James went into business with Joseph Lovell, who was married to Harriet’s sister. In 1832, Colles and Lovell purchased at auction 70 acres in Morristown, “for $5000, $1000 cash.” This land had been owned by Gen. John Doughty, former Aide to Gen. George Washington and later Commander-in-Chief at West Point. Colles shared the expenses of the farm and received part of the produce as well as personal use of two rooms in the farmhouse as a summer home. The family’s main residence was in New York City.
The Colles family, which in 1832 included five children, soon outgrew this arrangement. James decided to build his own vacation home at the other end of the tract. Lovell opposed a second house on the property, even though he admitted in a letter to James, “It is not according to human nature that different families, having of course, different interests and feelings, can long live together in perfect harmony.” To settle the ensuing quarrel, Colles offered to split the acreage. Consequently, Lovell retained 25 acres of working farmland and the old homestead on the west side of Mt. Kemble Avenue, and Colles took the largely unimproved 45 acres on the east side of the road, adjacent to the Macculloch property. This portion was bounded by Macculloch (then Doughty) Avenue and a line about 150 feet east of where Farragut Place is now situated; it extended to what is now the Spring Brook Golf Club property. Happily, these events did not permanently damage relations between the brothers-in-law; Lovell even subsequently took a Colles son into business with him. Pictured on left Harriet Wetmore Colles.
Martin E. Thompson, Architect
Colles needed a house on his new property. On October 14, 1836, New York architect Martin E. Thompson was contracted to design and build a home for “James Colles of Morris Town [sic],” according to the architect’s own log.
Martin Thompson (1786-1877) was an architect and builder of considerable achievement in the nineteenth century. In 1822 he was commissioned to design the Second Bank of the United States at 15 1/2 Wall Street. Today this building’s façade resides in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Charles Engelhard Court. It shares that space with architectural elements like the Laurelton Hall loggia designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and staircases from Louis Sullivan’s 1893 Chicago Stock Exchange Building.
In an 1827 description of the New York Merchants Exchange, writer James Hardie noted: “The plan was wholly that of M.E. Thompson, the Architect, who has superintended the work throughout. The design was strictly original, differing in all respects from other plans presented for the consideration of the company. The builders were Gideon Tucker and Thomas W. Woodruff, the carpenters Geer and Riley, the stone cutters Kain, Masterson, and Smith.” What is significant about this description is that most of those craftsmen later worked on the Colles summer home.
The house was originally located about half-way between what are now Macculloch and Colles Avenues on the west side of today’s Farragut Place, at that time the estate’s front drive.
Although the building was later greatly altered by the addition of two wings, the original 1836 design can still be seen. It somewhat resembles the rugged lines of Thompson’s Commercial and Railroad Bank in Vicksburg. The original structure was a large square building, to this day the only Greek Revival house in Morristown. There had been an “antique summer house” on the site, which may originally have been the “wood house” with which Thompson noted working in 1837. Intended as a summer home only, the building was reminiscent of southern plantation splendor with its great columns, wide veranda, marble fireplaces, and high ceilings (suitable for a summer home but impractical in cold northern winters). Thompson’s records indicate the four chimney pieces originally cost $505.00. The building “from cellar to attic” cost $9,560.00.
In an October 1836 letter nephew Benjamin Ogden Canfield, who was helping to oversee construction, wrote to Colles, “The lumber is coming in now from Linsdley. The well diggers have struck water at 35 feet and promise 5 feet in depth. The cellar is nearly [walled up]. As you sail tomorrow this will please you.”
The house took 18 months to complete. It was christened “The Evergreens” in honor of the fine backyard arborvitae. On June 10, 1838, Mrs. Colles wrote to her husband in New Orleans, “We are at last safely housed in Morristown…. We went over to see the house the day we arrived and I am very much pleased with the greater part of it, although I think a little alteration will improve it very much in the second story. There is yet, as I anticipated, a great deal to be done. There is no shelving except the Kitchen dresser, the plated knobs are all to be put on, the grates and fire places to be set. The garden is doing very well. The evening we arrived we had a fine mess of radishes and turnips. Next week I shall go to New York to make my [furniture] purchases.”
Two years later James Colles retired from his New Orleans business and embarked on a three-year Grand Tour of Europe with his wife and children. They returned in 1844 to settle in New York City, continuing to spend summers at The Evergreens. Colles devoted himself to civic affairs in Morristown and in New York, where he was a founder of the Astor Place Opera House.
Harriet Colles died in 1868. James moved permanently in 1877 to the Morristown home. He died there in 1883, a robust 95, much beloved by his children and grandchildren.
