Historic Havens: Strauss Mansion

This lavish three-story Victorian home that sits high atop a hill in Atlantic Highlands was used as the summer cottage of merchant Adolph Strauss and his wife Jeanette. Designed by architect Solomon H. Cohen and built in 1893 during the Gilded Age, this opulent mansion has three imposing towers and 21 rooms, with incredible architectural details, including stained glass, crystal chandeliers, a breathtaking mahogany central stair, and inlaid parquet floors. The house offers fantastic views of the bay, New York City, and the town, and is a beautiful testament to Victorian design.

The house is open every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and admission is free. Visitors are given an information packet for a self-guided tour. There is so much to see, you will want to slowly meander through the many rooms, observing the many wonderful artifacts and pieces of period furniture. Among the highlights is the foyer, which displays the original stained glass and the glorious hardwoods used, including American chestnut, mahogany, black walnut, and golden oak. The detail of the woodwork is a tribute to the craftsmen of the era. You will also notice the stained glass window above the front entrance, with the letters “AS” for Adolph Strauss. The butler’s pantry and dumb waiter, though converted, can still be seen, and the call boxes and bells are still present – although today, it is the board members who act as servants. One of the other details of the home is the inclusion of everyday items and clothing. You get the feeling that the owners are about to enter the room at any time. It has a ghostly feeling and, in fact, the Strauss Mansion is a favorite stop of ghost hunters, who consider it to be one of the most active spots in Monmouth County. There are many tales of sounds, images, and cold spots, and a B-movie thriller, “Don’t Go in the House,” was filmed at the mansion in the 1980s.

The mansion also offers a calendar of events, including a monthly lecture/film series, a Jersey Journey travel group, Music at the Mansion hosted by Audra Mariel (the mansion is set up cabaret-style for the jazz series), a Porch Supper, flea market, craft fair, and holiday concert. The date for the first jazz concert this summer is Thursday, June 30. On Saturday, June 11 is the annual 2016 House Tour, brought to you by the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society. Six distinctive homes will be open for viewing during this fundraising event. The tour starts at the Strauss Museum and tickets are $35. For tickets and more information, email ahhshousetour@gmail.com or visit www.ahhistory.org.

Another property in the area that shares the Strauss name is the historic Cobble Close Farm in Middletown, located next to the Navesink Country Club. This Strauss family is the one associated with Macy’s, though it is rumored that they were distant cousins of the Strauss Mansion family. The farm was built in 1930 by the children of Isa and Isador Strauss, who were lost on The Titanic. As Mrs. Straus was a bit of Francophile, the family decided to create a French Norman farm, and many of the features on the property were either brought over from Europe or cast onsite.

The Alfred Hopkins-designed compound has approximately 30,000 square feet of interconnected buildings, an orangery, workers’ dormitory, caretaker’s house, a large wood-paneled dining hall, and a 12-stall parking garage and cow barns. There are a series of stucco, cast stone buildings with red, ceramic-tiled roofs that are surrounded by fountains, livestock pastures, a pool, and cabanas that overlook lawns.

The Strauss family auctioned it off in 1949, and the separate homes were all converted to individual dwellings and owned in a co-op ownership to preserve the estate grounds. The caretaker’s house, which is the largest unit, is currently for sale as of this writing. Cobble Close Farm has been featured in TV commercials and many fashion magazines, including Vogue and the Victoria’s Secret catalog.