by Albert Hadley
At the end of a winding road through the hill country in the Far Hills area of New Jersey, one came upon perhaps one of the most beautiful properties in the state- a place called Cragwood. This was the home of Jane and Charles Engelhard and their family. A family that the eldest daughter, Annette, today describes as, "home to five girls and one hundred dogs!" Not a total exaggeration but more the essence of the true meaning of life in that house- a beautiful home.
The house, an American classic, Georgian in style, was well anchored to its surroundings of exceptional beauty, both natural and man-made, by a generous gravel courtyard. I well remember my first visit to Cragwood with my recent employer, the indomitable Mrs. Henry Parish II. As our car pulled into the courtyard, her constant companion, a tough little Pekinese, let out a peculiar happy-sounding yelp. Sister, as she was known, noticing my reaction simply said, "Yummy loves gravel. Yummy understands quality." All I could think of was "Bingo!" for Yummy.
Upon entering the house, the great stair hall with unpolished stone floors and soaring ceilings was amazing. Sunlight poured in through a handsome Palladian style window that was centered on the wide stair landing and the entrance below. The play of light and shadow was magical and evoked a kind of animation and well-being.
As I remember, the hall was rather sparsely furnished but complete and substantially luxurious without omitting charming, telling details. For instance, there was a great collection of walking sticks and umbrellas- ostensibly for garden sojourns- that took their place near the front door, while underneath the massive console table that dominated one wall was a large straw dog bed for a favorite friend.
It was in this hall, quite some time prior to my first visit to Cragwood that Sister Parish was- early as usual- waiting for Jane to appear when suddenly through the front door rode bareback on her favorite horse, the young Annette. It's never been quite determined which of the two was the more startled!
The hall was only the beginning of an amazing house. I am sure that when Jane came upon the scene that day, she took the situation in full stride.
Jane Engelhard was a lady of statuesque beauty and great personal style. Her manner was always direct, to the point, a characteristic fueled by what appeared to be an inner well-being, a joy, if you will, and no short measure of wit! These were evidenced in the quality and spirit of the living spaces she created for her family-always to be enjoyed and shared with friends.
The interiors of Cragwood were mirrors of her aesthetic judgment and highly sophisticated taste. Rooms filled with furnishings and objects of great beauty and quality, always assembled to afford social discourse in an atmosphere of luxurious comfort.
As her life was colorful and expansive, so were her rooms: vibrant and sparkling. Jane was not one for miniature expression. But by the same token, her sense of scale and proportion was totally human. There were, of course, the occasional quirks and jogs that mirrored her great personal wit. The very things that make a house a home-and what a home she created! Cragwood unquestionably hit all of the high notes-simply the best!