Homes of Distinction 2013
Sunday, May 19
3:00 to 6:00 PM
To all who supported our Homes of Distinction in 2013:
Homes of Distinction, the popular fundraiser benefiting the Bernardsville Library Foundation, showcases selected magnificent mansions of our area whose owners allow guests the opportunity to attend a party in their homes to raise funds which help meet the shortfall in funding facing Bernardsville Public Library.
This year’s event featured two beautiful French Country Manor homes: Westover, built in 1938 and remodeled by interior designer Jeffrey B. Haines and his wife Patty in 2002, and Harmony Hollow, built in 1920 and renovated by real estate industry leader Richard L. Schlott and his wife Kim in 2007. Westover sits atop the highest point in the Somerset Hills; Harmony Hollow is nestled in Pleasant Valley. Wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Catering by Fair Winds Fine Catering at the Basking Ridge Country Club and Vine Restaurant.
Westover, located on Claremont Road, was originally built in 1938. (It was originally known as “Sunset House” and appears in New Jersey Country Houses, The Somerset Hills, Vol. II, pg. 290.) It was commissioned by Ester Chapin at the age of sixty-seven, complete with the convenience of elevators. Ester (Lili) Chapin was the widow of Charles Merril Chapin and the granddaughter of Edwin Stevens who left his Castle Point estate in Hoboken, NJ for the establishment of Stevens Institute of Technology. Through her father’s ancestry, Ester Chapin was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. She hired a prominent New York architect, Arthur C. Jackson, to design “Sunset House” after a home she saw while a traveling in Europe.
Distinguished by exquisite design, this brick French country manor house was remodeled in 2002 by Jeffrey B. and Patty Haines, owners of the interior design firm Butler’s of Far Hills, Inc. in Far Hills, NJ. Mr. Haines transformed the beautifully formal house into a comfortable home for entertaining and family living positioned on seven acres at the top of the Bernardsville Mountain.
Walter Carell of Millington, NJ, the landscape architect hired for the Haines’ renovation, created the boxwood structure on the property. At the end of the boxwood allee, visitors find a mossy nook with a statue of Saint Michael, the leader of all Archangels. Mr. Carell also oversaw the design of the rose garden, herb garden, fern bed, and meditation garden. Patty Haines collaborated with Mr. Carrell and researched the selection of plants included in the landscape.
Mr. Haines, with his vision for interiors, has gentrified the residence with the addition of antique ceiling beams, detailed fan windows and hickory parquet floors that create a warm and comfortable family home. The French brick exterior is classically appointed with a pedimented portico with white classic trim and moldings thus creating a Jeffersonian style. The original receiving room with an elliptical bay window has become the dining room, and the dining room is now a library paneled with reclaimed pine. French doors leading to south and west terraces surround the living room. Notably, the slate on the west terrace came from Independence Hall after the renovation for the bicentennial celebration in historical Philadelphia.
Harmony Hollow on Pleasant Valley Road is situated in a hollow with gentle rolling hills to the north and east. This elegant stucco house was once the cow barn of the Brookrace estate. The Ernest Flagg-designed Brookrace manor house was built in 1914 for Col. Richard Henry Williams Jr., a decorated veteran of World War I, by his father, Richard H. Williams Sr. A Harvard Graduate, Col. Williams worked for Williams & Peters, a firm of wholesale coal merchants founded by his father. In 1905, Williams Jr. married Julia Lorillard Edgar, who bore his two daughters and a son. The family maintained a New York City apartment but spent much of their time at Brookrace, where Williams was able to pursue his passion for horseracing. He owned the Mendham Stables at Belmont, where he kept a number of thoroughbreds.
In 1925, Col. Williams and Julia’s daughter Sarah Welford Williams married Prentice Talmage, the son of Edward Taylor Hunt Talmage and Mary Bill Prentice Talmage¸ who in 1984-95 built a summer residence in Mendham that they named Tollemache House after the Norman spelling of the family’s name. Prentice Talmage worked for Terry & Co., an insurance brokerage in New York City.
To mark the nuptials, the Williamses had Brookrace’s cow barn extensively altered for the young couple, who lived in Morristown while the work was being carried out. The renovation transformed the farm building into a gracious residence in the style of a French country home. The stucco exterior featured a low-pitched roof, brick embellishments and espaliered foundation plantings. French doors ensured a light-filled interior and allowed views of the rolling landscape. Interior features included six fireplaces and an elegantly proportioned living room. In keeping with genteel lifestyles of the era, there was a servant’s wing, a smoking room and a private telephone room.
Prentice Talmage raised various breeds of dogs, including Labradors, and was a judge in the terrier class for the Westminster Kennel Club. The Talmages had one child, Prentice Jr., who was born in 1927. They lived in their new home, which included stables, a guest cottage, and a playhouse, for six years. In 1935 they were divorced and their house was sold to the Richard L. Farrelly Family, who gave it the name “Harmony Hollow” and remained there until the 1990s.
Richard and Kim Schlott are only the fourth family to live here. Mr. Schlott founded groundbreaking Schlott Realtors in 1971 and grew it to 140 offices before selling the business to Coldwell Banker in the 1990’s. He now owns Gloria Nilson and RLS Realtors. When the Schlotts found Harmony Hollow in 2007, they fell in love with it. They steered their redesign carefully, honoring the home’s history. They removed one kitchen wall and then redid that entire 48-foot by 17-foot wing of the house, gutting a series of small utility rooms. They broke down the walls, exposing the old cow barn and transforming it into an ideal family space with a soaring cathedral ceiling that showcases original rustic beams, picture windows overlooking the pond, and a grand fireplace with knotty pine wood detailing. The Schlotts even hunted down fine wood flooring from a Pennsylvania barn and put in radiant heat for added warmth. They modernized the sunny kitchen with streamlined open shelving, and marble-top island. They also gutted the sprawling servant’s wing off the kitchen, making it the picture-perfect space for a laundry room with natural stone counters, a mud room, and plenty of organized storage.
The landscaping offers jewels – purple wisteria, majestic old trees, apple trees, the old arbor of concord grapes and fragrant pink and white peonies. Jeffrey B. Haines of Butler’s of Far Hills was in charge of interior design and decoration during the renovation.
Source for both homes: The Somerset Hills by John K. Turpin (1944-2010) and W. Barry Thompson. The book is available at Bernardsville Public Library and can be purchased at The Bookworm in Bernardsville. Source for Schlott home: Aspire Magazine, May 2011.
Last year, the Foundation’s annual Homes of Distinction fundraising event offered guests the opportunity to attend an afternoon cocktail party at one of Bernardsville’s finest mansions: Kenilwood, owned by Richard and Andrea Hall, or Tall Oaks, owned by Herb and Cathy Vinnicombe.
Kenilwood was built by and for George B. Post in 1902. The Post family rebuilt the Gothic Revival style home the following year after a fire and continued to live there for eighty years. One of its most famous owners was Mike Tyson, world heavyweight boxing champion, who lived there with his wife, Robin Givens, in 1988. Tennis great Martina Navratilova and Oprah were frequent guests.
Tall Oaks, a sprawling Georgian style mansion, was originally named Brick House when it was built in 1909. One of its most famous owners was Swing Era Band Leader Tommy Dorsey who lived there from 1935 to 1944. The home had a reputation for huge parties with famous guests like Frank Sinatra, Lana Turner and Jackie Gleason.
Two local restaurants catered the food for the event as their gift to the fundraiser: Cafe Azzurro from Peapack and Two Fifty Two from Bedminster. There was also a silent auction of wonderful items, the proceeds of which also benefited the library.