Mansion in May at the Abbey: Here is the Before…

Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
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Video: Abbey Tom Maoli previews Mansion in May 2017

 

By Kevin Coughlin

This Abbey is no Downton Abbey.

Come back in May, however, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Alnwick Hall, better known as the Abbey, opened its doors this week for a sneak preview of Mansion in May, the month-long fundraiser organized by the  Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center.

Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad

The 20,000-square-foot, 42-room Renaissance Revival palace in Morris Township has seen better days. Specifically, the heady days of the Gilded Age in the early 20th century.

The Abbey stood out from the mansions of Millionaires’ Row, a four-mile stretch from Morristown to Madison that counted Vanderbilts and Rockefellers among its residents. What made the place shine was its music.

Every year, AT&T counsel Edward Peter Meany and his wife Rosalie invited more than 200 people to their estate to hear great opera stars and dine on food catered by Delmonico’s of New York.

Renowned violinist Efrem Zimbalist met famed soprano Alma Gluck en route to a performance at the Abbey, according to local historian Barry Thomson. The couple married and their son, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., starred in the TV series The FBI and many films.

For long stretches in the 1930s and 1950s, the Abbey sat vacant.  The Gubelmann family is said to have invented the first automatic automobile transmission in its basement. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church called the Abbey home for nearly a quarter-century, until 1984.  Investors then converted it to office space–perhaps you had an M.R.I. there, or made a bank deposit.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Volunteer Jean O'Toole at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Abbey owner Tom Maoliat Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Stained glass windows at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Joan Umholtz of the Women's Association, and Elaine Andrecovich of Morristown Medical Center, at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
MiM organizers Megan Cassie Schubiger, Angela Pugliese, Jean O'Toole, Katie Nolle, Mary Courtemanche, Kathy Hobbs and Barbara Gallo at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Elaborate woodwork at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Stairway at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Heather Lovecchio and Joe Cucchiara of the Toy Tamer at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kim Lopez , who helped design website for Mansion in May, at preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Artists John Puglionisi and Nancee Brown at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kristin Ashley of Kristin Ashley Interiors, will create the 'Café Hyacinth' at Mansion in May. Preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ceiling decoration, Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Artist Kathryn Sandelli with design for Mansion in May, preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Carpeting is replaced for Mansion in May. Preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Designer Elizabeth Guest, left, and volunteer Jean O'Toole at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
An elegant fireplace at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nancy Coutts of Custom Steel Ltd. and Katja van der Loo of Papyrus Home Design at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nancy Coutts of Custom Steel Ltd. in Morristown at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Carol Barkin of the Morris Tourism Bureau at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ceiling detail at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Beneath the drop ceilings are ornate ones. Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
This room temporarily will become a mock studio apartment at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Everything must be returned to normal later. Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Fireplaces abound at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
CWI Design at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. From left: Rachel Kapner, Ann Campbell, Mary LaVecchia and Lois Darling. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jazz guitarist Larry Maltz of Livingston at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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‘GREAT BONES’

Tom Maoli, a real estate developer and owner of Celebrity Motor Car LLC in Whippany, bought the Abbey in 2008. Why?

“It’s a castle!” he said. “Everybody wants to own a castle.”

The terra cotta ornamentation and crenellated parapets are impressive.

But on Wednesday, many of the walls and floors were bare — awaiting magical transformations by more than 40 top designers.  The nondescript lawn and yard will get makeovers, too, by landscapers charged with creating gardens befitting an estate modeled on Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England.

This is the 18th mansion to be featured since Mansion in May began in 1974, and organizers anticipate 33,000 visitors will pay $40- to $50 apiece to see it.

“It’s got great bones,” said Katie Nolle, co-chair of the event, which will fund a new Center for Nursing Innovation and Research at Morristown Medical Center.

Slideshow photos by Berit Ollestead

Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Berit Ollestad
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Great imagination will be brought to bear on the Abbey in the run-up to May 1.  Elizabeth Guest, a designer from Hunterdon County, plans to convert a small space into a “gentleman’s sitting room,” tentatively titled Passage to India.

Abbey owner Tom Maoliat Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Abbey owner Tom Maoli at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“It’s is a show house, and this is supposed to be a show. It’s theater,” said Guest, who likes the challenge of working fast.

“I do well under pressure. If there are deadlines, I’m much more on my game,” she said. Guest aspired to an art career. Interior design “is my way to be a painter in 3-D.”

Michael Curren of Curren Design in Mendham and Richard R. Barr of Plumberry Designs in Florham Park said they will turn a 600-square-foot room into the Left Bank Loft, a modern pied-a-terre, complete with a rotating flat-screen TV.

Morristown artist John Puglionisi and fellow artists Valerie Verona and Nancee Brown aim to create a working art studio.  Meanwhile, a closet-sized space will morph into clever storage for playthings, courtesy of The Toy Tamer of Madison.

Another slender space will become Rosalie’s Music Room. Nancy Coutts of Custom Steel Ltd. in Morristown said she is pretending the original lady of the house was a violinist. 

“We’re going to turn this room into a little jewel box,” added Coutts’ partner in the project, Katja van der Loo of Papyrus Home Design in Boonton. “This gives you a burst of energy, revitalizes you. It’s why we went into this field in the first place.”

And here’s the really amazing part: All of these incredible creations will come down even faster than they went up. The 1,300 volunteers of the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center must leave the Abbey as they found it.

Unless, that is, you want to buy the Abbey.  Then you can ask to keep the improvements.

Sale price: $6.2 million.

Tickets for Mansion in May are $40/ person in advance, and $50 at the door through the month of May. Hours will be 10 am to 3 pm each day. Private / guided tours are $100 / ticket and include a $20 lunch voucher for the Canfield Café.  The Abbey is at 355 Madison Ave.; a free shuttle will run to free parking at 170 Park Ave. in Florham Park.

MORE ABOUT MANSION IN MAY 2017

MANSION IN MAY 2014

MANSION IN MAY 2012

MiM organizers Megan Cassie Schubiger, Angela Pugliese, Jean O'Toole, Katie Nolle, Mary Courtemanche, Kathy Hobbs and Barbara Gallo at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
MiM organizers Megan Cassie Schubiger, Angela Pugliese, Jean O’Toole, Katie Nolle, Mary Courtemanche, Kathy Hobbs and Barbara Gallo at Mansion in May preview, Feb. 1, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

 

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