Country Roads Magazine
Historic HARTLEY FARMS
by LARRY BATAILLE
To contemporary passers-by the house sits unobtrusively at the peak of a gently rolling hill, serenely sequestered behind towering evergreens and fronted by an imposing nine foot high, two foot thick wall of stone that runs for a quarter of a mile along Spring Valley Road in picturesque Harding Township, NJ.
Its visitors have counted among them United States Presidents, wealthy financiers and generals, and a general who became president. In fact, two hundred years ago, around the time of its construction, General Washington very likely passed by on the way to his headquarters at the nearby Ford Mansion in Morristown.
Throughout its first one hundred years the property now known as Hartley Farms remained as unassuming as those that surrounded it.
But life in this rural part of New Jersey was beginning to change. Around the turn of the century many of the nation’s wealthiest families were converging upon Morristown, Madison and surrounding areas to create “Morris County’s Great White Way”. As early as 1879 a few of the old New York families had made Morristown their headquarters during the summer months, and over time the city began to be compared with Newport as a mecca for the very wealthy.
The years 1890 to 1929 came to be known as The Gilded Age. Names like Rockefeller, Twombly, Vanderbilt, Ballentine, Colgate, Jenkins, Mellon, Frelinghuysen, Harkness, Kountze and Kahn were among those who sought the seclusion and relative obscurity of Morristown, many building the grandiose estates that lined the four mile stretch of Madison Avenue that connected Morristown to Madison. By 1896 more than 50 millionaires with a total wealth of $289,000,000 lived in the area encompassing Morris Township, Madison and Harding.
Despite the influx of wealth and the accompanying glitz and glitter of the new era, the farm on Spring Valley Road maintained its obscurity couple of miles, yet seemingly a world away from the maddening onslaught of change. In 1904 it was purchased by Helen Hartley Jenkins and her nephew, Marcellus Hartley Dodge, who converted it into a summer camp for disadvantaged children.
“Hartley House Farm” was affiliated with the Hartley House Settlement House, which still to this day operates on West 46th Street in Manhattan and is one of the nation’s oldest. It was founded in 1897 by Marcellus Hartley, father of Mrs. Jenkins and grandfather of “Marcy” Dodge, and was named in honor of Marcellus Hartley’s father, Robert M. Hartley, the famous philanthropist and founder of what is today Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.
This is the same Hartley family that is descended from David Hartley, philosopher and Member of Parliament who signed the Treaty of Paris in 1763 for Great Britain. His signature joined that of John Jay and Benjamin Franklin, ending the Seven Years War.
Marcellus Hartley Dodge, worth an estimated $60,000,000, married Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller, niece of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, in 1907. Mrs. Dodge brought into her marriage an estimated $101,000,000. The two became the wealthiest couple in the nation.
Mr. Dodge, known to family and friends as “Marcy,” was the son of Norman Dodge, a member of a prominent family with a link to the Phelps-Dodge fortune. More importantly, he was heir to the Hartley fortune. The two became for a time the wealthiest couple in the nation.
They lived together briefly at Hartley Farms, in a house called Two Shoes, which stood behind the existing stone wall along Spring Valley Road until it was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. They soon had a son, Marcellus Hartley Dodge, Jr., who they called “Hartley”, and began spending millions of dollars acquiring land around and about the farm. But Mrs. Dodge did not share her husband’s love of Hartley House Farm, preferring not to live in a town that was home to a “fresh air camp.” She soon established her own estate in nearby Madison, which she called Giralda Farms, while her husband continued to reside at the newly renamed Hartley Farms. As unusual an arrangement as this was, Mr. and Mrs. Dodge had different circles of friends, and he and she entertained separately. It was an arrangement that would last for the rest of their lives.
The history of Hartley Farms is in reality the story of the Hartleys themselves, one of the five wealthiest families in America around the turn of the century. Marcellus Hartley was a founder of the firm of Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, suppliers of military and sporting goods. Summoned by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton during the early days of the Civil War, he had been commissioned a Brigadier General by President Lincoln, in charge of arms ammunition procurement. Hartley set sail for Europe, and succeeded in contracting with weapons manufacturers in England, France and Germany. Outbidding his Southern adversaries, he made millions of dollars worth of purchases on behalf of the Union, surreptitiously thwarting the Southern drive.
