Hartley House on Hartley Farms

The following articles appeared in Country Roads Magazine, written by Larry Batille.

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.

Jenkins Estate along Madison Ave., Morristown, NJ 1900

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.

Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge & Marcellus Hartley Dodge, 1950

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.

Hartley Farms along Spring Valley Road, 1950

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.