Twombly Mansion Audio Tour
Narrated By Reuben E. Natan – Original Script by Nicole Zara – Produced by Marc DeBlasi
Narration Text [with links to the audio chapters]
Please begin at the mansion. After looking at the exterior of the building, you will enter the Great Hall by the main door. If it is too cold or rainy, you should enter the Great Hall and listen to chapter one or skip to chapter two to hear about the great hall.
1. ELLIPSE (EXTERIOR): [Ellipse]
Welcome to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus. This is the Mansion. The Twombly Mansion was the country estate of Florence Vanderbilt and Hamilton Twombly, and was used only four months of the year, September, October, May, and June. For the remainder of the year, they summered at their home in Newport, Rhode Island and wintered at their mansion on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park in Manhattan. The couple named their estate “Florham”, a combination of their first names, Florence and Hamilton.
This building was completed in 1897. Its English Baroque design was inspired by a wing at Hampton Court Palace, which was designed by the famous English architect, Christopher Wren. Christopher Wren was responsible for rebuilding over 50 churches in London after the Great Fire in 1666 as well as St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was completed in 1710. This mansion was designed by the preeminent architectural firm of its day, McKim, Mead and White who built such New York City landmarks as the former Pennsylvania Station, Brooklyn Museum and the main campus of Columbia University.
This campus’s landscape was made possible through the creative vision of designer Frederick Law Olmsted, made famous as the designer of New York’s Central Park. Today, the Twombly Mansion now finds its use as campus offices and classrooms.
Please enter the front door of the Mansion, also known as Hennessy Hall.
2. GREAT HALL: [Great Hall]
Welcome to The Great Hall! The hall, also known as Hennessy Hall, sits at an impressive 150 feet long and is lined with a floor of Italian Carrara Marble! The ivory marble fireplace directly in front of you is one of the many fireplaces in the mansion. This fireplace is a representative of the fine craft work and attention to detail by the expert craftsmen from, McKim, Mead and White, who constructed this building. The fireplace was patterned after a fireplace in Windsor Castle in England.
If you turn to your right, the picture hanging is a reproduction of a portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect who designed the grounds. The original is hung in the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
Originally, busts of twelve Roman emperors on pedestals stood along the wall. Lining the wall were rare 17th century tapestries, originally given to Cardinal Barberini by Louis XIII (13th). Today, the Great Hall, with its original architectural elements still intact, leads to administrative offices, classrooms and Lenfell Hall.
There are also several black and white photographs hung in the Great Hall for your viewing pleasure. These photographs document what this estate looked like during the Twomblys’ tenure here.
Please go to your left and you will find a breakfront filled with Twombly family china, glassware and linens, which were given to the Friends of Florham organization by Wendy Burden, a great-great granddaughter of the Twomblys.
Next, follow the hallway and turn left into Hartman Lounge.
3. HARTMAN LOUNGE: [Hartman lounge]
Hartman Lounge was used by the Twomblys as a Billiard Room. Just outside the door, there is a black and white photograph of the original layout. Male guests would retire here for a game, cigars and brandy. The gauffered, or stamped ceiling in this room is of particular architectural interest because ceilings are not a common structure to be stamped; Generally, books and clothing, like lace are gauffered. As this building became inhabited by students, faculty and staff, the Hartman Lounge became a meeting and seminar room.
You may now exit the former Billiard Room and return to the Great Hall and go up the main staircase to the second floor.
4. CODEY ROOM/M13: [Codey Room]
As in the Great Hall, the second floor walls are filled with photos from before Fairleigh Dickinson acquired this estate in 1958.
Please walk up the steps to the right, turn to the left and enter Mansion room 13, known as the Richard Codey Room.
This classroom was formerly the bedroom of Mrs. Twombly, and has now been renovated and dedicated to former-Governor Richard Codey, alumnus of the University and the 53rd governor of New Jersey. His portrait hangs above the fireplace and some of his mementos are on the far wall.
As you exit the room, proceed down the main stairwell to the Great Hall. At the bottom of the stairs, turn right and enter Lenfell Hall.
5. LENFELL HALL: [Lenfell Hall]
You are now entering Lenfell Hall. Although it appears as a rather grand-scale ballroom, Lenfell Hall was actually the Twomblys’ drawing room laden with English antiques creating several intimate seating clusters. The room was designed specifically to house very large tapestries, in each quadrant of the room where the portraits now hang. This room was used as basic living quarters for the family and their many famous weekend guests, including such notables as Thomas Edison.
