Tour of Morristown Historic District gives glimpses of dream homes

One place has 192 windows. Another boasts a wrap-around tableau of the Battle of Hastings. Across the street are framed thank you notes from Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain, former house guests. A few doors down, admirers can behold a chandelier once owned by Cyndi Lauper. (She never visited, but almost certainly would be welcome.)

These were among the discoveries that awaited intrepid visitors to Sunday’s Historic District House Tour in Morristown.

Dubbed Meet Me on the Corner of Macculloch and Millerthis $ 50-a-ticket fundraiser for the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum drew nearly 600 people, a turnout that eclipsed the previous tour in 2018, said museum Executive Director Tricia Pongracz.

Tricia Pongracz, executive director at Macculloch Hall, directs visitors to Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Pongracz credited lovely weather — sunny in the 60s — and a public desire to shed the shackles of COVID-19.

“To have people back out, spending the day with us, was so heartening. We’re all missing the people. Everybody was so happy to be out today, ”she said.

“We’re COVID-starved for house tours,” acknowledged Berkeley Heights resident Eve Stewart.

Tour people: Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click / hover on images for captions:

Her posse included birthday girl Kristin Hasskett of Tewksbury, Michele Rawson of Califon, Tracey Leventhal of Bernardsville, Jeanne Benner of Branchburg, and Regina Truitt of Short Hills.

From left, Michele Rawson, Tracey Leventhal, Regina Truitt, Eve Stewart, Kristin Hasskett and Jeanne Benner, at the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The self-guided tour included the museum, the 33-room Greek Revival-style Kellogg Club, and five private estates.

“They don’t make them like this any more,” Stewart said.

“I’m glad I’m not their housekeeper,” joked Truitt.

The nurse was beaming after making a personal discovery inside the Thomas Nast House: A painting of the ship that carried her grandfather from Poland to America.

‘NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART’

Ken and Nancy Miller own the Nast House, once called Villa Fontana, now a National Historic Landmark.

They have invited the public inside a few times over the years.

“It’s for a good cause. Macculloch Hall is an important part of Morris County. It’s a fabulous asset and we want to support it, ”said Ken Miller, who chairs the Morristown Historic Preservation Commission.

Ken Miller and friends take a break at the Thomas Nast House, featured on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Millers bought Villa Fontana — where Thomas Nast drew many of his famous Santa Claus illustrations for magazines in the late 19th century — 29 years ago.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Ken Miller said of historic home ownership. The retired investment banker and his wife, a retired nurse, moved into a place they described as run down.

Historic tour places. Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Ciick / hover on images for captions.

But their prior house was old, too. And Ken said he was already handy from working on his father’s wooden boat.

Gregg Kurlander updates his footwear with 21st century surgical booties, Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Although the Nast house has undergone expansions and renovations, its namesake still might feel at home. It’s furnished with many period pieces. And framed letters from a couple of Nast’s guests — Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain — are displayed prominently.

“I want to move in!” said tour patron Annalisa Dalton of Basking Ridge.

Her friend, Suzanne Tufariello, almost did— 30 years ago. Tufariello and her husband considered buying Villa Fontana. But “it was in such disrepair. It needed a lot of work. ”

“This gives me lots of ideas for things to do in my apartment,” said New York flutist Schuyler Thornton.

Her friend, Christina Sekarcame away with one idea for her Morristown residence:

“Everyone must wear booties!” Sekar declared.

Tour patrons were asked to slip plastic hospital booties over their shoes before entering the show houses.

SHAKE YOUR BOOTIES

In The Kedgethose booties glided over a parquet floor with an historical link to the pandemic.

It was painted during another quarantine, by children who lived in the Macculloch Avenue house in the 1940s.

The Metropolitan Vintage Dance and Social Club at The Kedge, Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. From left: Pat Weir, Kathy Weir, Beidget Conlogue, Gregg Kurlander, Karen Ann Kurlander and Jenn Ochman. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The library boasts another interesting paint job — a tableau above the paneling depicts the Norman invasion of England in 1066. One scene fast-forwards to the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

Although The Kedge does not stretch back to the Battle of Hastings, it does pre-date World War II by several generations.

Erected as a four-room summer home around 1870, it’s been enlarged over the years to accommodate descendants of the Millers and Maccullochs, families steeped in Morristown lore.

Owner Linda Carrington is a member of this extended clan.

‘CONTEMPORARY ELEGANCE’

Many visitors ranked Colleen Bondy’s Miller Road home among their favorites.

Docent France Delle Donne described the revamped interior of this 1870 Victorian as “contemporary elegance.”

When Bondy moved from Basking Ridge three years ago, her aim was to downsize.

Colleen Bondy, owner of a Miller Road home featured on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

But the spacious old house — she had to think hard when asked how many bedrooms — offered more charm, a better location, and greater seclusion than modern town homes costing nearly as much, she said.