George Wetmore Colles
After James’s death his youngest son, George Wetmore Colles 2nd, inherited The Evergreens. George (1836-1911) was a lawyer; his wife, an author. They kept homes in both New York and Morristown. The 1902 Morris Social Directory lists Mrs. Julia Keese [Nelson] Colles and children Miss Gertrude, Miss Julia, and Mr. George Jr. as residing at 20 High Street.
George filed plans at the courthouse in 1885 to subdivide The Evergreens’ acreage as Colles Park. In the fall of that year, he had the fifty-year-old Evergreens homestead moved to its present site on Colles Avenue at the head of Farragut Place. For what must have been a considerable endeavor, there was surprisingly little fanfare. The January 1, 1886, Jerseyman newspaper merely remarked under “Local Matters” that “The Colles mansion has been removed to accommodate the new system of streets and building lots on the premises.” The Morris Chronicle stated, “The Colles House in its new location fronting on Farragut Place presents a majestic appearance. The building has been repainted and thoroughly overhauled both inside and outside, a neat iron fence graces the front, and the grounds on all sides have been laid out tastefully, thus rendering the ‘Homestead’ one of the most comfortable and desirable places of residence within the limits of Morristown.” Old plans show several outbuildings on the property George retained for the old house. Among them were a greenhouse, gazebo, gas house, stables, and servants’ quarters. A two-story dwelling was eventually rehabilitated by the Kellogg Club.
The driveway in front of the house became Farragut Place. It was named in honor of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870), the Civil War hero of New Orleans and Mobile Bay, who had retired to New York City and occasionally visited Morristown and the Colleses.
When George Colles first began promoting the Evergreens subdivision, an article called the development “the most gigantic enterprise ever entered into in Morristown,” affording “one of the prettiest and most unique series of desirable building sites to be found in this or any other city…. Hills were cut away here and hollows filled up there. Avenues and streets were laid out and already curbed, and water and gas pipes are being laid [by Colles’s own gas company] before the road beds are made.” The new roads included Wetmore, Colles, Doughty (now part of Ogden), and the uncompleted Schuyler. Colles Park comprised about 140 building lots. At about this same time, Colles’s neighbor, George Macculloch Miller, was subdividing his own land through the Miller Estates Association. Development in what is now the Historic District was booming.
The Colles homestead was sold in 1890, along with several other parcels of Colles property, to various buyers. Charlton T. Lewis bought The Evergreens for $32,000; George Miller bought a “meadow” on Wetmore Avenue for $6,100.
Mrs. Margaret Lewis later sold the house to William and Frances Dell. The house became known as Dellenord.
Frederic and Cornelia Kellogg
In 1916, Frederic R. and Cornelia Kellogg purchased the property from the Dells through the agency of Mrs. H.E. Fanshawe. The sale was front-page news. According to The Jerseyman, “[T]he tract embraces five acres of land and the house and outbuildings.”
Like the Colleses, the Kelloggs lived in New York but spent their summers in Morristown, involved in charities and social affairs. The September 1916 Social List of Morristown/Convent/Morris Plains lists Mr. and Mrs. Frederic Rogers Kellogg and their children, Miss Mary Darcy Kellogg and Mr. Frederic Brainerd Kellogg, living at 31 Miller Road; they would purchase The Evergreens the following month. The 1930 New York Social Blue Book lists Mr. and Mrs. Frederic R. Kellogg, at 25 Colles Ave. in Morristown, along with their children Miss Darcy Kellogg, Mr. Frederick B. Kellogg (at Princeton), and Mr. Edmund H. Kellogg (at Evans School).
Mr. Kellogg was one of the most prestigious lawyers in America. For some years he was a partner in the New York firm of Carter, Hughes & Kellogg along with Charles Evans Hughes, later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1898 Kellogg founded his own law firm, with a client list including Standard Oil and the Southern Pacific Railroad. He was a counsel in the infamous 1922-23 Teapot Dome scandal. When Frederic Kellogg died on August 19, 1935, memorial services were held in Washington, D.C. Eleanor Roosevelt was among those delivering eulogies. A Mayflower descendent, Kellogg was president of the Community Chest, a member of the Morris County Golf Club, and a vestryman at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
Mrs. Kellogg was the daughter of Edmund D. Halsey of Rockaway, New Jersey, director and later president of the National Iron Bank of Morristown. Cornelia Van Wyck Halsey was accomplished in her own right. Cornelia graduated in 1900 from Bryn Mawr College. She was a member of the Colonial Dames and the D.A.R., a trustee of the Morristown Red Cross, and president of the New Jersey Women’s Republican Club. As President of the National Council of State Garden Clubs in 1930-33, Cornelia Kellogg presented the design for the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker. The Blue Star project was a network of dedicated roadways honoring the men and women of the U.S. military with markers and landscaping. Additionally, for more than 35 years (1913 – 1947), Cornelia Kellogg served as President of the Central Bureau of Social Service, a private non-profit organization which became Family Service of Morris County and is now known as Cornerstone Family Programs.
