Past Show Houses
Stately Homes by-the-Sea
2013 Designer Show House
The Hartshorne Mansion in Little Silver, NJ
For over eighty years The Hartshorne Mansion, a majestic registered historic home perched on the banks of the Shrewsbury River in Little Silver New Jersey, has reflected the rich legacy of the Jersey Shore and the many generations of families who have called this area their home. Built in 1929 by world champion figure skater Harold Hartshorne, the 11,000 square foot Tudor was designed by noted architect Roger Harrington Bullard. Now as the setting for the fourth edition of Stately Homes by-the-Sea Designer Show House, the mansion's doors will open to the public for the first time. Attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy the home's magnificent historical elements enhanced by many of the area's leading designers while supporting the vital mission of Visiting Nurse Association Health Group.
Harold Hartshorne, born in 1891, was a graduate of Princeton University, a veteran of World War I and a third generation member of the New York Stock Exchange. He is perhaps best known, however, as a pioneer in the history of U.S. ice dancing. He was the primary force in instituting a national dance title in 1936 and went on to become, along with several different partners, the five-time U.S. dance champion. Competing well into his fifties in the veteran's dance section that he helped to institute as well as in other various exhibitions, Hartshorne also became a revered national and international judge and mentor to numerous U.S. skaters. While traveling to serve as a judge in the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Hartshorne and his wife perished in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of the entire U.S. Figure Skating Team. He was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1981.
In the 1920's, when Hartshorne acquired the land by an inlet in Little Silver once known as Halcyon Bight, a Victorian home that had belonged to a sea captain already existed on the site. He had the home moved to another area of the property (where it still stands today) to make room for the new mansion. Hartshorne engaged the services of well-known architect Roger Harrington Bullard (1884-1935) to design his new home. Bullard had designed estates for a number of prominent families of the time, including that of J.P. Morgan, which were impressive in scale but retained an air of rural domesticity. Among many of Bullard's designs that still stand to this day are Rynwood in Old Brookville, New York now the home of Banfi Vintners and the Maidstone Country Club in East Hampton, New York. In 1933, Bullard won a Gold Medal in the Better Homes in America competition for his design "America's Little House". The modest sized colonial, built at 39th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan, reflected the changing needs in housing and became something of a phenomenon. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia broke the ground and Eleanor Roosevelt laid the hearthstone. CBS Radio broadcast live from there several times a week and over 150,000 people toured the home until its eventual demolition about two years later.
A great many elements of Bullard's signature style have been preserved in The Hartshorne Mansion. Bullard imported bricks from England for the Tudor-style façade accented by a pitched slate roof and tall chimneys, design elements that became his trademark. The mansion features 217 leaded-glass windows, also imported from Britain, many inset with stained-glass images depicting Swiss Canton coats of arms and historical or literary images. Sweeping views of the river can be seen from nearly every window. The formal living room boasts a cathedral ceiling with wood beams from Germany's Black Forest and over sized fireplace, one of ten fireplaces throughout the house all with their original surrounds. A sculpted plaster ceiling graces the banquet style dining room. Knobs can still be seen throughout the house that once controlled a hot and cold water system that would cool the slate roof in the summer and melt the ice in the winter.
Hartshorne added his own unique features to the mansion that echo his world travels and stylish entertaining during the Prohibition Era. European hand-carved panels acquired by Hartshorne during his voyages abroad decorate the vintage phone booth off of the baronial entry hall. Across from the phone booth, a concealed panel releases the entry to a hidden wine cellar. "Secret" passages that run underneath the length of the house can be entered from entryways incorporated into the living room's paneling. Music could be heard throughout the home from the organ room whose ornate grill still graces a living room wall. A small window in the master bedroom looks out over the living room and mischievous younger guests were known to use that vantage point to fly paper airplanes down on the adults' parties. The initials HH can still be seen on the drainpipes and the original bell used to call family members in for meals still hangs in the cupola on the roof.
Although Hartshorne could occasionally be seen skating on the river, he added a pond to the property to supply smooth ice for his practice and that of his guests, including figure skater and film star Sonja Henie as well as the many young skaters he took under his wing over the years. Winters would also find members of the family ice boating on the Shrewsbury. During the warmer months, the Little Silver fire department would make sure the pond was sufficiently filled to allow for rowing in a molded mahogany boat. Guests dressed in white would enjoy a leisurely summer afternoon in the shade of the gingko trees. The seven Hartshorne children fully enjoyed the surrounding acreage, playing with the horses, goats, rabbits and Great Danes that their father raised. One day an elephant, which had escaped from a traveling circus, even found its way to The Hartshorne Mansion and promptly became stuck in the mud. Over the years the surroundings have changed and new families have come to live within its walls, but The Hartshorne Mansion itself has remained a steadfast presence on the shores of the Shrewsbury.
Many thanks to Greg Strand, Marsh Bryan and Karen Schnitzspahn for sharing their reminiscences and expertise.