Hartley took advantage of many personal contacts made during the war when he later founded the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, which produced the prototype of the modern shell cartridge, incorporated by E. Remington and Sons into its line of breechloader rifles. In 1888, as president and sole owner of Union Metallic Cartridge, Hartley acquired E. Remington and Sons, which became The Remington Arms Company.
Hartley saved the Equitable Life Assurance Society from bankruptcy in 1900, when the company was robbed of millions of dollars by one of its executives, who escaped to France. He used his own funds to cover the losses, and was given a silver tea set signed by the entire board of directors as a tribute.
When the millionaire financier and philanthropist died suddenly in January 1902, a New York Times obituary noted that his pallbearers included, among other notables, J. Pierpont Morgan and Andrew Carnegie.
Marcellus Hartley Dodge
Marcellus Hartley Dodge inherited several of the responsible financial positions held by his grandfather.” He had just been graduated from Columbia University, voted the “luckiest” member of the class. At the age of 22, the young Mr. Dodge assumed the presidency of The Remington Arms Company.
The year of his graduation from Columbia University, he and his aunt, Helen Hartley Jenkins, donated $300,000 to the university to build Hartley Hall, an undergraduate dormitory. As a trustee of Columbia University, he continued throughout his life to make substantial contributions to the university. He would later finance a new student center, and the largest and most costly building on campus - the Marcellus Hartley Dodge Physical Education Center - was donated posthumously.
As president of Remington Arms, Marcellus Hartley Dodge took control as an active participant in the growth of the company, achieving and in some ways exceeding the degree of success attained by his grandfather.
Just as his grandfather had saved Equitable Life Assurance Society, Dodge was responsible for saving the New York Times. Times publisher Adolph S. Ochs had borrowed $100,000 from Marcellus Hartley in 1896 to reorganize the paper, and needed to borrow additional funds in 1905. Ochs put up 51 percent of the Times stock as collateral, borrowing an additional $300,000 from Dodge, who quietly kept the notes in his personal safety deposit box for the next eleven years until the loan was repaid.
Dodge was also a director of both the Equitable Life Assurance Society and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. His inheritance from his grandfather made him vice-president of Union Metallic Cartridge Company, and president of the Bridgeport Gun Implement Company and the M. Hartley Company.
The combined income generated by these various positions allowed him to buy out all other shareholders of Remington Arms, and he soon became sole owner and one of the nation’s most powerful industrialists.
Hartley Farms 1900
Marcy Dodge preferred Hartley Farms and its more rustic character over his wife’s Giralda. He called the house itself his “cottage,” while the public referred to it as the Dodge Mansion. He moved the house from its original site close to Spring Valley Road to its present location around 1910, and added two bays to the side, creating a 5-bay center-hall Federal Revival-style house. This was where he spent his time when “Gerrie” was away, on the two nights a week she spent in her New York house at 5th Avenue and 68th Street.
He changed windows, mantels and floors, and added porches, an elevator, and a small indoor swimming pool. But the character of the home, and that of the other modest structures found throughout the estate, remained comfortable and decidedly informal.
While others of lesser means were building palatial mansions with finely manicured lawns and gardens to use as summer country estates, Marcellus Hartley Dodge made Hartley Farms his year-round residence. The estate included a late 19th century frame house, some barns, sheds and various other small structures. He added a stone building, called “The Bungalow,” where his son Hartley could entertain friends.
Dodge’s horses were imported, and many of his thoroughbred hunters were so fine that in the 1920’s some would be shipped to England to be hunted with The Queen. He built a U-shaped stable that housed one of his favorites, Red Embers, used by Edward, Prince of Wales, during the Queen’s Hunt. His polo ponies were housed in a separate stable located behind the large stone wall.
The estate was distinguished by its open vistas of fields connected by narrow country roads. Carriage roads ran past pear and apple orchards, and pheasants were raised beyond the field. In fact, wildlife found refuge throughout the estate, which at its peak encompassed more than a thousand acres. There were none of the greenhouses or sculpture gardens that would lead anyone to suspect that one of the world’s wealthiest business tycoons lived there.