In spite of their many other activities, the Kelloggs spent a great deal of time restoring the old mansion, which was 80 years old when they bought it. They were old hands at this, having made extensive renovations to their Boyken Street (now Miller Road) property in 1906. To the Colles house they added a two-story service wing, and elongated the front porch to provide a full 100-foot facade. An iron fence was removed on the street side and a brick wall installed to ensure privacy. The living room, originally two parlors, was enlarged by removing a dividing wall. The bay windows were added after Mrs. Kellogg rescued them from a Federal townhouse being torn down on Park Place.
A fire on an early Sunday morning in September 1917 proved only a temporary setback. The family was away and the house was empty. The blaze, confined to the rear of the house, was quickly put out by several local fire companies. A small section of flooring and some weatherboards were removed to extinguish the fire, but the brick lining of the house saved it from serious damage. Fire department officials pegged the damage at around $250.
In the remodeled house, doors led out to new two-story porches overlooking Victorian gardens and a greenhouse famous for its exotic blooms. The gardens were, in fact, open to the public, as were many other grand gardens throughout Morristown. It was said to be at its best in the spring and fall, according to a list compiled by Miss Caroline Foster of the Visiting Garden Committee. The now 33-room mansion was splendid with the Kellogg furnishings.
Cornelia Kellogg died on July 8, 1967, leaving the property to her married daughter, Darcy Kellogg Thomas. On October 7, 1968, Mrs. Thomas sold it to the Kellogg Club.
A New Life
The Kellogg Club Corporation, formed the fall of that year, originated with the homeowners who occupied the houses that rose on the original Colles tract and now make up the Morristown Historical District. These homeowners hoped to prevent commercialization of their neighborhood. They wanted to protect the old homestead from developers likely to subdivide the property and tear down the old mansion to make way for modern structures. To further shelter the house, in 1969 it was submitted for consideration for the New Jersey Historic Preservation Survey.
In the beginning, membership in the Kellogg Club was limited to families who owned and lived in single family homes within one mile of the clubhouse. There were 30 families on the list of charter members, who each paid $1,000 for a charter certificate. Dues ranged from $150 to $300, depending on the size of the member family. It soon became clear there weren’t enough families willing or able to join, so membership was opened to anyone. The first activity of the club was the building of a 75' x 35' swimming pool, a children’s pool, and the bathhouse, all set in the gardens to the left of the mansion. They opened for the July Fourth festivities of 1969. The second order of business was the rehabilitation of the house, by then 133 years old, and the upkeep of the property and its outbuildings. The greenhouse could not be saved. Even today, 35 years later, restoration work is still going on at the mansion, primarily by member volunteers.
“The Day the Music Died” –
Morristown, New Jersey 1968
“A long, long time ago
I can still remember how the music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.”
By Don McLean 1968
1968 was a tumultuous year in America. The national tumult revolved around the issues of racism, the war in Vietnam, the aftermath of “Camelot” and the reality of the Cold War.
The “Sixties” began with the romantic idealism epitomized by the Kennedy Presidency. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” empowered a generation of social idealists. If you were the father or mother of a young family in January of 1961 when John F. Kennedy spoke those words on national television at his Inaugural, you believed that your role as an American was to make any place you touched better for the generations that would follow.
Young parents stood in awe with the rest of the world as three assassinations – John Kennedy’s in 1963, Bobby Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King’s in 1968 – made Camelot recede to the pages of fiction from where it came. War was not only “on the doorstep” with the newspaper every morning. The Vietnam War was the lead story every night on television in your living room. If you lived close to a major American city – like Newark – domestic violence of outrageous proportion also headlined your “local” news.
In his book, 1968 in America, Charles Kaiser writes:
“The sixties and the thirties were the only modern decades in which large
numbers of Americans wondered out loud whether their country might disintegrate.”
America was being “torn in two.”
In 1968 Morristown, New Jersey was also being “torn in two” by local events of national significance. The “Town” and the “Township” were battling over the issue of consolidating the respective School Districts. What began as a “simple” issue of overcrowded school facilities erupted into a heated debate that touched on issues of economic class and race. If that weren’t enough – the Town was physically being “torn in two” by the relentless progress of America’s Interstate Highway system. Route 287 was being cut through the heart of one of the Town’s most vibrant residential neighborhoods.
