Saturday, November 8, 2008

Didja Know? Francis S. Kinney's "Cottage" Life

Continuing with Cornie Hubner's Didja Know? series, here follows his article about Cottage Life, relating to Francis S. Kinney's house and property in what is now Smoke Rise in Kinnelon, NJ. [Note "?" are mine - I couldn't locate a resource online to explain the reference.]

When the 80 room "Cottage" was built, a little over 100 years ago, the Kinneys learned that "horsepower" really meant horses.  Evidence of this recognition is apparent in the luxurious stable they provided - now our Inn.  Carriage and farm horses occupied spacious stalls in the area that is now our cloak and reception rooms. The prize herd of Brown Swiss Cows in the ell, now the Cauldron Room - appropriately - just off the Bull Pere [?].  The present Ball Room was a very low ceilinged truck and wagon barn over which was the tremendous hay mow.

The original carriage barn stood between the "Cottage" and what is now the Stable Complex.   The coach [i.e., carriage], surrey, landau and several two passenger carts [the sports cars of the day], were housed here.  An open stone barn for farm equipment and the brick blacksmith shop, whose busy farrier was the maintenance expert for the entire estate stood nearby.

[The horse stables as they look today... Note the center piece which must have been a fountain.]
In 1916 the new brick stable and carriage houses replaced the original barn.  Sixteen commodious hardwood stalls duplicated those in the picture book stables of the horsey set of the County 400s [?].   Massive brass hinges and blanket holders together with ornate cast iron grills added a regal appearance to the spotless setting.  The lazy drowsy drone of the few privileged flies could be heard from the flagstone shaded quadrangle courtyard where weary riders languidly enjoyed a lively melodious serenade from the fountain in its center.

A zinc lined grain bin provided rodent free storage for grain.   Several modern apartments on the second floor of each building were occupied by the special skilled workers and their families.  A modern machine shop in the Carriage House was needed to maintain the "Cottage" and modern mechanical equipment needed for the 25 miles of gravel roads and bridal paths.

A full time messenger made a daily trip to Butler by buggy.  He shopped for the Chef's special needs, visited the hardware store and express office and waited with an amiable group of townspeople until the 10:30 mail was sorted.  For years the mail was trucked from the station, by a venerable pensioner in an antiquated child's express wagon.  The distance was short and this method of transportation continued for many years until the load required a larger vehicle.

[Photo caption: An American Fiefdom as described by neighbors and descendants of the 80 adherents and workers who operated and maintained the unique Baronial enclave.  Cornie 3/87.]
The townspeople were occasionally treated to a live edition of a Currier and Ives print, when one of the family arrived in an Irish Trap with the coachman in picture book costume.  Patent leather boots, white trousers, bright green gold buttoned jacket and high hat adorned the figure that sat immobile while the master visited and the townfolk stared.  Matched pairs with more sedately garbed coachman guided the surreys that made regular trips to and from the Depot.

Sometimes a private railroad car was parked on a siding opposite the North Gate. This was the site of a Saw Mill, powered by the Pequannock River where the harvested Chestnut and Oak trees were processed and shipped.  Long since abandoned it served as a station where the several wagons picked up guests for the gay, scenic trip to the "Cottage."

All hands were kept busy with picnic trips to Green Hill, Kitty Ann Tower, New Pond and fishing adventures with wily trout at Kent Brook.  Hunting, horseback riding on the well kept trails and lake boating, fishing and swimming provided a full day's entertainment.  Some poaching neighbors reported that they had even stumbled upon segregated "skinny dipping."

A dramatic change became apparent when a chain driven "Simplex" transported the Kinneys to St. Anthony's Church.  It was piloted by a liveried French Chauffeur [society's coddled professional] who also guided the gigantic Pierce-Arrow and directed the mechanics maintaining the other horseless vehicles that were now taking space in the Carriage House.

The Stable Complex remained unchanged until the mid '60s when five stalls were built in the stone barn and six in the newly constructed wooden barn.  Interest in the Riding Club reached a peak then and continued until the mid '70.  The stables owned and operated by John Talbot is now managed by Donna Weatherbee, who can be contacted for available stalls and riding instructions at the office in the Stable or by phone.

NOTE:  The Smoke Rise Riding School is now managed by Ann Mitchell. For more information, visit the Smoke Rise Riding Club at Smoke Rise Farms.

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