Norwood Park- West Long Branch, New Jersey

In 1848, Meyer Guggenheim settled in Philadelphia after he and his family immigrated to the United States from Switzerland. While onboard the ship, Meyer, who was a Swiss-Jew, was introduced to Barbara Meyers.  Within four years, the two were married and welcomed their first three children by the end of the sixth year of marriage. Murry Guggenheim, the future owner of West Long Branch’s Guggenheim Mansion, was born in 1858, and was their third child.  Once settled, Meyer furthered the manufacturing of his self-made stove polish.

Center Living room and bedroom windows of south facade of Guggenheim Mansion

Center Living room and bedroom windows of south facade of Guggenheim Mansion

In total, Meyer and Barbara birthed 11 children including Benjamin and Solomon Guggenheim. Benjamin infamously perished onboard the Titanic’s maiden voyage from Europe to New York.  His last noted words were, “We are prepared to go down like gentlemen,” and “no woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.”  A survivor of the sinking carried his words off the doomed vessel, which was immortalized in the 1997 film Titanic.

Solomon, who joined in with the family’s future embroidery import company and mining industry, developed a love for modernist paintings.  Expanding on his intrigue for art that emerged in 1919, Solomon created the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in 1937.  He raised plenty of money, which then granted the opportunity for the now famous Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

 

Statue still standing in front of the Guggenheim Mansion

Statue still standing in front of the Guggenheim Mansion

In 1887, the Guggenheim’s third son, Murry, met Leonie Bernheim, the daughter of a very wealthy French businessman. The Bernheim family made a notable fortune in textile manufacturing, but their money wasn’t necessary to uphold the new couple’s lavish lifestyle.  Murry took part with his brothers in the mining industry, becoming the head of the Philadelphia Smelting and Refining Company.

 

Guggenheim Mansion in distance. A pond formerly rested in the field.

Guggenheim Mansion in distance. A pond formerly rested in the field.

In 1903, Murry acquired the property formally owned by Norman L. Munro.  The estate that once stood in the shadow of the still standing Guggenheim Mansion was named, Normanhurst.  Construction on the symmetrical summer cottage began in 1903 and was completed by 1905 by Carrere and Hastings architectural firm.

The estate functioned as a summer cottage for Murry, Leonie, and their two children Edmund and Lucille.  There are two curved corridors lined with arched openings on the south side of the cottage.  Nestled between the halls is a courtyard that was once meticulously landscaped with hedges and various flowers.  Now it serves as a patio area with the same paved sections, but instead of gardens, there are sections of maintained grass.

Arched arcade around courtyard of mansion

Arched arcade around courtyard of mansion

 

Looking out from the Guggenheim courtyard towards where the pond was.

Looking out from the Guggenheim courtyard towards where the pond was.

Just beyond the white railings of the Guggenheim beach home is a large open field with scattered trees.  It wasn’t always a field, though.  When the Guggenheims summered at the West Long Branch retreat, there was a peaceful pond that reflected the south façade in a picturesque way.  Just beyond the pond sat Cedar Avenue, and just beyond that road the Guggenheims estate continued with a large stable.

When entering the estate, a visitor would pull in the Norwood Avenue entrance and be greeted at the arched porte-cochere. Once out of the car, or carriage, the visitor would enter through glass doors and find him or herself in a large, white reception hall with two small stairwells, bearing only a few steps each, going up to the main first

Porte-cochere of Guggenheim Mansion

Porte-cochere of Guggenheim Mansion

level.  If one walks to the right and emerges at the top of those steps, a beautiful, curved stairwell that hugs a large, ornate chandelier can be seen through a white paneled doorway.

Guggenheim Staircase

Guggenheim Staircase

The main level houses many rooms including a large mahogany living room that overlooks the courtyard and former pond.  This is noticeably the only room not painted white. The Guggenheims wanted a light, airy feel that only clean, simplistic walls could offer.  The second floor of the cottage bore several bedrooms including a large master suite.

 

The Guggenheim Mansion steps leading to the courtyard from the field (former location of pond)

The Guggenheim Mansion steps leading to the courtyard from the field (former location of pond)

Back of mansion. Guggenheim entrance.

Back of mansion. Guggenheim entrance.

The Guggenheim Mansion is located across the street from another world famous estate, Shadow Lawn Mansion.  Hubert and Maysie Parson were the summer neighbors of Murry and Leonie for almost 20 years before the great depression stole the 90,000 square foot palace from them.   Rumor has it that the Guggenheims were not fond of the Parson’s and their gaudy “new-money” flashiness.  In 1938, one year before Murry’s death, Shadow Lawn Mansion was bought and turned in to a private girls school.  Eventually it turned in to Monmouth College, and then Monmouth University.

 

Toppled statue in Guggenheim garden. The face is believed to be modeled after Leonie Guggenheim.

Toppled statue in Guggenheim garden. The face is believed to be modeled after Leonie Guggenheim.

Sadly, after 34 years of memorable summers under the Jersey shore sun, Murry passed in 1939.  Leonie actively spent her summers at the mansion until her death in 1959.  The Guggenheim Foundation later donated the mansion and its property to then Monmouth College (now Monmouth University).  The house serves as Monmouth’s official library and has done so since its dedication in 1968.  The stable is now known as Lauren K. Woods Theater, which boasts 155 seats.

Looking down the stairwell from the second floor balcony of Guggenheim Mansion

Looking down the stairwell from the second floor balcony of Guggenheim Mansion

-For more photos of the Guggenheim Mansion-

Winter At The Guggenheim Mansion

Photos- Originals taken by Matthew J. Niewenhous


Sources

Many facts obtained through personal experience.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Meyer Guggenheim (American Industrialist and Philanthropist).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Solomon Guggenheim (American Businessman and Art Collector).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Wilkes, David. “Does Long-lost Photo Solve Mystery of Why Playboy Drowned on Titanic? Millionaire ‘wouldn’t Leave Mixed-race Valet Who Would Have Been Denied Place on Lifeboat'” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Reme, Jim, and Tova Navarra. Monmouth University. Charleston: Arcadia Pub, 2002. Print. The College History Ser.

6 thoughts on “Norwood Park- West Long Branch, New Jersey

  1. This is awesome Matthew. I never knew it was turned into Monmouth University. You should be proud of you beautiful pictures and wonderful work. Looking forward to seeing more interesting sites and stories, love this !!!!

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that one. From articles that I have found, he lived a large portion of his life in Philidelphia. I found that he died at his “home,” and after looking further in to it, he died in New York City. Many of his family lived in NYC, but I have yet to find an address.

  3. Pingback: The Guggenheim Mansions- West Long Branch, New Jersey (Winter 2015) | The Gilded Butler

  4. According to “The Guggenheims” by Unger and Unger, 2005, p. 55, Murry lived in New York at 29 West 76th Street.

  5. Pingback: Throwback Post: Guggenheim Mansion | The Gilded Butler

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