Manor House Tours
Guided tours of the ground floor of Skylands Manor are available on selected Sundays, when you can explore the Manor's history and architecture guided by knowledgeable NJBG docents. The tours last about 45 minutes to an hour.
All Manor House tour dates and times are subject to change; please check the Events calendar for dates and times.
General admission, $7
Seniors (62+), $5
Youth (13-18), $5
Children (6-12), $3
Children under 6, free.
Please see the Events page for dates of upcoming tours.
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A Guide to Skylands Manor
Designed in the mid-1920's by the distinguished American architect John Russell Pope, whose works include the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art, the Tudor Revival Mansion was intentionally made to appear centuries old. Note the building's weathered stone facade, and the sags and ripples in the slate roof. All stone was quarried on the estate.
ENTRANCE HALL and STAIRWELL
The stairs and panelling are new American oak with carved panels and friezes. The ceiling is of plaster made to simulate carved wood. Bavarian and Swiss stained-glass medallions have been set into the upper landing windows and four contemporary hand-etched glass insets appear in the windows at the entrance and in the adjoining rooms.
The DINING ROOM
The oak panelling comes from Lyme Regis, a seacoast town in the south of England. Mr. Lewis's mother, Mrs. Helen Salomon, bought it in London, and it was brought here to be placed in the room especially designed for it. The woodwork is an outstanding example of Tudor design. The carved oak mantel is very rich in detail. The square panels on either side of the overmantel center are done in marquetry (various woods finely inlaid) in the Renaissance manner. There are 19 pilasters on the walls, an unusually large number, and they are of exceptionally fine quality. Their fluted and reeded shafts are carried on carved, molded pedestals, and the Ionic capitals support carved acanthus brackets.
The BREAKFAST ROOM
This room is lined with fine green Italian marble. It features an ornate three-tiered marble lavabo taken from a Venetian Renaissance palazzo. This piece was brought to Skylands from Mrs. Salomon's home at 1020 Fifth Avenue, New York, after her second husband died and their house was sold. When Mr. Lewis lived here, he had the lavabo planted with fresh exotic flowers every week. The room offered a view down through the five terrace gardens.
The GREAT HALL
Rising to nearly the full height of the building, this room has oak panelling that was adorned by American craftsmen with acorns, pilasters, lozenges and fleurs-de-lis. The second-story organ loft includes carved wooden corbels with "wild man" heads; it was especially built for Mrs. Salomon. Door heads are carved with sea monsters and squirrels. Four sculptured iron chandeliers were designed by Samuel Yellin in a rudimentary bell shape and are surrounded by little horned dragon heads. In the seven great windows are twenty antique stained-glass medallions with such images as Jonah and the Whale, St. George and the Dragon, and insignia from Bern and Nuremberg. Most of them are over 400 years old. The massive stone mantelpiece is a replica of one from an estate in Gloucestershire; it bears a British royal coat of arms dated 1619. Mrs. Salomon purchased this copy in 1925 for $4,800. The beams across the ceiling are called "jesting beams" because they do not carry any weight and are purely decorative. Actually, the house is solidly supported by steel and concrete.
The DRAWING ROOM
The wall panelling, of Scandinavian pine, was bought from a London decorating firm. It came originally from Outlon Hall in Derbyshire. The finely carved mantelpiece, with its broken scroll pediment, fruit basket and borders trailing down to the marble fireplace, is of pearwood. All three of the room's doors have carved pediments. The bookcase arches are bordered by a Greek key pattern carved into the wood. There are four antique stained-glass medallions in the windows.
This small, dark-oak, five-sided room was taken from a German Renaissance wardrobe. It was then installed in Mr. Salomon's Fifth Avenue mansion, where he used it as a study. Later it came to Skylands, intended to be Mr. Lewis's plant-record office, but he did most of his work in the library. It is the most elaborately carved room in the house, with representations of animals, monsters, cupids, birds, mythical figures and horned dragon heads. Recently, a restoration expert and a team of volunteers stripped the panels of their extraneous layers of varnish and dirt, returning them to their beautiful original tones and revealing the astonishing quality of the carvings.
