679 Mount Kemble Avenue, Harding Township, Morris County
3/1/2011: Hurstmont has SOLD! Details are still forthcoming- we'll keep you apprised...
Hurstmont, originally constructed in 1886, was essentially rebuilt on the existing foundation in 1902-03 by Stanford White of famed New York-based architectural firm McKim Mead and White. The house was rebuilt for James T. Pyle, a New York industrialist whose wealth was derived from Pyle’s Pearline Soap, a popular household brand of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hurstmont is an excellent example of the early 20th century Country House, which saw American industrialists aspiring to the lifestyles of landed English gentry. The estate is therefore further representative of the type of development in New Jersey facilitated when the suburban rail lines were extended west from the commercial centers of Newark and New York.
The estate’s focal building, a large mansion nearly 15,000 SF in area, contains over 30 rooms. The first floor public rooms are all large, beautifully detailed and generously proportioned, typical of an early 20th century Stanford White residence. Indeed, the house, designed in a classical Revival Style, is quite similar to White’s own house, Box Hill, which he was renovating during the same period. The house contains a grand central stair, several staff and service stairs, and an internal elevator. The building is mostly stucco, set upon a tall fieldstone base. A wood single roof and six large brick chimneys cap the house. The wood windows are mostly all original with numerous leaded pattern and stained glass lites. A large porch on the west façade, a two story portico on the south and a non-original greenhouse on the south complete the exterior of the building. Decorative plaster ceilings, elaborate stone or wood mantelpieces, extensive wood wainscoting and running trim, patterned wood or brick floors and ornamental ironwork comprise the general palette in the public spaces of Hurstmont.
The house is situated on a 20 acre parcel, elevated and setback from Route 202. The property borders the National Park Service’s Jockey Hollow site. Outbuildings on the site include a carriage house, 8 rooms and garage space for 5 cars; and a guesthouse, formerly the children’s playhouse. The grounds contained extensive gardens, originally with numerous exotic plantings, carved stone balustrades delineating stepped terraces, an ornamental pool defined by bosques of trees and a swimming pool on the north side of the house. The formal gardens were designed by Daniel W. Langton, a charter member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
McKim Mead and White was the pre-eminent architectural firm of the turn of the 20th century, designing extravagant estates for wealthy clients throughout the northeastern United States. Hurstmont is a quintessential example of the firm’s residential work, and more specifically, Stanford White’s design.
The estate was occupied by the Pyle family through 1925. Three different parties have owned the house from 1925 to 1981. The current owner purchased Hurstmont in 1981 with plans to restore the house. Restoration was never completed and the house has been left vacant since the 1980s. It has deteriorated severely, most significantly due to long-term roof and skylight leaks and lack of maintenance. Additionally, vandalism has been an ongoing concern. The house is currently on the market.
Hurstmont is located in a 5 acre residential district. The greatest threat is demolition and subdivision of the 20 acre property. Further, local zoning only allows for single family residential use; therefore federal investment tax credits could not be applied to the building’s restoration. The building requires immediate stabilization to arrest further deterioration.
With a great deal of historic fabric intact, Hurstmont is a significant early 20th century estate, irreplaceable in both grandeur and detail. This one-of-a-kind property simply awaits an appropriate buyer. At that point, Hurstmont is eminently restorable.
copyright 2009-2010 Preservation New Jersey