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Garden Diary - May 2019


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May


Wednesday, 22 May 2019
A Visit to Ringwood Manor

The Hunterdon County (New Jersey) Division of Parks & Recreation offers a diversity of programs on a variety of topics. They also have van tours, accommodating a dozen participants on outings to interesting places. Such as

Date: Wednesday, May 22 Time: 8:15 AM to 6:00 PM Cost: $25, plus $11 tour fee
On this new trip, we will tour the Ringwood Manor. Next, we will tour Skylands Manor. Our third stop will be the New Jersey State Botanical Garden at Skylands.
Please dress appropriately for the weather, and wear proper footwear for taking short walks. Bring a bagged lunch.

The popularity of the trip meant that by the time I called in to register they had had to schedule a second van. And even so there was a waiting list. Me, and several other people. On Tuesday I learned that one of the registrants had cancelled. I was the fortunate speedy respondent who got that space.

The van I was on was going first to Ringwood Manor; the other van reversed the trip, first going to Skylands. The 90 minute trip is mostly on highways. However the van is very comfortable with good seats, high ceiling, lots of glass (to look at the surrounding traffic.) We had each been given an information packet about the two manor houses and the botanical garden.

From the 1740s to the late 19th century Ringwood was the site of an ironworks. During the American Revolution iron mined at the site supplied the Continental Army with components of the chain system used to protect and defend the Hudson River. The chain which may be seen in front of the mortar pictured below is not the original installed at West Point. Though a replica it gives an excellent idea of the massive size that the great chain boom had.


A major supplier of gun metal to the Union cause, material essential for the manufacture of rifles during the American Civil War. Late in 1861, Cooper, Hewitt & Co. received an order from the Navy Department for twenty-one mortar beds to be completed as soon as possible. The beds were extremely difficult to build as they needed to be strong enough to withstand the devastating recoil from the mortar. A later order for 30 mortar beds to be completed in 30 days was completed in just 3 weeks.

Two ingots. Stamped 1838, but I don't know if that is a date.

I found them behind the blacksmith's shop, a charming cottage-y building.

The ironworks were sold several times, bought most notably in 1853 by Peter Cooper, who incorporated it into his Trenton Ironworks, which was managed by his son Edward and his son's business partner Abram S. Hewitt. An aside: Cooper Hewitt is a renown design museum in New York City, under the aegis of the Smithsonian.

Ringwood Manor was the Hewitts summer home. Mrs. Hewitt kept adding on. When she was done there were 51 rooms. The front room "man cave" with beautiful woodwork has enough muskets to repel a pirate ship's worth of boarders, a buffalo head that Buffalo Bill Cody gave to Mrs. Hewitt, huge elk antlers from an animal Mr. Hewitt had shot - and our group was barely in the door. The tour takes over an hour. It's a beautiful day after rain and more rain. I bailed on the tour and toured the grounds on my own.


The Hewitts were world travellers and avid collectors. Artifacts
and sculptures enhance the grounds. One of a pair of lions


An architectural fragment that embellishes a side door into the house.


One of a pair of highly polished pink granite sphinx. The other is missing some pieces.


As I pass around the house I notice a pair of rather large iron (what else?) gates
that delineate I know not what. Perhaps a roadway into the verdant landscape.


A colonnade of evergreens swathed in English ivy. This row parallels the road
and is in turn paralleled by another row of trees.


I didn't want to wander too far from the manor house lest the tour conclude,
our group exit and depart for the van. But I did find a rather nice planting of
huge green and gold hosta encircling a plinth with a concrete fruit filled urn.
And the hosta in turn encircled by a boxwood hedge.


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