The sounds of a neighborhood make a special music to the ears of those who live there. The comings and goings of adults and children to and from work, school and play resonate and root people to the places they live over time. If you lived in the Historic Neighborhood of Morristown in 1968 – indeed, the music had died. The “music” diminished every time someone decided to “move away” leaving an older home vacant for longer and longer periods of time, awaiting a new owner. If you lived and owned a home in Morristown in 1968, your home required more care and maintenance than the new homes going up in the Township. Your home was not appreciating in value because the “Town” was not viewed as “a good place” to live. The common sentiment in the Greater Morristown Area was that the “Town” would serve as the commercial center for the communities that surrounded it. Commercial development of residential neighborhoods was just economic “mother nature” taking her course.
If you lived in Morristown in 1968 and had an appreciation for the events that placed Morristown on the map of New Jersey and the nation, you were sad that little remained architecturally to preserve the late 19th Century events that marked Morristown’s first Renaissance. The Erie and Lackawanna Railroad and its daily schedule to and from New York City made Morristown the summer and year-round “community of choice” for many of the business barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Depression had taken its toll as the first wave of their great residences fell in the 1930’s. “Progress” took the second wave in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Historic Neighborhood – an area bounded by Mt. Kemble Avenue to the West, James Street to the East, Ogden Place to the South, and Maple Avenue to the North – remained virtually intact but economically challenged. There was no financial incentive to keep the large residences operating as single-family homes, and there was tremendous pressure to convert single-family homes to either multi-family residences or commercial buildings.
If you had children and lived in Morristown or Morris Township in 1968, your children’s lives were being disrupted by the school district controversy. No matter what your opinion about school district consolidation, the kids in your immediate neighborhood started going to a greater variety of schools – and some parents chose private schools as an alternative to the uncertainty of the public schools. This trend started to change the character of every neighborhood for the children in Morristown and Morris Township.
It was against this backdrop of events that a few brave and good people organized in 1968 to buy the home of James Colles from the Kellogg Estate and save it from commercial development. They were inspired to bring year-round, simple recreation for families into the heart of Morristown’s Historic Neighborhood. As the song says, they had their chance.
“And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while.”
Some of these brave and good people were idealists who wanted to leave the place they lived in better than how they had found it when they’d arrived. Others were pragmatic realists who wanted to preserve the investment in their home. No doubt all were hungry for the nourishing experience of community at a time when great forces were at work dividing and diminishing every community that existed in Morristown and its surroundings.
Making It Happen
The process of creating the Kellogg Club unfolded in four phases. First came the idea, and selling it to others to create a critical mass of people who would comprise the founding members. Next came the commitment of their cash to make it happen. The third step involved creating the official charter and securing the permission of various governing bodies. The final step was implementing the on-going business of the Club and defining the responsibilities of membership. All of the founding members participated in the process. The man who became the first president of the Club, Garrett A. Hobart IV, drove the process.
Gary Hobart lived at 11 Farragut Place and was a young father in 1968. Ideas on what to do and how to do it came from all of the founding members. Gary’s special role was that of public spokesperson for the new venture and cheerleader for those who were doing the early and difficult administrative work involved. Gary had to keep people positive and focused on the task at hand.
Macculloch Hall was used as the location for the first formal meeting of the founding members. They needed a place to meet regularly and keep track of the many tasks – legal and organizational – that were required. Until they were able to buy the property, they had no official place to meet. The founding members completed the purchase of the property on October 7,1968.
The most significant application required of the founding members was the successful application to the Morristown Board of Adjustment to allow the zoning variance required to operate the property as a private social club. Gary became the principal witness providing testimony to the Board in the fall of 1968.
The founding members had created a formal purpose for the Club. This purpose distilled their motivation into a broader goal to be achieved. The Club’s By-Laws in 2003 still preserve this purpose in Section II:
“The object of the Club shall be:
-To foster recreation and provide a place for social pleasure for members, their families and their guests.
-To preserve the Kellogg property in its present state and condition, and
-To promote one-family housing in Morristown.”
The Kellogg family and their representatives were eager to complete the sale of the house to the Club once they were “sold” on the idea of creating a permanent, neighborhood social club from the mansion and its grounds. Commerce and government, however, often move in different rhythms – and the founding members were faced with the need to complete the purchase of the property before they secured the approval of the Morristown Board of Adjustment.
Although the Kellogg Estate had agreed upon a below-market transaction price, there was more than money at risk if the founding members failed to obtain the zoning variance required to operate.
They faced the prospect of losing the character of their single-family neighborhood. They could sell the Kellogg property quickly at a profit – but only to a developer who would most likely change the character of the neighborhood by razing the mansion and developing the land for multi-family residential use. There was no market in 1968 for maintaining a property the size and scope of the Colles Mansion as a one-family residence.