The lack of pretense that was the estate’s hallmark matched the character of Dodge himself, who cared more for the inherent beauty of the land than for the flagrant display of wealth that transformed many a natural setting into a gaudy monument to self-aggrandizement. A yachtsman and an equestrian, he was more at home on the bridle path than at the many formal affairs a man of his stature was expected to attend.
At Hartley Farms, he made a polo field for his son, and created trails and bridle paths that ran through his treasured 22-acre Remington Forest into the surrounding countryside, also owned by Mr. Dodge. Founder of the “Spring Valley Hounds,” Dodge’s Polo Fields soon became the site of the Annual Hartley Farms Meet.
But as much as he loved the outdoors, Marcellus Hartley Dodge enjoyed entertaining indoors as well. Hartley House had a distinctive Early American charm, its walls lined with oil paintings of historic American figures, and floors covered with museum quality hooked rugs. Dodge was considered the quintessential American aristocrat, dapper and immaculately dressed.
As much as he enjoyed managing his estate, he could occasionally be incredibly indecisive, once taking two and a half years to decide the exact location of a small cottage, which he moved seven times.
Behind the desk it was a different matter. In 1915, with his father-in-law and others, he obtained a government contract to manufacture the LeeEnfield rifle. He quickly organized the Midvale Steel and Ordinance Company, giving the prime movers large blocks of stock in the company. Within a few days the stock was selling on the Curb Exchange at $80 a share. Dodge sold out his holdings, which had cost him almost nothing, for an estimated total of $24 million.
But for all of his millions, he was regarded as a quiet and unassuming man, “as if he was a $20 a week clerk.” He worked out of his grandfather’s office, using the same desk. He once stated, “If I can, I will make my name the synonym of the highest honor and business integrity.” In so doing, he was to become a significant behind-the scenes force in 20th century America.
World War I
In the days preceding the Russian Revolution, Remington Arms had been supplying thousands of rifles to Czar Nicholas, and had for some time produced arms for European buyers. But it was World War I that dramatically enhanced Remington’s, and Dodge’s, position in the international arena.
On May 7, 1915, two years before America’s entrance into the war, a German submarine torpedoed the American ocean liner Lusitania, killing 128 civilian passengers, effectively ending America’s isolationist policy. The Germans claimed the liner was carrying arms, a charge refuted by the American government. But it is now known that the U.S. was, in fact, transporting arms - massive amounts of ammunition produced by Remington Arms.
It was not uncommon for top secret talks to be held at Hartley Farms. In fact, to ensure complete security, participants in these meetings met in a carriage at the center of the polo fields. Since America’s preparedness to enter the war was dependent in large measure upon Remington Arms, the company hired more than 13,000 new employees at its Ilion works between 1914 and 1917.
Just as President Lincoln had turned to Marcellus Hartley for assistance during the Civil War, Woodrow Wilson conferred with Dodge just three days before the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.
Before his murder, Czar Nicholas had placed orders for a million rifles with Remington Arms. After his death, the Russians defaulted on their payment, sending Remington Arms into a temporary decline. But it was these same Russian rifles that were later sold to the U.S. Army for use in World War I in which is why the U.S. could enter the war so quickly. The guns were already made and sitting in warehouses!
American, British and French forces were equipped by Remington Arms, and the company was responsible for providing Belgium with all of its ammunition. In all, Remington Arms produced 69% of all rifles used by American troops, and in excess of 50% of small-arms ammunition required by the U.S. and the Allies.
The years of relative calm following the war were perhaps more tumultuous for Dodge, Hartley Farms and Remington Arms. Remington had invested heavily in trained workers, machinery and buildings, and hoped diversification would improve its postwar fortunes. Just as his grandfather had tried producing typewriters, Dodge had Remington Arms producing cash registers. This attempt similarly failed. In spite of increased interest in sport shooting among returning soldiers, production at Remington Arms was well off.
