Each year, the doors of the sprawling Blairsden estate in Peapack, NJ are opened to the public in May. This year’s event runs from May 1 to 31, and the mansion is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit an expanded pediatric intensive care unit and a new autism center at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Medical Center.
The magnificent Blairsden home once belonged to C. Ledyard Blair, a prominent New York City financier, sportsman, and commodore of the New York Yacht Club. With a total of 62,000 square feet, the Louis XIV chateau-style mansion attracted New York City’s elite crowd, becoming a favorite destination during the Gilded Age. Guests enjoyed large, lavish parties, luxurious guest rooms, many miles of horse trails, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, several acres of formal terraced gardens, and the chance to swim at Ravine Lake. The home was designed and constructed between the years 1897 and 1903, and was considered a masterpiece of celebrated architecture firm Carrere and Hastings. The same firm is responsible for designing the prominent New York Public Library as well as the Frick mansion, which is now a museum.
Over the years, Blairsden has been transformed, refreshed, and updated by over 50 interior and design landscapers. However, the changes have not disrupted much of the original architecture and landscaping that set the mansion apart from others when it was first created. An Italianesque formal hillside landscape greets visitors at the front of the mansion. Highlights include parallel rows of steps, each of which is separated by lush blooming plants and water. A pool and a fountain can be found farther down the hill, followed by several long sections of ramps that are elegantly paved with white and blue stones in a mosaic pattern. Steep and dramatic, the hillside runs towards Ravine Lake and is accentuated by cascades, water jets, and around 75 fully-grown trees.
The Blair family occupied the home until C. Ledyard’s death in 1949. After he died, the 600-acre estate was divided. The mansion was sold to Sisters of Saint John the Baptist, who used it as a retreat center until the 1990s. During the time that the family occupied the home, all four of C. Ledyard’s daughters were married at the home, with private trains that transported wedding guests from New York City.
Today, visitors travel along a mile-long driveway that eventually leads to a 300-foot reflecting pool, large busts of the first 12 Roman Caesars, and more stunning displays of architecture. Tall, carved wooden doors give way to a long hall lined with walls that are carved of French limestone. 14-foot ceilings and over 24 fireplaces adorn the mansion.
Since it began in 1974, Mansion in May has been a hallmark fundraiser in the area. Over the years, more than $8 million have been raised for Morristown Medical Center alone. Ticket prices range from $40 for advance sale tickets up to $100 for private and guided tour tickets. More information can be found at www.mansioninmay.org.
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