The History and Mystery of Hobart Manor
National Historic Landmark and Elegant Campus Centerpiece
As you drive through Wayne, with its residential neighborhoods, corporate headquarters, and shopping malls, it's difficult to imagine life at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the area mainly consisted of working farms and country estates.
For the people of Paterson, the hills above the city offered peace and quiet, a mountain retreat with forests of towering pines, long sweeping meadows, running brooks, and views of the distant New York City skyline.
Since 1951, William Paterson University has been situated on one such estate. Called Ailsa Farms, the property was owned by the family of Garret Hobart, the twenty-fourth vice president of the United States who served under William McKinley. Its stately 40-room mansion, nestled in a hollow at the southeastern end of the estate, served as the setting for numerous holiday parties and important social events, a place where dignitaries and prominent business people of the time gathered.
Today, the Tudor-style mansion, Hobart Manor, is the centerpiece of the University's 320-acre campus. The building, with its public reception rooms returned to their turn-of-the-century elegance through a fundraising campaign spearheaded by the Alumni Association, once again serves as a focal point for campus, alumni, and community events.
The history of the estate begins in 1877 when John McCullough, a Scottish immigrant who made a fortune in the wool industry, constructed a two-story fieldstone castle with two octagonal turrets facing the valley to the East.
At the turn of the century, McCullough permanently returned to his native Scotland and the property was sold at auction in 1902 to Paterson resident Jennie Tuttle Hobart. Mrs. Hobart, the widow of former Vice President Garret A. Hobart, who died in office in 1899, deeded the property to her son, Garret, Jr., as a Christmas gift that year.
In 1915, Hobart Jr. engaged Paterson architects Fred Wentworth and Frederick Vreeland to undertake an extensive remodeling and expansion of the castle. The octagonal towers were removed and replaced with a new stone entrance way surmounted by a bay window. The second floor stonework exterior was replaced with brick; leaded glass casement windows replaced the old sash windows. Hobart Jr. also added a three-story brick wing on the East side of the castle, expanding the house to 40 rooms. Most of the rooms contained fireplaces, some with elaborate plaster overmantles of flowers and fruit.
The expansion was completed in 1919, and Hobart, Jr. and his wife and children moved into their new home. His mother, who also maintained the family home on Carroll Street in Paterson, moved to the Manor in 1940. She died there on January 8, 1941; her son died on September 29 of that same year, also in the Manor.
Hobart Jr.'s widow, Caroline Frye Hobart, sold the entire estate to the state of New Jersey in 1948 for $200,000, and Ailsa Farms became the new home of the University, then known as Paterson State Teachers' College. Following the construction of a classroom building, Hunziker Hall, the college transferred operations to its new campus in November 1951.
Paterson architects Wentworth and Vreeland added many exquisite details during the expansion completed in 1919
The Manor, then called East Hall, housed administrative offices, three classrooms, and the library, which had no lights for several months. Later renamed Haledon Hall, in subsequent years the building lodged business services, the registrar, admissions, academic advisement, and, at one point, the mailroom. A number of rooms were subdivided with partitions to accommodate the institution's growing need for space.
During William Paterson's celebration of the Bicentennial, the building was listed on the New Jersey and National Registers for Historic Places and, in recognition of its history, was renamed Hobart Manor. In 1985, the Manor was emptied and a major renovation began. Partitions were removed, and much-needed electrical and plumbing repairs were made. The leaded glass windows, beautiful marble fireplaces, and original hardwood floors were all restored.
Today, the Manor houses the offices of the President, Institutional Advancement, Development, and Alumni Relations. Its refurbished public rooms include the original dining room, drawing room, library, billiards room, and central foyers. Furnished with period reproductions, the rooms once again offer a reminder of life in another era.
By Mary Beth Zeman, William Paterson University