On Thursday, October 24th, 1968, Gary Hobart gave the final testimony to the Morristown Board of Adjustment. He was careful to not look presumptuous – closing the deal before the Board granted zoning approval. Gary had to convince the Board that there was a well thought out plan for operating. Satisfying those two issues, the Board remained perplexed about one more issue. Mr. Lawrence Willner, Esq., then Chairman of the Board of Adjustment, began the following sequence of questioning of Gary Hobart:
“MR. WILLNER: I would be interested, Mr. Hobart, in your ideas of how a private club such as this which is in all probability for the benefit of the membership at large of the club, how that will promote one-family houses in Morristown. That seems like a very high ideal. It would be interesting for me to know how a private club is going to promote one-family houses in Morristown.
THE WITNESS (Mr. Hobart): This is somewhat speculative that the club will have this effect. It is the thinking of the members of the club that having this membership available to the houses will add a certain amount of value to the houses, will add a certain amount of pride to the people being able to join the club, and therefore it will tend to make people who might otherwise move out of Morristown, go elsewhere, decide to stay.
MR.WILLNER: Except for one thing, if it was an unlimited area and unlimited size. If you have to limit it to150, how is that going to promote the idea that you are trying to promote there?
THE WITNESS: Well, actually if you take the number of houses in Morristown, and I haven’t counted them completely, I think the figure of 150 is sort of a realistic figure of the number who would desire to join, given the number of houses we have. Naturally, if this figure proves unworkable and there is a great demand for more, one of the things that would be considered would be to increase the number. We felt a limit should be placed, at least for the time being, so that we don’t overcrowd the club, don’t overcrowd the facilities. That was another factor that had to be taken into consideration in setting up the club. If we could more effectively use the facility, I think everybody would desire to have more. There is no purpose to exclude anybody from this club.”
The Morristown Board of Adjustment approved the Application on December 12, 1968 and the Founding Members were free to begin implementing their vision, and executing their plans.
Money Flows to Good Ideas – Getting Organized and Getting Started
Confident of their vision, the first “official” social function held at the Kellogg Club was a Gala “Opening Night” reported in the Daily Record on Saturday, November 9th, 1968. Fires burned in the Salon, and formal attire set the tone for introducing Morristown to what was to be its “in town” Country Club.
The members of the first Board of Managers had to begin the process of drafting a financial plan. Construction needed to begin on the Club’s principal asset – its swimming pool – and the business of maintaining and transforming the mansion and grounds needed to begin.
By March, 1969, the Club had grown to 28 memberships. From a financial analysis prepared by William Lightbowne, the Club’s first treasurer, it became obvious that the Club did not have the cash flow to operate.
It quickly became clear that “operating” would require a significant investment of time and effort – weekly and monthly – by the first 28 families and those who would follow. If the members themselves were not able to do the work required or contribute the necessary cash, the Club would fail.
A number of the founding members loaned their own money to the Club, taking back notes in return, in order to provide working capital. As new members joined, they were able to purchase multiple “Certificates,” thereby increasing their ownership stake and voting privileges.
The original Board of Directors included the following individuals: Garrett A. Hobart IV, T. Gordon Smith, Pat Pickering, William Lightbowne, Lenox Pickering, David James, Andrew Gregg, Myron Halpern, John Baruch, William Fiske, and Edward Zajac.
Committees included House, Grounds, Activities, Decoration and Restoration, Finance and Records. There was no Pool Committee because there was no pool. There were two Junior Members of the Board – Christopher Smith and Nina Gregg. Peter Pankow was the resident manager and responsible for daily caretaking of the overall facility.
For the two years following the spring of 1969 the founding members were consumed with three major issues – constructing the pool, balancing the fragile finances of the organization, and attracting new members.
An ad from the Daily Record showed a drawing of the front door knocker, which was also highlighted on early letters and newsletters:
With the opening of the pool, the membership began to grow. The following excerpts from Meeting Minutes chart the development of the Club as some of the early members assumed leadership roles. The cycle of building membership and experiencing financial strain because of new expenses continued.
Sunday, February 21st 1971 Board of Governor’s Meeting Minutes
“Mr. Hobart (still President) reported that he saw the President of the Welcome Wagon of Morristown and Morris Township…. They will distribute the Club brochure to each family visited and then report back to us on any interested people. If they show any interest, a family may be allowed to come to the pool once as guests of the Club or to attend a party free of charge.”
Sunday, November 21, 1971 Board of Governors Meeting Minutes
“One prospective member requested a financial statement before he would consider joining the Club. It was decided that the membership committee prepare a letter on the financial status of the Club to show prospective members if they should make such a request……
….In addition, Mr. Lightbowne (still Treasurer) would like an appraisal of the Club house. He also would like the neighbors of the Club to be re-canvassed so that they could be advised of the reduction in the cost of an Ownership Certificate and so might possibly consider joining the Club. He would also like the neighbors’ opinion if the Club property were to be rezoned and put up for sale.”
