9/06: Listed for sale without any easement restrictions, the Castle continues to be threatened. Local newspapers report that Essex County has expressed interest in purchasing and preserving the property.
11/09: On March 1, 2007, Essex County announced that the County had officially completed purchase of the property for use as a recreational facility and for community events and meetings. The County accomplished this purchase with a $2.8 million Green Acres grant and a second $2.8 million grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The facility remains a beloved Essex County landmark, and has been listed as one of “New Jersey’s 158 Best Buildings and Places” by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Kip’s Castle estate, built in 1902, is a well-preserved example of the many country homes of wealthy industrialists that once dotted the hillsides of Essex County. The mansion and the carriage house are unique and splendid examples of the romantic, medieval-revival. The stone gates, retaining walls, serpentine drives, and gardens add to the composition, uniting it with the rugged site while allowing the natural character of the ridge to prevail.
The structure is a Norman castle replica constructed of local trap rock trimmed with sandstone. It’s huge corner turrets and walls are pierced with arches and deep-set windows. A large stone veranda, the roof of which is supported by round sandstone pillars, surrounds the front of the building. The massive, south-east turret can be seen from miles around. The interior woodwork of the Castle is of old English quarter-sawn oak. The front hallway has stained glass windows and contains a huge stone fireplace. The master bedroom suite on the second floor has eight large windows that face out onto the New York City skyline.
This extraordinary property is at risk of being compromised or lost to development. The current owner purchased the property for $850,000 in 1984. They have now contracted to sell the property to a developer who plans to clear cut the top of the ridge and fill it with condominiums or townhouses in a project valued at about $30 million. The sale is contingent upon receiving the necessary variances or zoning changes.
While the Township may not approve the variances and zoning change, this may not stop the proposed development but only add an additional level of scrutiny to it. The entire Kip’s Castle site should be preserved in its entirety, including the main building, the carriage house, and the landscape. Creative thinking will be required to develop an economically viable adaptive reuse for this property. But it can and should be done.
Owner lobbying for zoning changes but preservationists continue to seek developers who are preservation oriented for adapting the property for a suitable new use.
Anthony Ambrosio, Kip’s Ridge Preservation Group
Karen Miller Pensiero, Kip’s Ridge Preservation Group
Kenneth Underwood, NJ- AIA Historic Resources Committee,
42 Hamilton Rd.
Glen Ridge, NJ