be a front organization or holding company of sorts, if anyone has any info on the group, let me know. I’ve been told unofficially that it is “Just a Front”, but cannot confirm. But I’ve also been told that the Mayor is working to get additional information, and so are a few of the locals. So we should hear something soon on exactly what’s happening. In the meantime, it is definately still private property and you’ll get popped if you try to go in.
I do love the stories that come with the History of the Estate. Anything from Sisters that devil worshiped and killed the orphans that were living in the house, to gardeners that went wild and killed the nuns, then the kids (poor kids always get the bad end of the stick). But I do hate to disappoint since there are no records of anyone getting killed in or around the estate. Sorry. Doesn’t work well for a new Blair Witch Project (which also has nothing to do with Blairsden- but everyone wants to think it does). But I did post another story about what’s known as the Devils Tomb and Jacobs Ladder (two other local devilish stories). They’re in my draft area at http://www.t3consortium.com/drafts/bb.php but they’re all stories that are still projects in the works. I’ve also posted the Weird NJ story about Blairsden (which you can still buy from Weird NJ- a true collectible). In fact, I think it was the nuns of Blairsden that actually caught the devil himself and dragged him over and up Jacob’s Ladder to the current site of the Devils Tomb.
I laugh when I bring my kids by “The Devils Tomb” and they all point like they know something that no one else does and they giggle, right up until the point when I pull the car over and say “wanna get out and go touch it?” Then their faces change immediately and they all say with a quiet wimper “No Thanks”. That’s the best part!!! But they are learning their history, and I do belive that stories like this do deserve a place in history. While it’s great for blogs, hence the reason for writing, it’s not too good for the local historical societies, who tend to frown upon such stories.
Such is life.
If you have any stories you’d like to share, feel free to email me, post comment, or you can even post comments on the Historical Society’s website. They have a discussion forum about Blairsden as well. It’s at http://www.historicalsocietyofsomersethills.org/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=14 last time I checked.
Thanks for reading.