Mansion on a Mission

The opulent Blairsden estate in Peapack-Gladstone was an architectural showplace even before its dramatic makeover as this year’s Mansion in May designer show house.

The French limestone, double staircase is the centerpiece of the 62,000-square-foot manse.
Photo courtesy of Mansion in May

Think Gatsby mansion meets Downton Abbey and you’ll begin to grasp the scope of the Blairsden estate in Peapack-Gladstone, site of this year’s Mansion in May fund-raiser. Every other spring, the Women’s Association of Morristown Medical Center organizes a designer show house. This year’s edition benefits the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit as well as a new autism center.

The limestone-and-brick Blairsden mansion has 31 bedrooms, two dozen fireplaces, Parisian balconies and an elevator. For the show house tour, 60 renowned designers from New Jersey and New York transformed 52 spaces of the impressive home and grounds. The tour includes the dining room, reinterpreted by Charles Dobbs of Greenbaum Interiors in Harding. Also notable: the stately library, which sports a fresh look courtesy of Jennifer and Jane Connell of Fun House Furnishings in Mendham.

The 1903 Beaux Arts showplace stands on a hillside amid newly restored landscaping. A highlight is the 300-foot-long reflecting pool, flanked by busts of the Roman Caesars—a gift of the French government to the home’s original owner, New York financier C. Ledyard Blair.

Blair, grandson of John Insley Blair, founder of Blair Academy and namesake of Blairstown in Warren County, “wanted a home connected to the outdoor vistas,” says Prudence Pigott, Mansion in May general co-chair. “The spaces were all designed to take in the views. It is the quintessential interpretation of an Italian villa.”
To fashion his 500-acre country estate, Blair retained Carrère and Hastings, architects of the U.S. Senate and House buildings, the New York Public Library and the Frick Mansion in Manhattan. For the landscaping, he turned to James Leal Greenleaf of the Olmstead Brothers, designers of the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial and Dorothy Duke’s Hillsborough estate.

After Blair died in 1949, the estate was divided. The mansion was sold for $65,000 and served as a retreat center until the 1990s. In 2012 the property returned to private ownership.

Mansion in May offers rare access to one of New Jersey’s great country estates. Blairsden will be open for tours every day in May. Tickets are $40 before May 1, $50 after.

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