For Sale — Seriously Wealthy Buyers Only
Built in 1907, a year before brother William Henry Crocker’s Burlingame California country estate masterpiece “New Place” (now the Burlingame County Club) George Crocker’s 1,100 acre Darlington estate, featured seventy-five rooms, including two laundries, a wine cellar, a humidor for his 60,000 cigar collection, 16 greenhouses and an 11 ½ acre reservoir with an estimated 100,000,000 gallons of water.
Modeled directly after the 17th century Bramshill Manor in the English county of Hampshire, the Jacobean mansion was designed by architect James Brite, who along with his partner, Henry Bacon, also created the original Madison Square Garden, the American University in Washington, D.C., and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Darlington, located 30 miles from New York City, in Mahwah, NJ, received critical acclaim in The Architectural Record and was featured in American Homes and Gardens. Some of George’s contemporaries believed that Mr. Crocker, not being accepted in all the social circles that he wished, was determined to express his wealth and taste through this structure.
It is true that George had a checkered past. George was, according to the New York Times, “one of the most reckless young men about town when reckless young men thereabouts were common.” He was given to overindulgence in intoxicants. The 1904 book Prominent and Progressive Americans would remark of George Crocker, “His father’s wealth made it unnecessary for him to engage in any struggle for a livelihood.” To motivate his derailed son, Charles Crocker’s will stipulated that George would not inherit his chunk of the legacy unless, “for the space of five years continuously he shall abstain from the use of spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors, to the extent that he shall not during this period have been intoxicated.” Charles gave him fifteen years to achieve that goal otherwise the loot would be distributed among certain grandchildren.
George continued his contrary way of life for the next three years. He then announced to the executors of his father’s estate that he was ready to start his abstinence. After a stay in a sanatorium, the dethroned heir took over an unsuccessful 375 acre ranch near Promontory, Utah (of Transcontinental Railroad fame). Sobriety took hold while taming the wasted rangeland, and he turned it into a success. The site where his father Charles celebrated his greatest accomplishment would be the site where the young heir would become reborn. When George applied for his inheritance alleging he had been sober for five years, his brothers did not care to take the responsibility of vouching for him. They let the Superior Court determine the matter on their own. The judge ruled in George’s favor and the Crocker brothers coughed up the cash. Years later former town drunk and family black sheep (next to cousin Aimée) made it on to the ultra exclusive Mrs. Astor’s 400 list.
Additional Features for the Discriminating Buyer
The doors of Darlington swung open to an interior that was truly sumptuous and grandiose. The 30-foot-high magnificent great hall apartment was interesting not only because of its exceedingly splendid architectural design, but for what it contained. Rare tapestries co-mingled with rich embroideries flung over the upper balustrades. Cabinets and pedestals were crowded and embellished with George’s rare and beautiful collection of Japanese and Chinese porcelains, superb pieces that, “many a museum might envy and be the richer for possessing,” according to one reviewer. There was a 1906 Aeolian player pipe organ–one of if not the only one of its kind in the United States. The library had a 15-foot-high ceiling painted by muralist James Wall Finn (who’s work also appears in the New York Public Library). The dining-room at the farthest end of the house was finished throughout in California redwood, a nod to his West Coast upbringing. The walls were designed in great panels, separated by pilasters, heavily enriched with carving. The furniture was English walnut with tapestry seats. The fireplace was flanked by Corinthian columns, its center encased in polished black marble. Above the mantel hung a large portrait of his father Charles.
Outside the main mansion were outbuildings: barns, stables, a dairy, gatehouse, garage, workshops and bathhouses, and a new bridge that crossed the Ramapo River. The property had sixty head of Jersey cattle, and many work and carriage horses, a kennel, sheep, and chickens. There were nine single houses and four duplexes for employees, and a two-story house for the head gardener Edmund Daches. The grounds featured a grove of Japanese maples. A forest of rhododendrons covered the hillsides.
Overall, it was estimated that the creation of the estate cost $2,000,000.
At 45,000 sq ft Darlington ranks as the 51st largest private residence in the entire United States. A restored, renovated and updated Darlington Estate went on the market in 2017 for 48.8 million making it the most expensive residence in the state of New Jersey. It is currently being offered by Christie’s International Real Estate. The renovation project again employed the most talented Italian wood carvers (whose works include the Italian Parliament as well as the Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf-Astoria in New York City) and the world’s top designers to bring the mansion into the 21st Century. New features include a formal tea room; a restaurant-style kitchen; a beauty salon; a theater; a poker room, game room and billiard room with bar; a luxury spa with a lap pool, steam room, sauna, massage and exercise rooms; a tennis court with cabana; two fountains, two pergolas and a gazebo; an outdoor pool with a cabana; an eight-car garage; and staff quarters with five suites and a lounge.