Friends of Florham

Florham Campus

Friends of Florham

Friends of Florham was formed in 1990 by Emma Joy Dana, university librarian Dr. James Fraser and a group of friends and university colleagues with the mission of advising and assisting the administration and Board of Trustees of Fairleigh Dickinson University in the care, maintenance, and historic preservation of the Twombly Estate, “Florham”. The Friends believed the buildings, designed by the premier architecture firm, McKim, Mead, and White; the grounds designed by noted landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted; and the gardens at the Florham Campus of the University merited preservation efforts. Central to the mission and purpose of the Friends is the related objective of informing the public of the various historical assets the University offers the community at large. To fulfill this combined mission, the Friends continue to offer a wide range of lectures open to the public, and to raise funds through galas, contributions, and grants to preserve this grand historic site.


The board of the Friends of Florham includes members of the public, university alumni, and members of the faculty and administration of the University. Members of the area community, in particular, are actively involved with the work of the Board because they believe in the necessity for historic preservation, and want to ensure that the Mansion and grounds are preserved and/or restored as closely as possible within the natural requirements of a busy university campus. The estate itself is well known outside of the area, and was included in several books by architectural historians and landscape architects as an outstanding example of a period country home in the United States.


Since its inception, the Friends of Florham have made substantial contributions to the renovations/restoration of the renowned estate, built between 1893 and 1897 for Florence Vanderbilt Twombly and her husband, Hamilton McKown Twombly. The renovations were all made in cooperation with the University, and with the advice and implementation of architects and landscape designers who specialize in historic preservation. The objective of these restorations is always to maintain the authenticity of the original period of the estate, while adhering to the requirements of the University. Some of the major accomplishments of the Friends, to date, include the restoration of Lenfell Hall and renovation of the Great Hall in the Mansion (Hennessy Hall), restoration and reproduction of the magnificent lanterns in the Mansion Courtyard, restoration of the lower fountain garden (known as the Clowney Gardens), and restoration of the Italian gardens to the right of the Mansion. The end results of these restorations/renovations are measurable, allowing the University to entertain national and international guests, attract new students, while continuing the “business” of the University.

Friends of Florham timeline

  • 1877 Hamilton Twombly and Vanderbilt heiress Florence Vanderbilt are married in New York City
  • 1890 The Twombly couple purchases the former Danforth estate and 900 acres of adjoining farmland, naming the estate ‘Florham’ — a combination of their first names
  • 1897 The mansion, centerpiece of the Florham estate, is completed
  • 1910 Hamilton Twombly dies, a few years after the deaths of two of his children
  • 1952 Florence Twombly dies, leaving the estate to her daughter, Ruth
  • 1954 Ruth Twombly dies, and the estate is sold — the farmlands to Exxon Corporation, the buildings and estate grounds to Fairleigh Dickinson University
  • 1958 FDU’s Florham-Madison Campus, now the Florham Campus, opens to classes
  • 1990 A group of individuals sharing an interest in the preservation of the unique Florham property form the Friends of Florham.


The Board of Directors of the Friends of Florham gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance of William Kennedy, FDU Director of Web Operations, and Brigid Burke, FDU Technical Services and Digital Projects Librarian, for their many hours of work in developing and maintaining this website. Certain photographs on the Friends of Florham website are copyright 1999-2019 William R. Kennedy, and used with permission.

Friends’ Digitization Project

January 4, 2010

The Friends go digital! The historic journals in the archives of the Friends of Florham archives in the Library at Florham are now in the process of being digitized, and should be accessible to students, scholars — both local, national, and international — via FDU’s Digital Library by the end of 2010. This is the third, and perhaps most exciting stage in the archiving/digitization project that was initiated when Edward Burden, great-grandson gave a significant gift to the University in 2004 comprising household ledgers, and correspondence of the Vanderbilt-Twombly family.

Briefly, to launch the project, the Friends hired an archivist to create finding aids for existing Twombly-Vanderbilt research, and the trove that comprised the Burden bequest. The second phase encompassed documenting and digitizing family photographs taken by Shirley Burden, a professional photographer. The Vanderbilt name may be legendary — often for marriages, divorces, substantial inheritances, and grand-scale homes — but with the digitizing of the twelve journals, covering the period of 1900-1962, researchers will be able to learn information not generally left by family members — business and personal financial data, detailed discussion of building of houses, dealings with architects and landscape designers, and real estate transactions. When completed, this project will provide an actual template for students and scholars of an actual and specialized way of life “lived” during the Gilded Age by one of the major exemplars of the period in Morris County, and of the U.S. in general.

This project is being overseen by Brigid Burke, Technical Services and Digital Projects Librarian for the FDU, and the digitization services provided by Princeton Imaging, Princeton, NJ.

FDU Digital Archives

Contact Us

Mailing Address

Friends of Florham, The Monninger Center
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham Campus
285 Madison Avenue
Madison, N.J. 07940