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Durand-Hedden News

Lewis Pierson, owner of Pierson’s Mill, built the House known as Vaux Hall in 1843. Vaux Hall and the Durand-Hedden House are the only early Maplewood houses still having a large share of land about them.

Lewis’ father Samuel Pierson came from Connecticut to Newark, and in 1776 moved to Maplewood, to a section described as “wooded, wild country.” Samuel purchased 250 acres between what is now Springfield Avenue and what became Jefferson Village (west of the railroad tracks) and built a store and house on Valley Street, a country road that was a direct road from Orange to Springfield. Lewis, born in 1801, expanded the family business, building a gristmill in 1831 after damming up the East Branch of the Rahway River to generate waterpower. Area farmers brought their wheat, corn, oats, barley and buckwheat to Pierson’s Mill and took home flour for baking and feed for their poultry and livestock.

According to a diary kept by Lewis Pierson’s wife, Abby Susannah Beach Pierson, on May 3, 1843, the family moved into the barn for the spring and summer so that Samuel’s original house could be torn down to make way for the present structure. The elegant and imposing building is one of only a few Greek Temple-fronted Greek Revival houses still standing in New Jersey. It was a style that celebrated the ancient Greek ideals of democracy, beauty and simplicity.

Within a month the frame of the new house was raised, and construction proceeded with breathtaking speed. On September 16, Mrs. Pierson wrote, “We have taken tea in our new house this eve for the first time.” A nearby spring supplied the house with running water, and fed a fountain on the lawn.

Classical features are present throughout. Dramatic fluted Doric columns support a thick entablature and pedimented front-gabled roof. A high style, full-width colonnaded porch beneath the gable gives the house the appearance of a Greek temple. Fluted pilasters adorn the corners of the house. A fanned design in the pediment served as both a Greek Revival style embellishment and a functional role as a louvered vent to the attic. The classic pediment of the portico is repeated harmoniously throughout the house. The front door is capped by a pedimented lintel and flanked by fluted vertical piers. Inside the house, windows, doors and the archway between the parlors are framed by pediments and stepped vertical posts.

In the larger of the front parlors, an Empire sofa original to the house has pride of place before the inviting hearth, adorned with mid-19th century lamps called lusters, hung with prisms. The stone chimney behind the Italian marble mantelpiece is nearly five feet deep and forms a foundation for the entire structure. The kitchen fireplace opened off the other side of it, a later example of the two-fireplace chimney seen in the Timothy Ball and Durand-Hedden Houses. The original kitchen was made into a dining room many years ago, and the fireplace area has become an arched and enclosed china cupboard. A cherry corner cupboard in the room has been in place since the house was built.

Unusual folding doors are found in several rooms in the house, including the “carriage door” through which visitors arriving by carriage or horse would enter.

The staircase adjacent to the dining room is completely walled on both sides with original woodwork. Just beyond is a cozy room now used as a library. It reportedly served as a holding cell for the town jail at one point in its history.

Upstairs, the hall and bedrooms remain much as they were save for the addition of a tasteful master bath adjacent to the spacious master bedroom.

The authors of Maplewood Past and Present found the Lewis Pierson House to “give a clear impression of the judgment and good taste of the planners, as well as of the unhurried and skilled workmanship that went into its building.”

Information about the house was derived in large part from Maplewood Past and Present, 1948.

1 Ridgewood Terrace, Maplewood

John Beam House was built in about 1913 by Edward Balch, one of the most important developers in turn-of-the-century Maplewood. John Beam, a realtor, was probably the first resident of the house, according to town directories going back as far as 1916. However, the records list Mr. Balch as the owner, so Mr. Beam must have rented or leased the house.

Edward Balch built many of the houses on Ridgewood Terrace and several adjacent streets at a time when other residential development above Ridgewood Road – including Roosevelt Park and Washington Park – also were being created. A 1908 directory lists Mr. Balch himself living in an impressive house still known today as “Mr. Balch’s House” at what is now 624 Ridgewood Road, at the corner of Mountain Avenue. In 1908, his son Henry, a New York tailor, was living at the corner of Ridgewood Terrace and Ridgewood Road, with no number listed. It may have been a house at the present location of #1, or on the opposite corner. In the 1916 directory, Henry is listed as living with his father.

Mr. Beam was still living in the house in 1920, the year before Mr. Balch sold it. In 1929, the house was on the market again for $50,000. The 1924 directory places Mr. Beam at 608 Ridgewood Road, which, interestingly, the Beam family and others remember as being built by Mr. Balch – and so the threads continue to intertwine.

The gracious house sits on a rise and is fronted by a terrace linking the house with the landscape. It has many Craftsman elements, including broad, bracketed eaves, arched lintels over first floor windows and the front entryway, and multipaned windows, 12 over one on the first floor and 15 over one on the second. In true Craftsman style, the main first floor rooms, living room, dining room and library, have oak woodwork and coffered ceilings. Fireplaces warm the library and living room, and these rooms lead outward – to the porte cochere on the library side and to a tile-floored solarium off the living room.

Attention to detail extended to the second floor as well. The window and door surrounds in all three bedrooms and the sewing room have eared lintels and stepped, engaged columns flanking them. The second floor bathrooms are virtuoso examples of 1930s tile work. A terra-cotta tile roof, added in a 1920s renovation, complements the warmth of the red brick.

Typical of the evolutionary state of many Maplewood houses, Casey and Bill Bradford in 1999 completed extensive renovations of the kitchen, pantry, den and laundry area, choosing light maple cabinets and Mexican floor tiles to contrast with the darker woodwork elsewhere in the house.

Information on this house was derived from research by Marilyn White and Lorraine Abruzzo in the Essex County Hall of Records, as well as by Susan Newberry in the reference division of the Maplewood Memorial Library, and the Maplewood Clerk’s Office and Building Department.

304 Elmwood Avenue, Maplewood

Fleming Manor, now Les Saisons Bed & Breakfast, was built around 1840. In the 1870s, it was renovated in the fashionable Second Empire style with the addition of an elegant mansard roof, dormers and Italianate elements. Second Empire style was popular during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77) and draws its name from the reign in France of Napoleon III (1852-70). It was considered to be very modern, unlike the concurrent “picturesque” movement, which sought out the romantic past for inspiration in Italianate and Gothic Revival styles.

Fleming Manor sits on an acre of land behind stone columns and an iron gate, surrounded by lush gardens and secluded from the bustle of nearby streets.

According to Fleming family journals and other papers discovered by the Christensen family when they bought the house in 1946, Fleming Manor had been a guesthouse since about 1885. The Christensen family continued the tradition, and son Art and his wife Libby operate Les Saisons Bed & Breakfast today.

Soaring 12-foot ceilings, four marble mantelpieces, and ornate moldings, woodwork and ceiling medallions are features of this house, furnished in high Victorian style. In addition to family papers, the Flemings left museum quality antiques and fine oil paintings, and the living room is graced by a nine-foot 1872 Chickering concert grand piano. Each of the four guest bedrooms is decorated in beautiful fabrics and colors reflecting one of the seasons.

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