The Abbey
About The Abbey (Alnwick Hall)

First, Some Context

For over a century, Madison flourished as one of the nation’s prime producers of roses. In 1896, 45 rose growers owned and constructed greenhouses with an astonishing half-million square feet of glass. Growing and harvesting the flowers, as well as constructing and maintaining the greenhouses, required hundreds of workers and supplies. The local rose industry peaked in 1950 but was completely gone by 1980. Left in its place, though, was a mixture of cultures and a legacy remembered. [1]

The Morris and Essex Railroad connected the town with Newark and Hoboken in 1838 and provided good transportation for farm produce grown in Madison. Later, the railroad made played a critical role in establishing Madison’s flourishing rose growing industry, still commemorated in Madison's nickname, The Rose City. The rail service connected the commerce to markets in Manhattan. Madison's growth accelerated after the Civil War and the Morris and Essex Lines became one of America's first commuter railroads, attracting well-to-do families from Manhattan (many of whom already owned large parcels land in the area for farming, hunting, and recreation. Greenhouses dotted the countryside. Talented horticulturalists were attracted to the area for employment at the many wealthy estates in the immediate area and to establish related businesses.

Thanks to the rose growers, high society also flourished. The stretch between downtown Madison and Morristown became known as “Millionaire’s Row” and also the “street of 100 millionaires.” By 1900 the nation's business and financial leaders, seeking escape from New York City, discovered Morris County, which was renowned for its isolation, ideal climate and unspoiled countryside, and began constructing large country estates. Within a few years, more millionaires lived within a three-mile radius of the Morristown Green than anywhere else in the United States.

The names of such corporate giants as Vanderbilt, Twombly, Morgan, Gibbons and Dodge are a “Who’s Who” of the Industrial Ages greatest tycoons. They still conjure an image of great wealth, and the mark of their fortunes is evident throughout the town. [2]

The fabulous estates were numerous enough to fill the pages of a pre-World War I vintage picture book entitled Beautiful Homes of Morris County . Possibly the most opulent were those of Otto H. Kahn, Hamilton McK. Twombly, Charles Mellon, Eugene Higgins, the Frelinghuysens, Claflins, James, Allens, Wolffs, Kountzes, and of course Alnwick Hall.

Sadly, the introduction of the federal income tax and the Stock Market Crash of 1929 sounded the death knell for the large estates. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the impressive mansions that lined Madison Avenue’s "Millionaires Row" were demolished to avoid rising property taxes and upkeep expenses.

Alnwick Hall

One of many elaborate houses that once stood along the stretch of Madison Avenue known as “Millionaires' Row,” was Alnwick Hall, which still stands at 355 Madison Avenue and Canfield Road. This survivor of the Gilded Age was built for Edward P. Meany (1854-1938), New Jersey Judge Advocate General and director of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and his wife Rosaline.

The inspiration for Rosalie and Edward’s 32-room home was Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England. The royal fortress dates to 1096; in modern times, it served as the set of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films.

Edward Peter Meany was, for many years, legal counsel for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and many of its affiliated companies and was instrumental in the expansion of long-distance telephone coverage across the United States. Meany also served on numerous other corporate boards as well as governmental bodies and was appointed by New Jersey Governor George T. Werts (a former mayor of Morristown) to be one of the three initial New Jersey commissioners for the Palisades Interstate Commission. In 1893, Governor Werts appointed Meany to the post of Judge Advocate of the New Jersey National Guard, with the rank of brigadier-general, a title he retained and used for the rest of his life.

A Side Note

In Rosalie Meany’s day, Morristown was a colony for the super-rich. Sadly, only a handful of the estates built during the town’s Golden Years (1880-1929) remain. These castles and others around New Jersey are vestiges of the state’s Tudor Gothic revival, an early-20th-century architectural movement by the elite to emulate old-world money. The stone walls and turrets of these grandiose structures have concealed scandals, bankruptcies, accusations of black magic and all manner of tragedies—even an infamous murder-suicide attempt.

The castles still standing throughout New Jersey represent a fairy-tale lifestyle that was doomed to fade amid the economic and political turmoil of the 20th century. Many have taken on new lives far removed from their original intent. In Morristown, the Lindenwold mansion on South Street, built in 1888 for New York lawyer William Skidmore, was purchased in 1947 by the Peck School; it now houses the private school’s offices. In Paterson, Lambert Castle, built in 1892, was the domain of silk moguls Catholina and Isabella Lambert; today, it’s the Passaic County Historical Society’s museum and library. Kip’s Castle in Verona, a 30-room Norman-style mansion completed in 1905 for textile titan Frederic Ellsworth Kip and his wife, Charlotte Bishop Williams Kip, is now owned by the Essex County Park System.

Aftermath

As for Rosalie Meany’s grand estate, the years have not been kind. After Rosalie’s death, Edward remarried and sold the house in 1926. After the Meanys’ deaths, the castle served as St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. It changed hands a few times again before the current owner bought it and rents it as office space.For a period, Alnwick Hall served as a Lutheran church. Later, it was partitioned into commercial offices and renamed the Abbey. In 2007, entrepreneur Tom Maoli purchased the building—right at the onset of the subprime mortgage crisis and the 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. “All of the tenants started pulling out,” says Maoli. “The office market basically imploded.” [3]