Today, in our ongoing series, “Beautiful Places in New Jersey”, we feature Skylands Castle in Passaic County. This magnificent North Jersey estate is part of the 1,000 acre Ringwood State Park and home to the New Jersey Botanical Gardens. Skylands has the feel of the legendary home of a king out of a classic fairy tale with its stone walls, fountains and tree lined drive.
The walls of Skylands were built from stones quarried on the estate. The stained glass medallions were imported from Germany and Switzerland. The paneling and marble were imported from England and Italy. The dark oak study features elaborate carvings of cupids, monsters and dragons taken from a German Renaissance wardrobe.
Skylands has an intriguing history. Around 1891, Francis Lynde Stetson, a famous New York lawyer began buying up the land that would become the estate. Stetson built a large Queen Anne Victorian mansion on the property and had Samuel Parsons, who had worked with Frederick Law Olmsted, lay out the grounds for him. They created a working farm with 30 outbuildings, a nine-hole golf course, a rose garden, an orchard and thousands of evergreens.
Stetson sold the property in1922 to Clarence McKenzie Lewis, a civil engineer from Mahwah. Lewis demolished the Victorian mansion Stetson had built and began to build the Tudor castle that you see today. Lewis built the home for his mother who had always dreamt of owning a Tudor Castle. To make that dream come true, he called together some of the finest designers and craftsmen in the country to work on the building. The architect was John Russell Pope, who designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art. The builder was Elliot C. Brown who built Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Hyde Park home. The blacksmith that designed and manufactured the impressive lanterns and front entrance gates was Samuel Yellin, a famous Philadelphia metal worker.
Today, Skylands is one of the only American castles left in New Jersey. When the property is not hosting a wedding or a large private party, it is open to the public for tours. The estate is the home to The New Jersey Botanical Gardens. The gardens feature: azaleas, tree peonies, magnolias, rhododendrons, wildflowers and perennials. Different areas feature seasonal plantings, bog gardens and a swan pond. You can see the layout of the gardens and the estate on a PDF map here from the NJ Botanical site here.
As always, if you have any comments or feel like we have missed something about Skylands or the NJ Botanical Gardens, feel free to leave us a comment below. Also if you have any incredible photos that you would like to share with us, we would love to see them and put them up for our readers to see and enjoy.