Designers ready Tyvan Hill for Splendor in September, to benefit Morristown Medical Center

Splendor in September 2020 preview. Photo by Katrine Mojzes, Top Kat Photography


By Marion Filler

It takes more than a pandemic, a power outage, and a slew of toppled trees to stop the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center from holding its 19th designer showhouse.

Mansion in May has become Splendor in September, moving from May to Sept. 8 – Oct. 4.  But nothing has changed the association’s dedication or enthusiasm.

Tyvan Hill, a 1920s country estate in New Vernon, remains the star of the show. A team of approximately 50 designers and landscapers have continued working to transform the interior into a warren of modern possibilities, while restoring the estate’s grounds and pool house to their former glory–as a lavish fundraiser for Morristown Medical Center.

Tyvan Hill. Photo by Dannette Merchant

As always, there will be boutiques.

But snacks and drinks will replace sit-down lunches of the past. And COVID-19 protocols will affect how and when you take a tour.

Entry will be timed, and all tickets will be issued for a specific date and time. They only can be purchased on the event’s website.

Crowd size will be reduced for social distancing. Consequently, fewer tickets will be for sale, so it makes sense to reserve a tour as early as possible before the show sells out. Spokesperson Barbara Gallo doubts attendance will approach the 30,000 mark from previous years.

Splendor in September 2020 preview. Photo by Katrine Mojzes, Top Kat Photography

Neither, unfortunately, is it likely that fundraising will reach the association’s $1.5 million dollar target, intended for expansion of the hospital’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Center.

Masks must be worn to enter the house. Recalcitrant guests (knuckleheads, in Gov. Murphy’s parlance) who don’t comply cannot enter. They won’t even get as far as the door, because shuttle buses will also require masks.

Once inside, the route through the house has been planned carefully to keep volunteers and visitors safe.

According to Gallo, a team from the hospital came to Tyvan Hill to map a pathway and advise on sanitation. These folks know their stuff: During the pandemic surge, they separated COVID patients from others to prevent the coronavirus from spreading inside medical center.

Portrait of John Wesley Castles Jr., painted by Lois Williams, at Mansion in May Tyvan Hill preview, Feb. 6, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

John Wesley Castles and his wife, Dorothea Bradford Smith, built Tyvan Hill almost 90 years ago on 115 acres of land. Now it’s reduced to 22 acres, yet the view of the countryside remains impressive.

The original doorway and natural stone façade are remarkably intact, and so is the steel in-ground pool that is a true relic of the era.

Although the designers did not need to adjust their décor to accommodate a change in season, the landscapers were not so lucky. Do not expect a sea of tulips this time around.

Despite setbacks, the show goes on. But what if the virus spikes and protocols are revised? Could there be Orange in October?  Nettles in November? Decadence in December?

“Of course, we will follow whatever guidelines have been established,” said Gallo, “and we will be prepared to make changes along the way should they come.”

Although it is on the market, Tyvan Hill has not yet been sold. “Our homeowner has extended our lease through October,” Gallo said, “so if we had to extend again we would make a determination at that time.”

In the meantime, everything is on schedule for opening day on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. The house is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last visitors admitted at 3 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person.


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