The room is entirely paneled in new American oak with a beamed ceiling. Lined with bookshelves and cupboards, the room's simple lines are tempered by the carved mantelpiece of pilasters, lozenges and inset arches, worked by American craftsmen. The family's collection of jade and other Oriental objects was displayed on the glass shelves that border the mantelpiece. Lewis had a large collection of books and read extensively on many subjects. His horticultural library was donated to the New York Botanical Garden.
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Clarence McKenzie Lewis
Clarence McKenzie Lewis bought Skylands in 1922 from the estate of Francis Lynde Stetson, who founded Skylands in 1891. Born in 1876 in Jersey City, Mr. Lewis was sent abroad to be educated in England and Germany. While he was there, his widowed mother, Helen Forbes Lewis, married William Salomon, founder of the New York banking house. Upon his return, Lewis lived with them at 1020 Fifth Avenue, attending Columbia University, where he received a Civil Engineering degree in 1898. In 1908 he married Annah Churchill Ripley. They bought a country place in Mahwah on Route 202, which they called Sheffield Hope Farm. There Mrs. Lewis created a rose garden and a dell garden despite her rheumatic heart, and it was there that Lewis became interested in horticulture. Mrs. Lewis died in 1918.
Helen Salomon, the mother of Clarence Lewis, was widowed in 1919. Not long thereafter, she and her bereaved son agreed to a joint project: she wanted a Tudor show-place; he wanted plants and gardens. Stetson's Victorian mansion was demolished and the present Manor House was built on the site. Mrs. Salomon worked closely with Pope on her anticipated home, but her health deteriorated and she died in 1927, before its completion.
John Russell Pope
John Russell Pope (1874-1937), "an architect born to work in the grand style, "was an American educated at City College, Columbia University, the American Academy in Rome, and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. He trained under Bruce Price, the master builder of Tuxedo Park. Pope designed many outstanding public buildings, such as the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art. He was a proponent of Eclecticism, which flourished in the United States from 1880 to 1930, and designed "a great company of Private houses," drawing upon many styles, from the Neoclassical to the Tudor Revival exemplified in the Lewis mansion.
Elliot C. Brown
The Builder of Skylands was the Elliot C. Brown Co. of New York City, which also built the country houses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (at Hyde Park) and E. Roland Harriman (Arden House). On July 18, 1927, Pope's office wrote to Brown, "We take this occasion to thank you for the splendid co-operation given us in obtaining this great success."
Samuel Yellin (1885-1940), decorative metal designer and craftsman, who preferred to call himself "the blacksmith," fashioned the lanterns, electrical fixtures, lamps, gate, and spiral staircase rail for Skylands Manor. Born in Russia and educated in Europe, he came to the U.S. in 1906. He established his own "blacksmith shop" in Philadelphia with 200 workers, and led the American revival of the use of iron as a decorative element. "There is no reason why people in the United States should fancy that we cannot do beautiful things here, because we can," he said.
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About the Building
Tudor Architecture originated in England in the late Gothic period, and continued to be popular into the Renaissance. Its most notable characteristic was the half-timbering on the exterior; it also featured crenelated walls, large groups of rectangular windows, oriel (suspended) or bay windows, and intricate chimney complexes. The interiors usually had large central halls, wood panelling, molded plaster ceilings, and elaborately carved staircases. Tudor Revival became a popular style for the elaborate country houses of wealthy Americans.
Native Granite for the exterior walls of Skylands was quarried at Pierson Ridge, above Emerald Pond, in the eastern part of the property that lies in Bergen County. The cutter was James McLaren & Sons, of Brooklyn. Pope's specifications state that "all stones must be accurately cut [and] marked by section and course number, showing the exact place where each belongs. The Stone Setter will be held responsible if stones are taken from where they belong to be put in any other place."
Mrs. Salomon purchased a collection of antique Stained-Glass medallions from an English collector. These 16th-century German, Bavarian and Swiss panes were set in the leaded windows by Mr. Heinegke of Heinegke & Smith of New York City. He also set 13 modern stained-glass pictures of Lewis, his young children, various birds, farm animals and workers.
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