November 13th, 1973 – Annual Meeting Minutes
“Pool Committee: Helen Kingsbury reported that the pool ran smoothly during the summer and that the Eggert Company had been hired to service and clean the pool.
House Committee: Helen Kingsbury reported that no repairs, other than necessities, were made to the house due to lack of funds…………Bill Lightbowne gave the Treasurer’s Report (again). Our current debt is $79,338.87.”
David Cook and his wife Jill joined the Club in 1973 when they moved into a house on Ogden Place. By 1974 David was chairing the Club’s Membership Committee, and in 1975 he became the first ‘non-founding’ member to become Club president. A reading of the minutes for 1975 shows that he was faced with the chronic issues of poor cash flow creating friction between the members, the Board of Governors and the limited “staff,” and trying to get everything done.
Despite the fact that the pool was only 6 years old, it required significant maintenance. The social activities of the Club were growing. A Tennis Committee was formed to study the possibility of reconstructing the court on the west lawn of the property. A Bicentennial Committee was planning a walking tour of member homes and the Colles Mansion for May 4th of 1976.
The Club in Crisis
In the fall of 1976 the nation was facing a continuing energy crisis, and the costs of operating the Colles Mansion became prohibitive. Membership was not growing and the members who had been putting in their time and money to keep things running were now understandably running out of steam. On September 21, 1977, a special meeting of the Board of Governors was held, and a motion was passed to close the Mansion by October 31st. It was seen as a necessary measure to reduce operating costs. The Board also began formulating a “financial-crisis” plan to present to the members at the Annual Meeting on October 21st.
Two alternatives seemed possible. One was to sell the entire property outright. The second option was to subdivide the land and sell part of the property to underwrite the investments required in Club facilities.
The Annual Meeting that year began on October 12th, continued on October 19th, and finally ended on November 3rd. The pivotal issue to be decided by a role call vote of the members present was: Would the Kellogg Club continue at all? If it continued – where would the Club find the money to operate the Mansion and the grounds?
Forty-one people attended the first meeting. After significant discussion of all of the issues, a poll was taken to reach a consensus for further investigation. Nine people wanted to liquidate the Club. Ten were in favor of selling part of the Club’s assets. Three people wanted to sell the pool and land and preserve the Mansion. Seventeen were interested in developing the land. Thirteen people were in favor of buying time and re-mortgaging the property. No one was ready to make a decision and all called for further investigation.
A committee was formed and offered a report one week later. The Committee told the members that they were prepared to continue their work as long as the Members voted in favor of preserving the House. Randy Schonfeld, Ralph Gray and Jim Yardley shared the goals of the Committee with the members present: buy time and explore every option for saving the Club in total through a fiscally sound plan. There was a long list of opportunities that the Committee had developed to be explored.
Historic recognition had not been an area developed in the nine years since the Club was founded. Historic recognition could bring tax relief and lower operating costs. Banks suggested short-term notes as alternatives to the administrative costs of mortgages. Linda Helstrom asked the Committee the galvanizing question: “What was the root cause of the crisis?” Henry Gregory, one of the founding members, answered succinctly, “We did things as individuals instead of as committees.”
It was as though a light had gone on in the room. Those present had just witnessed the enthusiasm of the House Crisis Committee. One week before only three people polled made the priority saving the house. One week later a team convinced the 36 people present that saving the house was the best course of action, long-term. Three motions quickly passed by vote.
“-That a line of credit to a maximum of $10,000 be established at a bank, charitable foundation, or elsewhere.
-That in order to avoid any possible conflict of interest, no member of the club will be compensated in any way for work done in relation to the development, redecoration, or repair to the property of the club.
-That we allow the sale of ownership certificates up to a total of four, and that we raise as much money as possible with no limit on pool bonds.”
A motion was offered and denied by a resounding roll-call majority to fully liquidate the assets of the club. The Nominating Committee put up a slate of three names to serve as co-presidents. Randy Schonfeld, Anne Yardley and Ralph Gray – all active members of the House Crisis Committee – were accepted as the first co-presidents of the Club.
In the years immediately following, the House Crisis Committee continued their work and secured the Historic recognition the Mansion and the property deserved. Crisis was averted and a new phase of growth and development began.
On October 27th, 1978 the Club was still in business and it was time to celebrate its 10th birthday.
During the decade of the 80’s, the Club made enormous strides in improving all of the facilities and simultaneously strengthening its financial position. The work was carried out by several successive presidential triumvirates along with the other officers and board members. The Club wrestled during this period over the appropriate use of the house within zoning restrictions and neighborhood wishes. They turned down a potentially lucrative lease from someone who wished to start an executive women’s club. They spent much of the decade locating a slow leak in the pool, finally finding the problem in 1987!