The onset of the Depression certainly didn’t help, and Dodge entered into serious merger talks with E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company of Wilmington, Delaware. The subsequent merger in 1933 of these two giants brought stability to Remington, with Dodge remaining safely atop as chairman of the board of Remington Arms. But as with the fortunes of the country, which did not dramatically improve despite Roosevelt’s sweeping New Deal policies, it took World War II to really turn things around.
The Morris & Essex Dog Show
As difficult as it may have been for Dodge to accept his company’s post-war slump, an equally disturbing encroachment upon his peace of mind emerged in 1927, when his wife decided to hold the first Morris & Essex Dog Show at Hartley Farms!
Mrs. Dodge had become world renowned as a dog breeder, and in 1924 began officiating at shows throughout the United States, England, Ireland, Germany and Canada. “The First Lady of Dogdom” felt she needed a new vehicle to help promote better breeding techniques, and to bring together the world’s top breeders and finest dogs.
Even so, as much as she felt there was the need for a new dog show, she could not bear to allow others to infringe upon her domestic tranquility at Giralda Farms. For the next thirty years, Hartley Farms was the site of the Morris & Essex Dog Show, the largest single day event in the world, attracting the finest judges, top breeders, and crowds that swelled to as many as 50,000 spectators
Though the dog show inevitably left the grounds at Hartley Farms a shambles, it provided an important boon to the area, for it allowed visitors a chance to experience a way of life far removed from the reality of the Depression. It offered a taste of an earlier era, and provided hope for a better future.
But in the late summer of 1930, with the show barely four years old, son Hartley was killed in an auto accident while vacationing in France. He had just graduated from Princeton, and was awaiting entrance into the Ph.D. program in physics at Columbia University. Like his father he was an environmentalist, outdoorsman, and active in the conservation movement. He had always downplayed his name, a fact that helped make him one of the most well liked and respected students on campus.
As a memorial to their son, Mr. and Mrs. Dodge donated $800,000 toward the construction of Madison’s Borough Hall, and financed numerous municipal improvements within the community throughout the remaining years of their lives.
World War II
With the untimely death of his son, Dodge sought ever more the solitude of Hartley Farms. But world events would again pull him into the limelight. Ever reluctant to leave Hartley House, distinguished visitors came to see him. Guests included Herbert Hoover, General “Wild Bill” Donovan, and David, Lawrence, John and Nelson Rockefeller. The most illustrious, and frequent, visitor to Hartley Farms was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who like Hoover became close personal friends with Dodge. As a long-time Columbia University trustee, Dodge lobbied hard for Eisenhower’s appointment as president of the university, and some believe it was Dodge who had a role in persuading Ike to run for president following the war.
But beyond the personal acquaintances, the onset of World War II dramatically added to the coffers of Remington Arms. As in World War I, top secret meetings with the War Department were once again held on the polo field and in Dodge’s home. Before war’s end, the company had produced over a million rifles and 16 billion cartridges, employing a work force of 82,500 people.
The Later Years
In all of his years as head of Remington Arms, Marcellus Hartley Dodge rarely left Hartley Farms, plotting strategies that impacted upon his own fortunes and those of so many others around the world. But the legacy he left as a philanthropist and an environmentalist reached well beyond the bounds of Hartley Farms.
Dodge continued to support his grandfather’s children’s home throughout the years. He was a trustee of the North American Wildlife Foundation, and helped purchase the land that became Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Dodge also donated 51 acres in Chatham and Harding Townships to the Morris County Park Commission, to be held in perpetuity as a natural forest, dubbed the Helen Hartley Jenkins Woods.
But the biggest battle he fought during his later years was the struggle to save the Great Swamp from the hands of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who wished to build a third major Metropolitan area jetport.
The jetport would have impacted upon 10,000 acres of one of the Eastern seaboard’s most significant wildlife and migratory bird sanctuaries. Regarding Dodge’s efforts behind the scenes to defeat the jetport proposal, Cam Cavanaugh, author of "Saving the Great Swamp," wrote, "Marcellus Hartley Dodge was a remarkable man, one of those great doers who do not need, nor want, public acclaim. In 1960, he was eighty years old, a courtly, reserved gentleman, but with a mind as alert and forward-thinking as tomorrow... His friends remember how agitated he was when he heard that a jetport might be the fate for his beloved New Vernon. No longer able to ride, he drove his pony-drawn doctor’s buggy around to his neighbors, sometimes bringing along a map. What was to be done? Who would do it? The best move seemed to be to acquire land in strategic places in the middle of the proposed jetport, then give that land to an agency willing to maintain it for conservation purposes."
