Fairlawn, the Pullman Summer Residence on Ocean Ave, Elberon, N.J.
Built in 1874 at Elberon, New Jersey, Fairlawn would be the Pullman’s second summer retreat aside from their Pullman Island cottage in the Thousand Islands and eventual home to their Castle Rest completed in 1888. The Pullman family would be introduced to the upscale, coastal community adjacent Long Branch in 1871 as guest of President and First Lady Grant. The favor would be returned the following year when the Pullmans would invite President Grant to their Island on the St. Lawrence River.
Fairlawn’s original appearance embodied the Second Empire style of gothic homes that were popular in the era. Photo: Pinterest.
In the early fall of 1873, the Pullmans would have architect Henry S. Jaffrey put together plans for what would become their Fairlawn estate on Ocean Ave. Jaffrey, already at work on their main mansion located on S. Prairie Ave in Chicago, would have the plans finished and the house would be completed the following year, much earlier (and understandably so) than their primary residence in Chicago.
While George Pullman had acquired the land in the Thousand Islands in the 1860s and built Castle Rest for his mother, Emily, Fairlawn would become the family’s primary residence during the summer months, making the trek from Chicago in, what else, Pullman Cars, and many of them, at that. As the article printed in The Successful American stated in 1900–
Mrs. Pullman‘s famous private car “Monitor” is a vehicle worthy of especial mention. Equipped with all the conveniences of home, such as a drawing room, library, dining-room, music-room and kitchen there may be also enumerated a complete corps of servants, who administer the wants of the family just as they do in their Chicago, New Jersey and Thousand Island homes.
George would pass away unexpectedly after a short illness, which wasn’t believed to be serious, on October 19, 1897 from a reported heart-attack while at his home. Prior to his death, plans were already being discussed for remodeling the Fairlawn estate in New Jersey. Solon Spencer Beman, the architect behind George Pullman’s factory town Pullman, Illinois, as well as the additions to the Pullman mansion on S. Prairie Ave., would head the colonial revival styled renovation.
Castle Rest would be a place the Pullmans visited at least once a year during August as Emily had, prior to the castle, her own estate on Cherry Island for many years. Nevertheless, as the S. Prairie Avenue district went through its decline with manufacturing and warehouses edging ever closer, Fairlawn would be the favored retreat for Mrs. George Pullman in the two-plus decades after her husband’s death. There, she would continue to be the leading presence in high society matters and hold large social events as she customarily was known for.
The New York Journal would publish on October 30, 1897, shortly after Pullman’s death, plans for Fairlawn–
George M. Pullman, the dead Pullman parlor car magnate, who owned Fairlawn cottage at Elberon, was making preparations to have his cottage remodeled at a cost of $20,000. He expected to have the grounds around it handsomely laid out at an extra cost of several thousand dollars.
It’s unclear if the plans for the remodeling of Fairlawn changed from the date of the article to its completion as the work resulted in quite significant changes. So very little information has been found searching through archives on any more pertinent information regarding the Fairlawn cottage and, more importantly, what happened to it after Mrs. George Pullman’s death in 1921 other than a quick blurb in one of the newspapers that the property was being rented to Mr. Bernard Gimble in 1922. Like many of the summer homes built in the era, Fairlawn would be demolished at some point.
In 1910, Mrs. Pullman would build another mansion in Washington, D.C. for her eldest daughter Florence and son-in-law Frank O. Lowden who was serving as a U.S. Representative for Illinois from 1906 to 1911 and had his eyes later on the Presidency. Built just a few blocks from the White House and designed by the architect responsible for the West Wing and Oval Office, the Pullman mansion in D.C. would barely see any use as Lowden declined to run for another term and later serve as Governor of Illinois before two unsuccessful bids to be elected President. The mansion would be sold twice in a matter of months, becoming the Russian Embassy for many years.
As for Fairlawn and Mrs. Pullman, the Successful American would close its article with the following–
Besides this magnificent palace (the S. Prairie Ave mansion) Mrs. Pullman owns a beautiful country residence, “Fairlawn Cottage,” at Elberon, New Jersey. In this delightful spot amid surroundings that are unrivaled, in every detail of which are to be found evidences of the rarest skill, taste and lavish expenditure to produce an ideal summer home, Mrs. Pullman presides. Her entertainments are the social features of this fashionable resort, and few, if any, in the land are managed with greater tact or more infinite grace than this admirable hostess displays.
No special introduction is here required to this estimable lady whose rare personality finds its best expression in her charming hospitality and well-known liberality to all philanthropic enterprises. She is connected with several charitable institutions in her own city, many of which are supported almost wholly by her, one of the praiseworthy characteristics of this eminent woman being her unselfishness and ever-readiness to devote her time as well as her means to the happiness of others.
2 Reviews on “Fairlawn – Pullman Summer Residence (1874 – ?)”
Thank you for that info; I would appreciate any updates. My Grandfather Lawrence Kerwin of Kerwin&Kerwin Corp bought the Pullman summer home in est. late 1920’s, early 1930’s. They subdivided the land and sold it. It’s been frustrating to confirm that.
Again, many thanks. Jim
Here’s some info I got when posting to the Mansions of the Gilded Age Facebook group, from a user named Albert Lee Elmer:
“The smaller structure depicted with the main dwelling existed until a few years ago when it was replaced with a larger structure. Pullman ave was the original access road through the estate. The demolition of Fairlawn occurred sometime after 1927 when Harriet Pullman Carolan (builder of the Carolands in Hillsborough CA.) And her sister demolished the Prairie ave house in order to reduce their tax burden. The current house on the property was built in 1939 and a wing from the original house was incorporated into this structure.”
I’ll update the article in the near future; would like to find some confirmation in newspapers on this and a specific date, if possible, but know it’s an arduous task considering there were numerous “Fairlawns” throughout the country at the time.
What happened to the Pullman summer home, Fairlawn?
I was told that after Harriet passed away in 1921, her daughters inherited it and in the 30s had it torn down for tax purposes. Florence passed in 1937 so it would have been sometime prior to that. I need to find more information so I can update – thanks for reminding me!