Finances and Fundraising in the 80’s
The decade started on a financially bleak note: the bank balance on January 1, 1980 stood at -$50.27. The Club owed money for fuel. They got through the first quarter by taking out a short-term loan. The town was fighting the proposed tax abatement for the Club but, by the end of 1980, the tax situation had been settled. The Club’s main source of money was, of course, the dues from members – but membership dues have never been sufficient to finance the Club. The other two main sources were rentals and fundraisers.
During most of the decade the Club experimented with ways to handle rentals. Sometimes Club members handled it; at other points the caretakers/managers did. Many issues arose over what types of events should be held. The neighbors protested anything late or noisy. Eventually the board adopted a 10 p.m. curfew and avoided renting to large groups.
In 1981-82 the board spent a great deal of time and energy renovating the Carriage House so that it could be rented again. They successfully completed the renovation in 1982, and the rental income helped a great deal in improving the financial picture.
The Club held its first Victorian House tour in 1982. With few exceptions this popular fundraising venture has continued as an annual event, providing the Club with much- needed revenue and offering the community a chance to see not only the Club itself but also many of the homes in the neighborhood. For much of the 80’s the Club also hosted a Christmas fundraiser entitled Yuletide Visions. This event began in 1983 and often welcomed musical groups from the area to sing as people enjoyed the Victorian house and perused the crafts on display. Other fundraisers included an auction in 1980.
During this decade the Board attempted to take a serious look at the Certificates of Membership that people bought to finance the original purchase of the Club. Rather than dilute the value of those Certificates, the Club offered Series B Certificates during part of the 1980’s. These gave people proprietary membership rights but did not give them a share in the ownership of the Club. Suffice it to say that there was some confusion in the membership over this issue!
Membership and Social Events
In 1980 the Club voted to raise the membership limit to 125 members. Although they only reached 108 members that year, the succeeding years saw growth to 131, with a high of 151 members in 1987. The numbers dropped again, ending with 103 members in 1989.
The Club hosted several social events each year. Some of the highlights from this period were the Chuck Wagon breakfasts held each year to open the pool, Fourth of July celebrations, lobster dinners by the pool, square dances, artistic events, lectures, New Year’s Eve parties, and events for Valentine’s Day.
An old house always requires a lot of attention, and the period of the 1980’s was certainly no exception. Members repaired frozen pipes that had stopped the water flow to the second floor. Tom McHugh created storm windows for the house, sealed the chimney, and refinished the floors. The exterior of the house was partially painted in 1982, but the entire outside of the house was not painted until 1987. The board did the best they could during the early 80’s, trying to fix problems as they arose, always with an almost empty bank account. In 1985 some of the deteriorating columns were replaced and work was done on the portico and the back steps.
A big break-through came in 1986 when Morristown Memorial Hospital settled on the Kellogg Club as the site of its decorator’s showcase. Their designers took over the entire house and, although most of the furniture departed with the designers, the Club continued to enjoy the fruits of all the improvements to the interior of the house. Several members contributed to buy some of the furniture from the showcase so the house itself looked much better. Further work in the late 80’s included some new furnishings, a new floor in the caretaker’s apartment, and some attention to the dry-rot on the back porch.
The house was not the only structure on the property that required a great deal of attention during this period. In 1984 and 1985 the Club completely rebuilt the pool house. Member volunteers stained the exterior, painted the stairs, and made general improvements
The pool is, of course, one of the things that attract people to the Kellogg Club. The physical plant for the pool was in fairly bad condition during the early 80’s. At this time the pool was filled with hoses running from the backyards of all the families on Miller Road! Pool skimmers, leaks, cracks, and other problems plagued the operation at times. In 1987 the Club paid for a major patching of the main pool. Work on the “baby pool” followed the next year.
Many people worked during this decade to assure that the pool operation ran smoothly. A clear setup with a pool manager replaced a rather disorganized group of lifeguards. Providing swimming lessons for the children and swimming lanes for adult swim were popular changes. In 1981 the Club joined the Jockey Hollow Swim League as a provisional member, winning three out of four meets. The Club won the season-ending Round Robin meet in 1985 when we hosted the event with David Cook at the microphones. Those in attendance remember fondly his announcement that “dinner would be served in the main dining room” as if we were an upscale club!
Several things happened at the Kellogg Club during the 1990’s. We moved from financial stability to financial investment. We moved from being basically a ‘swim club’ to a year-round social club. We moved from house maintenance (at best!) to planned house restoration and renovation. We moved from a neighborhood membership to a broadened community membership. And we moved from crab grass/dying trees to a multi-year landscaping plan.