“I love how private it is,” Bondy said.

Also not for the faint of heart or purse, however. Many windows no longer functioned; she replaced them all, and updated the electrical system, too.

‘LIKE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT – ONLY COMFORTABLE’

Everything at the corner of Miller Road and Colles Avenue is brand new, including the windows — all 192 of them.

Wayne and Marlene Colizza moved into their dream home in February 2022.

The Prairie / Arts & Crafts exterior has raised some eyebrows among owners of the Victorian- and Colonial Revival homes that characterize the Historic District.

This distinctive style made it Sunday’s must-see stop on everyone’s list.

Pam Huelster and Ken Short of the Harmonium Choral Society, outside 55 Miller Road on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Its sun-drenched modern interior and dazzling views of the historic Macculloch Hall garden won fans on Sunday.

“It reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright — only comfortable!” said Chatham resident Joan Hippretired director of the Florham Park library.

She appreciated the “overall sense of serenity and calm.”

“It’s very different. They’ve done a beautiful job, ”said Morristown resident Pam Huelster of the Harmonium Choral Societytaking the tour with choir mate Ken Short of Tewksbury.

Wayne Colizza, an orthopedic surgeon, had coveted this neighborhood for years, waiting for the right opportunity to buy or build.

Wayne and Marlene Colizza, owners of the new home at Miller and Colles, enjoy their spectacular deck view. Their modern house was featured on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

He said, the architecture was dictated in part by topography: His lot drops 15 feet from Miller Road to the backyard along Colles.

A two-story height was chosen, so the structure would not tower over Colles. The exterior attempted to incorporate elements from neighboring homes: “Natural hand-carved stone, transom windows, fascia board trim, cedar soffits, inviting porches, and extensive landscaping,” according to the tour brochure.

For 25 years, the Colizzas lived in Morris Plains, where they raised their kids,

“It’s a lifestyle change,” said Marlene Colizza, who enjoys walking to Morristown restaurants. “We finally said, ‘Let’s do it.'”

DEVILISH DOORKNOBS

A short walk away sits another intriguing venue, The Grove.

Set back from Macculloch Avenue by a deer-front lawn, this circa-1865 Victorian has piqued the curiosity of many passing travelers.

What’s in this three-story building?

The Grove, featured on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Eighteen rooms, including seven bedrooms; eight fireplaces; six-and-a-half baths; a finished basement and an elevator, and Cyndi Lauper’s Pastel Iris Murano glass chandelier.

Plus a Great Dane, two cats, three boys, collectibles of all shapes and sizes, and art ranging from Rembrandt, Renoir and Chagall to Peter Max, Paul Stanley of KISS and Rick Allen, the one-armed drummer of Def Leppard.

Each piece is connected by one slender thematic thread, said Alexandra Leigh Elliottwho has lived at The Grove with her husband Paul for 11 years.

“Do I have a place that will fit?”

She does.

“In a Victorian, you can make things mix and match all you want!” she explained.

After renovations, of course.

Docent Alice Cutler, right, and visitor admire chandelier once owned by Cyndi Lauper, at The Grove, featured on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“It’s been a headache to get to this point. Finally, we’re enjoying everything, ”said Paul, an accountant and native of England.

Moving into The Grove was like living out scenes from The Money PitAlexandra recounted.

Collapsing staircases. Crumbling plaster. Mice. Bats. Perpetual fear of being locked into rooms by faulty doorknobs.

So why bother?

“They don’t build them like this anymore,” she said. “People walk in and go ‘Wow!’”

Outside is pretty impressive as well. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame. A croquet court has been replaced by six garden beds.

The Elliotts were happy to open The Grove for (one-) day trippers.

“If I can help do something for the neighborhood, I do,” said Alexandra, who counts the Interfaith Food Pantry and Mansion in May among her charitable causes. She also is a co-founder of A Seat at the Tablea conservative organization that hosted a conference last month in Somerset.

Docent Jennifer Hauser at the Kellogg Club, featured on the Morristown Historic District tour, May 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Grove rated “Wows” from docents Kim Kramer and Kim McDonald.

“It was a nice contrast – a historical home with modern art,” Kramer said.

“Loved it, loved it, loved it. I thought it was the best one, ”added McDonald. “It was livable.”

But 10-year-old Kayla Zienowicz preferred the Colizzas’ new digs at Miller and Colles.

“They gave us chocolate!” she said.

Kathy Duane, a resident of the Morristown Historic District, takes granddaughters Emma and Kayla Zienowicz, ages 8 and 10, to check out 55 Miller Road on district house tour, May 1, 2022. The girls’ favorite stop? ‘This one,’ said Kayla. ‘They gave us chocolate!’ Behind them is a painting by Vel Colizza, mother of owner Wayne Colizza. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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