April 20, 2017

Ringwood Manor in New Jersey

This past Wednesday, my mom and I spent a day trip visiting the Ringwood Manor. We had previously visited the estate to celebrate their outside event for July 4th, but we had never taken a tour inside the house. So this spring, we finally took the opportunity to do so!

First constructed in 1807, the estate was owned by the Ryerson family until 50 years later business partners Peter Cooper and son-in-law Abram S. Hewitt would purchase it. Peter Cooper was known for building the first American steam-powered locomotive as well as patenting jello! He supported the Union during the Civil War, and even tried running for the presidency in 1876 as candidate for the Greenback Party, but had no chance of being elected. Mr. Hewitt was an industrialist and his company manufactured iron rails, wires, beams, and iron gun barrels. He was also a politician being NY congressman in 1876 and elected Mayor of NYC in 1887. The Hewitts were one of the most wealthiest families of the 19th century, and they made renovations on the Ringwood estate until it expanded to 51 rooms including 28 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms!

The owl was the Hewitt’s family symbol, and they used the motto: “Wise by day, as they are by night.” In the dining room, our tour guide directed our attention to the inconspicuous molding of the owl’s eyes on the walls. They also featured the bird on their family’s coat of arms to signify vigilance and acute wit.

It was intriguing to go through the many rooms and see different tastes in interior design. While Mr. Hewitt preferred more traditional design with wood panelling, his wife admired French European interiors, so one could easily distinguish which Hewitt had control over decorating each room! One of the rooms Mrs. Hewitt had designed was the music room, and I liked the wallpaper she had imported from France that depicted the Mediterranean Sea with ships sailing under a light blue sky. In the ladies’ drawing room, there were many beautiful French paintings including "The Swing" by Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard (the painting featured in the movie, “Frozen,” which Anna jumps in front of). In Mr. Hewitt’s public office, there was a unique grandfather clock counting the days, seconds, months, and even the phases of the moon. In the bedrooms, there would often be window seats and day beds. I was fond of the copious windows, sometimes found in the most unusual places, that would allow the natural light to pour in throughout the manor. The piazza on the west side of the house was certainly marvelous with its surrounding tall windows and white wicker furniture livening up the space.

It was surprising to learn that the entire Ringwood estate covers 300,000 square feet. Out of the 51 rooms, we were able to walk through 30. Needless to say, our tour lasted a good hour and a half which I didn’t mind! Our guide was very friendly and spoke with passion of the family’s history and the particular details of the rooms, so it was a very enjoyable tour. Afterwards, my mom and I walked around the property to observe the ponds and gardens that were designed by Mrs. Hewitt and her daughters. From many travels overseas, they were inspired by European decor, and added character to the gardens with French and Italian statures, pillars, gates, and reflecting pools. There were some lovely red-bud bushes and magnolia trees around the house which were pleasant to see blooming!

The gate that leads to nowhere... lol
My floral-print peasant top is by the brand, Style and Co, in Macy's

I’m happy that my mom and I were able to visit the manor and walk around the estate while the weather was mildly warm, and the sun was often peeking in and out of the passing clouds. The nice weather and amazing property made for a lovely outing, and I’m looking forward to going on more day trips with my mom in the spring. If you're ever in northern New Jersey, I definitely recommend visiting Ringwood Manor as it’s one of the most refined and palatable Tudor Revival mansions that I’ve ever beheld!


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