Historic Structures

Building Description Alnwick Hall Morris New Jersey

Built in the early 20th century Alnwick Hall is a brick manor house modeled after 15th and 16th century English prototypes. Situated in the Convent section of Morris Township, at the corner of Route 24 and Canfield Road, it is set back from Route 24 on a level parcel of land dotted with mature trees, many of specimen quality. To the north and west stand large office buildings on well landscaped lots. Single-family residential development of suburban character occupies adjacent lands to the south and east.

The rectangular main block of the house measures approximately 80' X 95'. A porte cochere extends 32 feet from the west facade and a long narrow service wing creates an ell at the rear, running about 90 f beyond the south elevation.

The regular outline of the house is broken by semi-octangonal bays and towers. The two principal entrances lead to halls which join to form a T-shaped circulation pattern. Opening off these halls in a symmetrical manner are the important rooms.

Alnwick is two stories high with an 8 foot basement and no attic. Height from ground to castellated parapet, its most prominent feature, is approximately 33 feet . The flat roof is now covered with a composition roofing.

Structurally, the house is steel framed, clad entirely in orange pressed-brick laid up in common bond with knife-edged joints of tinted mortar. Matching the brick in color and texture is a terra cotta material from which all exterior ornament is fashioned. In addition to some foliate and shield-motif ornament on the porte cochere and north entrance, the most prominent decorative feature is a lancet-like frieze running in shallow relief below the north parapet.

The two principal entrances referred to earlier are elaborated in the following manner: on the north, or Route 24 side is a crenellated composition 15' wide and 17' high framed by two semi-octangonal columns. Centered between them is a paneled, double-leaf oak door beneath a four-centered arch typical of Tudor usage. The same members (semi-octagonal verticals and crenellated parapet) are used to create the west entrance, where they are lengthened to form a porte cochere 20 feet high with trabeated arch and a ceiling fashioned of terra cotta mosaic. The door shielded by the porte cochere is double-leaf oak similar to the first. On all elevations the windows are trabeated, some with Tudor-arched transoms. Several are filled with tracery fitted with leaded clear or stained glass.

Like the exterior with its Tudor motifs, the interior of Alnwick is derived largely from English architecture popular during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. In an attempt to suggest the centuries-long evolution of the interior at Alnwick in England, however, 18th-century classical and Rococo motifs are found as well.

On the ground floor of the main wing are an entrace hall and six rooms: the great hall, library, dining room, breakfast room and two drawing rooms.

The great hall was originally a two-story space (24* from floor to ceiling) measuring 24' X 60'. It is now divided into two floors. Its 12 foot high oak wainscot is carved with linenfold and cusped tracery motifs. The flat plaster ceiling is divided into 24 large panels, their intersecting points terminating in carved Gothic bosses. Notable features include eight pairs of wrought iron bracket lamps, each with four cylindrical glass shades; a stained glass window representing a Medieval scene, signed in the lower right "Otto Heinigke;" concealed cornice lighting designed to produce a "moonlight effect;" and an oriel window communicating with one of the master bedrooms."

North of the great hall is a 22' X 30' drawing room originally called the Louis XVI Room for its Rococo ornamentation. The gilded wooden mantel is surmounted by a tripartite plaster mirror, both characterized by sinuous foliated motifs, as is the painted ceiling.

Two pairs of double doors are framed by Scamozzi Ionic columns. The walls are paneled to dado height and papered above (the original wall covering was silk damask).

Separating the great hall and Louis XVI Room from the east rooms is a 15' X 65' hall entered from the north. Its ceiling-height oak paneling is simple, but the plaster ceiling is more intricately modeled than any in the house, with Tudor Roses, floral medallions, strapwork, and drop pendants. The oak main stair rises at the south end of this hall. It's arcaded balustrades are Jacobean in style, with balusters square in section, tapering toward their bases. The newel is vase-shaped, topped with a carved wooden flower. Seven pairs of silver alloy sconces depict a chivalric helmet surrounded by elaborate foliation.

The northeast drawing room is clearly derived from Adamesque sources; its pale white, gold, and blue colors and delicate decoration contrasting dramatically with those of the hall. Its dimensions are 22' square. There is a white-and-gold marble mantel on the east wall opposite a pair of double doors. Classical motifs are found in the plaster ceiling and frieze, pilasters, Corinthian columns, and parquet floor with marquetry border of anthemion motifs. The gilded fireback is cast with paterae, reeding, and garlands. Classically inspired Wedgewood-like plaques are found in the sconces.

Behind the northeast parlor is the 22' X 24' dining room. Beneath a plaster ceiling of armorial bearings and stylized flowers are wainscot panels of burled Circassian walnut, carved with linenfold and strapwork ornament. The Jacobean walnut mantel has a surround of dark marble with cream veining and a bas-relief iron fireback. The stained-glass window in the bay, surrounded by clear leaded glass, is signed "Heinigke and Bowen, N.Y."

Behind the dining room is an 18' x 18' octagonal breakfast room with full-height oak paneling; windows are of clear leaded glass.

Returning to the west side of the hall, the library is the last of the public or ceremonial rooms. Shoulder-height oak bookcases with glass doors in a Gothic design run around the entire 24' X 50' perimeter. The plaster ceiling is divided by cusped bosses into 78 panels, each containing a floral medallion in high relief; the cornice and frieze are composed of deeply-cut oak-leaf motif.

With the exception of the stair hall and its communicating corridors, all finished in Tudor/Jacobean fashion with oak paneling and plaster ceilings similar to the first floor hall, the second floor rooms reflect a light airy taste where Adamesque plasterwork replaces wood paneling and tapestry walls. The two master suites have ceilings decorated with such motifs as interlaces, ribbons and garlands, oak-leaf-and-acorn guilloches and branch-and-vine moldings. The bedroom designed for Mr. Meany is highlighted by classically- inspired mantel of painted wood and parti-colored marble; Mrs. Meany's bedroom has an Ionic mantel with brick surround and terra cotta-colored marble hearth.

On the first floor of the service wing were the butler's pantry, kitchen, servants dining room, two bedrooms, and bath.