Today, Lenfell Hall is used for parties, performances and academic seminars. Students are able to come into Lenfell Hall and play the piano whenever they wish. Over one fireplace hangs a portrait of Hamilton Twombly, and over the other hangs a portrait of Florence Vanderbilt Twombly. Hanging on the other walls of the room are portraits of three of Florence and Hamilton’s four children and some grandchildren. Alice Vanderbilt Twombly, pictured wearing a pink dress, was one of the four Twombly children. Alice passed away at the age of sixteen from typhoid fever and pneumonia. Hamilton Twombly Jr., pictured as a young boy wearing a blue jacket and pink shirt, was the first and only son who tragically died at the age of 18 in a drowning accident. Their second daughter, Florence, who is not pictured, married William A. M. Burden and had two sons, William and Shirley, both of whom are pictured wearing white shirts. Her husband, William is shown wearing a red necktie.
The third and final Twombly daughter, Ruth, is pictured twice; once wearing a gray dress and an emerald green necklace and again in a blue dress. Ruth never married and passed away in Paris at the age of 69, two years after the death of her mother.
Please make your way towards the door at the far end, left of the Hamilton Twombly portrait hanging above the fireplace. Continue outside and down the steps towards the fountain.
6. CLOWNEY GARDENS: [Clowney Gardens]
Welcome to the Clowney Gardens, named after William Clowney, a former FDU trustee. Frederick Law Olmstead’s plan for Florham included 150 acres dedicated to a park-like setting of lawns, gardens, and trees imported from around the world. Hundreds of Italian workers were brought to Florham and spent many days clearing trees and draining swamps on the virgin land.
On the upper terrace rose gardens once flourished under the Twombly’s ownership. These gardens and others nearby resulted in Madison’s nickname becoming, “The Rose City.” The fountains in the lower gardens have been a part of the Estate since the gardens were first completed.
Now that the estate is populated with faculty, students, and staff, the grounds are enjoyed year round. Many students enjoy studying and relaxing in the beautiful gardens surrounding the mansion.
Please make your way up the stairs to the left side of the mansion; the Italian Gardens are directly outside of Lenfell Hall.
7. ITALIAN GARDENS: [Italian Gardens]
Welcome to the Italian Gardens. The gardens are thought to have been designed for the Twomblys by Alfred Parsons, an English landscape artist who designed significant gardens in England, Scotland and the United States. The Italian Gardens were restored with the help of Ann Granbery, a Friends of Florham committee member, in 1997. The restoration helped to reconnect the estatewith Madison descendants of Italian workers who helped to build and maintain the garden in the early part of the 20th century.
Recently, art students have created new heads for the statues found at the far end of the garden in the pergola. On the right is a red-tailed hawk, called fortiter and on the left is an owl called suaviter. Fortiter and Suaviter is also the motto of the university, meaning “to go with strength and grace”.
Please make your way back to the front of the Mansion and, with the mansion to your back, walk down the mansion road to the big, painted rock on the right.
8. REUTER’S ROCK: [Reuters Rock]
This is Reuter’s Rock. Reuter’s Rock is a massive, brightly-painted rock near the main entrance of the Mansion. The rock was given its name years ago by students in honor of a former faculty member, Walter Reuter, who had a reputation for being “hard as a rock.” The rock features the latest information about campus events and activities. The rock itself is a glacial erratic, a kind of rock that differs in size and shape from other native rocks, and was discovered while the Twombly’s were landscaping their estate. No one knows for sure where the current tradition of painting the rock stems from.
Please walk past the flag pole and into the Monninger Center on the right, and turn right to proceed towards the Orangerie.
9. ORANGERIE: [Orangerie]
Welcome to the Orangerie. Designed as a so-called winter garden, the Orangerie is one of the original McKim, Mead & White designed buildings here on the Florham Campus. Here the Twombly family and their guests could enjoy a warm setting amid flowers in cooler months or inclement weather. The ceiling was originally glass creating an atrium feel, which flooded with natural light.
In the rear of this building where the library now stands, the old greenhouse complex once covered a few acres and was reported to be the largest greenhouse in New Jersey at the time. These greenhouses provided all three Twombly homes with fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers year round. The interior of the Orangerie was filled with plants and citrus trees grown by professional gardeners. Some of those gardeners produced new selectively bred plants, including the Florham Day Lily. The Twombly chef could place orders with the gardener and have them delivered to the Mansion kitchen or even shipped by special rail and steamship to their homes in Manhattan and Newport, Rhode Island.
The Orangerie is now used for seminars and provides a quiet place for students to study and do work.
Please make your way back towards Reuter’s Rock and up the stairs and along the path to the Admissions building.
10. CLOSING REMARKS: [Closing remarks]
We hope you have enjoyed your tour of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus. Please feel free to join us in the Admissions Building.
11. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: [Acknowledgement]
At this time, we would like to acknowledge three students who were responsible for producing this audio tour. Nicole Zara, writer and editor. Marc DeBlasi, producer, and Reuben E. Natan, narrator. Thank you for listening.