Friends of Florham introduce photo history book
By Kenna Caprio
The iconic Hennessy Hall at the College of Florham once housed the Vanderbilt-Twombly family, not classrooms, offices and lecture halls. To preserve historic elements of Fairleigh Dickinson University's Florham campus, the Friends of Florham fundraise while also depending on contributions and grants.
Now, to further their mission of preservation and in response to visitor requests for information, the Friends of Florham introduce a new book, Florham: The Lives of an American Estate.
"Florham's past has become an integral part of the University, a core component of the uniqueness of FDU for which students, their parents, alumni, faculty and administrators may feel a justifiable pride," writes Arthur T. Vanderbilt II in one of the book's forwards. Vanderbilt is an honorary board member of the Friends of Florham and the author of Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt.
The book covers the lives of the Vanderbilt-Twombly family, the building of their estate in Florham and the successful transition to the current University campus.
The three authors of the book, Carol Bere and Samuel Convissor, members of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Florham, and Walter Cummins, FDU professor emeritus, spent about 15 months researching, gathering and writing.
In part, it was a matter of "finding out what existed and then tracking it down," says Cummins of some of the pictures.
The writers received permission from the Biltmore Company to print a photograph of two of Hamilton and Florence Vanderbilt Twombly's daughters, Alice and Florence Twombly, in a pony cart as children and also, "Going to the Opera" a painting by Seymour Joseph Guy of "friends, family and staff," of Florence Vanderbilt Twombly's father, William Henry Vanderbilt.
Many photographs highlighted in the book, showcasing an opulent but private lifestyle, have never been printed before.
In one section of the book, photographs from long ago overlap with current campus images, showing the differences between the estate as a home and as a university. Readers can also spot the similarities that remain, a testament to the Friends' restorative efforts during their 22-year tenure.
"In Florham," writes Vanderbilt in the spring 2012 edition of the Friends' newsletter, "the authors have given us an extraordinary glimpse into how life was lived in the Gilded Age."
For more information or to order a copy of Florham: The Lives of an American Estate, click here. The book is also available at the FDU Florham Bookstore and through Amazon.
The Friends of Florham, formed in 1990, is an organization whose goal is to advise and assist the University in the care, maintenance and historic preservation of the historically important buildings and grounds of the College at Florham.
What was originally the Twombly's drawing room is now the College at Florham's Lenfell Hall. The restoration of the room was completed over a two-year period by the Friends.