During the early 90’s the budget was still tight, and the only investments made in the property were those absolutely necessary to keep things going. There was, as always, a tremendous need for volunteer contribution – especially in the areas of the pool and the grounds.
Each spring members painted the pool and patched the leaking pipes from the winter. They also prepared the grounds and it was, in fact, the personal contributions of both plant cuttings and time from these volunteers that provided the base of the terrific perennial garden we have in the pool area today.
Several things happened in 1997 that changed the Club. Membership was low and, despite hard work on the part of the Membership Committee, the Club was having a hard time attracting new members. The biggest issue was the pool which was, at this point, approximately 25 years old and showing its age. The Board of Managers decided that a major investment must be made – the pool needed renovation and the surrounding grounds needed to be landscaped.
This decision led to a full year of planning and negotiations. Professional consultants were engaged, pool contract bids obtained, bank loan arrangements negotiated, landscaping plans drawn up, member volunteers with sufficient experience to oversee such a complex project were identified, open forum discussion sessions were held by the Board with members, a formal business proposal was prepared and sent to all members, and a fundraising chairperson was named. Key to moving the plans for a new pool to reality were two factors – a strong ‘yes’ vote by the majority of members attending a special meeting to ratify the Board’s proposal for a bank loan and special member assessment, and a terrifically successful fundraising initiative, resulting in the ‘earnest money’ required for the bank loan.
The fundraising done for the building of the new pool merits some special words. This was a watershed event and time. It represented the single largest investment on the part of the members since the initial purchase of the mansion and the creation of the Kellogg Club. This investment not only provided the essential “life blood” needed at the time, it went beyond to literally catapult the Club into a new era of growth. The cornerstone event of the fundraising campaign was a “Black and White Ball”….the first of what has now become the annual gala fundraising event.
Serendipitously in 1997 another very significant event occurred. Universal Studios arranged to use a house on Farragut Place as the setting for the movie “One True Thing” starring local star Meryl Streep. In parallel with this decision an agreement was reached with the Club to use the mansion as the place where crew members could gather and have their meals, and lights and other equipment could be stored . This arrangement resulted in additional revenues to the Club…an unanticipated bonus which allowed a sufficient cash flow to refresh the main floor common rooms which were tired and in need of a face lift. Nothing had been done to freshen them up since Morristown Memorial Hospital’s Mansion in May was held in the Club in 1986.
1998 was a busy year for volunteers at the Club. A very successful House Tour was held that year and, as always, members volunteered the use of their homes, distributed posters, made flower arrangements, sold advertising for the brochures, took care of publicity, and served as docents. The pool was renovated and the surrounding gardens landscaped, requiring significant oversight from volunteers dedicated to this initiative.
1998 and 1999 were banner years for membership expansion that set the tone for subsequent years. The energetic, focused Membership Committee had something fresh and exciting to sell after the pool and house improvements had been made, and social activities of the Club began to expand significantly. Traditional events such as the July 4 Children’s Parade and Picnic, Christmas Caroling and the House Tour continued, but the Annual Fundraising Gala became institutionalized, and new events such as the Easter Egg Hunt, Wine and Cheese Party, the Porch and Patio Party, Ladies’ Night, and the Book Clubs became additional mainstays of activity and engagement.
The Beginning of the 21st Century
The increased Club membership (there is a waiting list to join the Club!) and resulting increased revenue allowed the Colles Mansion to start the new century with significant improvements. The kitchen and pantries have been renovated and redecorated and, as part of the project, the plumbing has been repaired or replaced.
The Hobart room ceilings and floors have been replaced and repaired, water heaters replaced, boilers repaired, and the exterior of the house has been painted. New exterior lighting has been installed and the walkway to the main entrance has been redone. The front foyer has been completely redecorated and the existing first floor bathroom been completely renovated. An additional bathroom was also added.
The mansion grounds have never looked better. A long-range tree removal, pruning and care plan was put in place along with flower and shrubbery plantings to enhance the curb-appeal of the mansion. One of New Jersey’s champion big trees is residing just outside the pool area. The 7’5 circumference tree, known as Diospyros Virginiana (a Persimmon), has a dark brown, very strong wood most commonly used in the manufacture of golf clubs.
A professional pool management company that has been hired to oversee operation and maintenance has been very well received by the membership.
Volunteerism continues to flourish! The annual Gala provides the most significant fundraising event held at the Club, thanks to the tireless efforts of several members.
The Colles Mansion is slowly but surely being restored to its original splendor, and continues to be a source of pride to its members and the community. The dreams of the founding members have come true – the Club does foster recreation and provides a place for social pleasure for members, their families and their guests; the Kellogg property is being preserved; and the historic neighborhood is flourishing.