The movement to save the Great Swamp became one of the largest community-action conservation battles ever waged, and counted among its participants amateurs and professionals, all dedicated conservationists who forged strong alliances and solicited contributions for purchasing land.
Most of the money came from Dodge himself, who purchased a thousand acres he would later donate to the Federal Government. In 1960 the National Wildlife Foundation and fourteen cooperating organizations announced that they had acquired enough acreage to convince the Department of the Interior that a wildlife refuge was feasible.
But Marcellus Hartley Dodge wouldn’t live to see the day of dedication of the new refuge four years later. He died on Christmas Day, 1963 at Hartley House. On May 29, 1964, more than a thousand people converged at the site of the former polo grounds, the home of the Morris & Essex Dog Show, for the dedication ceremony that was the culmination of so many years of hard work. With Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall in attendance, the Great Swamp Committee of the North American Wildlife Foundation presented to the Department of the Interior a gift of 2,600 acres of land, worth over $1 million. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was finally a reality.
History has moved on, but the farm remains. Today, Nicolas W. Platt, great great grandson of Marcellus Hartley, his wife Katie and their two children make Hartley House their home. Recently, with the help of Robert Guter and Janet Foster of Acroterion in Morristown, Hartley Farms gained entrance into the National Register of Historic Places, distinguishing it as the third largest historical district in private hands in New Jersey.
Prologue: The Future
After the death of Mr. Dodge the property, consisting of 174 acres, was purchased by his descendents, who to this day continue to maintain it as an estate and working farm.
In 1987, the family took extraordinary steps to ensure that the future of Hartley Farms was not left up to chance. They turned to Andropogon Associates, Ltd. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the country’s most talented environmental land planners, to work out a plan that would help them to preserve the unique character of this historic property.
According to Nicolas Platt, “The Remington Forest and Polo Fields have been placed into a conservation trust that will be held by the family, which protects it from development in perpetuity. The plan has won conservation, land planning and environmental awards for setting new standards of environmentally responsible land development, and is a lecture topic at the University of Pennsylvania School of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.”
Though it may have taken five years to work out the specifics with the county and the Township of Harding, it has become the pride of all who labored so hard to make it happen. “My only regret,” commented Mary Louise Blanchard, Chairman of the Harding Township Environmental Commission, “is that Hartley Farms was the last remaining large parcel of undeveloped land left in Harding Township; the Platt family’s plan should have been the model for the development of all of Harding Township.”
The Hartley Farms Plan has become nationally recognized for providing a unique solution to preserving properties with a historical heritage. Architectural codes and an overall constitution will ensure the plan never veers from its strict goals.
While it may not be easy imagining the events of the past that occasionally transformed this peaceful setting, it isn’t too hard to see why Marcellus Hartley Dodge found it so difficult to leave Hartley Farms. The bridle paths remain, running throughout the property and Dodge’s pristine Remington Forest, along with the Polo Fields, the stables, the horse shed, Hartley’s Bungalow, and the Skeet-Shooting House, where the judges gathered for the Morris & Essex Dog Show. The interior and exterior of Hartley House itself has undergone few if any changes, and even the pink tile in the upstairs “Eisenhower Bathroom” remains, a tribute to the president whose wife Mamie’s favorite colors were pink and green.
Today Hartley Farms is the only one of the great estates that remains intact. It no longer occupies thousands of acres in several townships, and small trees and brush now crowd the path that once led to Giralda Farms. But driving along Spring Valley Road, past the huge fieldstone wall that is in itself an impressive landmark, the site of Hartley House still evokes pleasant images of an earlier era. The estate remains a monument to all who have lived there, and to future generations who are assured of its continuing legacy.
Country Roads Magazine