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Blairsden, The Peapack New Jersey Estate and its history.

7 December 2007 13,566 views 8 Comments
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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…..

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DROxZtiMLEs[/youtube]

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!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_idqQvojboE[/youtube]

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.

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8 Comments »

  • Vote -1 Vote +1jim
    said:

    i need to talk to you about blairsden

  • Vote -1 Vote +1T3 Consortium (author)
    said:

    Someone mentioned that the latest owner of Blairsden has died. Anyone know if this is true or not?

  • +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Monica Casey
    said:

    In the mid-1960′s, I was a boarding student at Mt. St. John Academy in Gladstone, NJ (the Mosley estate?) The Blairsden Estate was then known as St. Joseph’s Villa. Living at the Villa were wealthy, elderly women who, we students had heard, lived half of the year at the Villa and the other half in Italy. Rumor had it that this arrangement had something to do with the women, all widows I believe, not being citizens of the U.S.

    Also living at the Villa were aspirants. Aspirants were very young girls, age 12 to 18, who thought they may want to become nuns. These girls dressed in what were commonly known as postulant’s habits; postulants were (are?) the first of three tiers to becoming a full on nun. The aspirants were driven each morning to Mt. St. John Academy to attend school by a nun named Sister Loyola. Loyola drove them to and fro in a very long station wagon looking automobile – I believe the nuns got the vehicle from some airlines. They were a crafty bunch of women!

    In my Junior year, my class, including day students, was forced to go on a three day retreat to St. Joseph’s Villa. Ordinarily, the religious retreats were held at school and lasted for the duration of the school day. For some reason unbeknownst to us students, the good nuns decided to hold it at the Villa. We all packed a suitcase and headed to the Villa. It was a most unusual experience; one I’ve never forgotten.

    The room I stayed in was set up like a small dorm room. There were 4 or 6 of us in it. The room was wallpapered in a small flower pattern. In the middle of the wall was a glass door knob that led through two doors to our bathroom. It took us a while to find it.

    We were what many considered the rowdy, delinquent bunch in the class and we had a blast at the Villa. The building was most curious. For example, in the main parlor, there were secret passageways on one or both sides of the huge fireplace. As I recall, the room was painted a very light teal.

    The priest who led the retreat was a whack job. He was probably in his mid 50′s, with steel gray hair, not bad looking at all. His favorite topic was impure thoughts. He was encouraging the girls to “whip up those impure thoughts!” He told us that as a child he had a stutter and overcame it through prayer and public speaking. Also, I think he told us that he never stuttered when he sang. In any event, it turned out he tried to make out with two of the girls. That storm really gathered strength when it came to light that the poor man had been transferred by some holy person in power at the offices of the diocese or archdiocese to working with girls because he’d had “troubles” with boys. It was the least religious retreat I’d ever been on and as a result, it became one of my friends and my favorites memories of high school life.

    To get to the Villa, one would drive past the Matheny Home, where many of us boarders would help out on weekends. The road narrowed and then one would come upon the entrance which was spectacular. In the middle of the driveway, there was a long reflecting (reflection?) pool; and on the outer sides of the driveway were stone busts of what appeared to be Roman or Greek gods. It was quite trippy for high schoolers.

  • Vote -1 Vote +1Cristin
    said:

    Does anyone have any current information on Blairsden? Do the same guys still own it? Is it ever going to be open to the public? They should do small private tours and charge a fee, they would make a descent amount of money doing that with everyone that is interested.

  • Vote -1 Vote +1Kelley
    said:

    I live very close to Blairsden. I went to Blair Academy and am interested in the history. I would love to see the mansion!!!!!

  • Vote -1 Vote +1LeMarie
    said:

    Wow, years have passed and I’m still doing history reports on the Blair family. Apart from the buildings in NY, and the Princeton building I have to say Blairsden is my favorite to this day.

    2012, and I am planning on returning soon for more pictures…because the last time I went, in 2008, all lights in the mansion and outside the mansion were on (I could see the Roman’s lining the reflecting pool perfectly) and there was a sign for “parking” with an arrow towards the back of the house. The mansion AND the landscape looked very new and taken care of, so it would be safe to say they are fixing it for potential buyers.

    Last I read, in 2011, it was going for 4.9 Million. When back in 2004 it was said to be worth over 10 million. Kind of a shame, considering you cant find homes as sturdy and luxorious like this anymore going for WAY BELOW the worth. Anyway…

    I have never ever even attempted to go through the Ravine Lake bridge entrance. Mainly because the grass was higher than me, there is no where to park your car, and in the dark it is dangerous and difficult to walk through.

    The front gate on Main St/Peapack Rd will, most times, be open. Every time I’ve been there it was atleast. That road past that gate is considered BLAIR ROAD, it is infact a road, because it is a private road that leads to Blairsden AND also other houses on the land. No lights, just a road in the middle of trees. BLAIR ROAD also turns into BLAIR DRIVE………..

    Please if you need any more information, I will be glad to provide you with my knowledge. Because some things are better not written on a public site :)

  • Vote -1 Vote +1Aubrey
    said:

    If you have been wanting to visit Blairsden in person, now is your chance! The Blairsden estate is the site for the 2014 Mansion in May fundraising event. More details here: http://mansioninmay.org/

  • Vote -1 Vote +1Schooner Guy
    said:

    I remember sneaking onto the property many years ago when the nuns were still living there. I didn’t know anything about the place – just that it was there on the side of Ravine Lake and it pulled me like a magnet to go explore.
    I entered from the Ravine Lake entrance. The property was very quiet – never saw anyone at all anywhere. I remember seeing a couple of large schools of golden orange carp in the lake as I made my way. At that time the bath house with changing stalls was still on the side of the lake. I went inside and explored, it was neat but just simple wood construction, very plain and nothing was inside – just the booths and the walls. I daydreamed how it would make the most simple but wonderful place to live there on the side of the hill and the lake with all that privacy and quiet.
    As I ventured up toward the house, it gave me goose bumps!! The view looking up to the house with the steps coming down the hill, all the plantings, the quiet silence – I then knew this was one special place!! I didn’t venture any further since it was obvious the house was still lived in.
    I went back a couple more times. The enormity of the property, the house sitting up there on the hill overlooking the lake and the forest – this was an exciting experience for me even if I was trespassing! I wanted to experience and taste just a tiny bit of what those wealthy people experienced all their lives.
    That was many years ago and I still think of the place today. A good friend of mine is taking me there during the May 2014 open house – I’m really looking forward to it. I’m so happy that someone has had the interest and funds to restore the property – as I said before – it’s a really special place!!

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