TwinMaplesColumn.jpeg

About

Twin Maples was built in 1908 by well-known Montclair architect Alfred Norris. It is listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

History of Twin Maples

Gustav Amsink, reputedly the "wealthiest citizen of Summit" was the first owner of the land where the future Twin Maples would be built.  The property was sold to James Foley, a prominent New York Attorney, who commissioned architect Alfred Norris to build Twin Maples.  James Foley and his wife, Karoline Davis, had no children and occupied the house until James' death in 1916.  

The house was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Frederic N. Collins in 1918.  Frederick Collins was president of James E. Ward & Co., steamship agents and brokers and was known in downtown Manhattan as the "Sugar King" for bringing sugar as cargo from the Caribbean.  The Collins had one child, Lydia, and conducted a lively household entertaining extensively until Frederick's death in 1947 at the age of 90.

Mrs. Collins sold Twin Maples to The Fortnightly Club of Summit in 1949.  The house gained its historical status in 1996 and is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.  Lydia Collins attended Kent Place School in Summit and married Rev. Dr. W. J. de Forest.  Lydia shared many memories and photographs with the club and lived in Summit until her death in 2001 at the age of 102.

TwinMaples_Sketch.jpg

Architectural Significance

Twin Maples, constructed according to the designs of Montclair architect Alfred F. Norris in 1908, is a Colonial Revival estate house with a Neoclassical facade and Georgian Revival interior features. Twin Maples is a typical example of the large estate houses constructed at the turn of the century in Summit by professional and business men whose commute into New York was facilitated by the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad. While the conceptual design may have been derived from another attorney-commissioned house which Norris designed in Montclair, Twin Maples retains a degree of individuality from other Norris-designed Colonial Revival homes. Twin Maples is architecturally significant as a well-preserved example of early 20th century Colonial revival domestic architecture in Summit.

 

Until the turn of the century, Summit had largely been a summer resort for New Yorkers, on top of the Second Watchung Mountain. In the early 1900s, railroads connected the “city on a hill” to New York, easing the commute for the business and professional men who lived in Summit and worked in lower Manhattan. Large homes were built for these new commuters and Summit became a suburban community.

 

In 1904, the railroad tracks were moved to depress them below street level, a new depot was built, and the Delaware & Lackawanna & Western Railroad was running through Summit. The famous “crack train” of this line was the “Phoebe Snow”, notable for the cleanliness of the use of anthracite rather than old-fashioned soft coal. Also in 1904, the Rahway Valley Railroad was extended from New Orange (Kenilworth) to Summit. It was owned by Louis Keller, publisher of The New York Social Register. Keller had organized the Baltusrol Golf Club in 1895, constructing the clubhouse on his Springfield farm, and the track extension allowed club members to disembark from the train at his golf club. The railroad connected with the Jersey Central and the Lehigh Valley Railroads in Cranford, and has seven scheduled trains a day from Summit. 

 

In 1908, James C. Foley (1845-1916), and attorney with a home and office in Brooklyn, commissioned a house to be built for him and his wife in Summit. Mr. Foley was born in Medina, NY, was a graduate of the University of Rochester, and earned a law degree at Heidelberg University in Germany. In 1880 he passed the New York bar and opened an office in Manhattan. He specialized in corporate and municipal law. In 1889-1890 he was consulted by the Township of Summit on their contract with the Commonwealth Water Company to build a water system for the town. 

He chose as his architect, Alfred F. Norris (1864-1915), a native of Brooklyn. Norris was educated at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute before opening his practice with his brother, Francis, in Brooklyn in 1888. After two years, he practiced alone until 1902 when he moved his office to 150 Nassau Street in downtown Manhattan. On or about 1909 he moved his residence to Montclair, New Jersey and opened a second office there. Norris later designed and built his residence in Montclair at 44 Elm Street. 

When he died of a perforated ulcer in 1916 at the age of 51, he had designed between 400 and 500 houses in the Montclair area alone. In the cultural resource inventory of Montclair (Preservation Montclair), Norris was represented by at least six houses. It is not known whether he designed any other houses in Summit, but many of his Montclair area houses were planned for lawyers, and it is possible Mr. Foley had heard of or visited some of his colleagues’ houses around Montclair and liked what he saw. Or perhaps they were fellow commuters on the ferry which transported New Jersey passengers to Manhattan. An editorial which appeared in the Montclair Times two days after his death said:

 

“He was a man of great reserve and absolutely wrapped up in his profession… Dignity, restraint and solidity in his buildings which have an air of permanence and the essential quality of home… he has created a new and pleasing style known as ‘the Composite style’ which offers so many multitudinous combinations.”

Norris was indeed eclectic, often combining elements from different styles in one house. He liked to use stucco for the exterior, sometimes combined with shingles or bricks He also used a shingle roof with curved edges to resemble the thatched roof characteristic of English cottages. He received honorable mention for his designs when they were included in exhibitions held at the Architectural League in New York. His houses were repeatedly shown in American Homes and Gardens magazine (published 1904-1915), a deluxe magazine published monthly by Munn & Company, publishers of the Scientific American. Norris had at least six house pictured and described in articles in the magazine, including his own house in Montclair (March 1910). 

One house, in particular, though somewhat grander than Twin Maples, greatly resembles it, in the July 1905 issue. Built for Charles T. Ives, Esq. of Upper Montclair, the Georgian-style house features a portico at the front with massive columns. The interiors are similar to Twin Maples, with impressive columned archways from the wide center hall to the principal rooms on either side, and a Colonial staircase with paneled wainscoting. The stairway landing housed the pipes of an organ operated in the music room on the first floor. Back-to-back corner fireplaces on the first floor are found in both houses, as well as several carved decorative fireplaces and mantels. This Ives house may well have been the prototype for the Foley house, Twin Maples, in Summit three years later. 

 

The building has been since 1949 the home of The Fortnightly Club, the women’s club of Summit, started in 1893 by the wife of the mayor of Summit, who himself was a New York lawyer. The club has been the “sparkplug” for many community activities, including:  The Free Public Library, the Thrift Shop, the New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts, the Summit Chorale, the Child Care Study Group, the first snow removal, the first garbage collection, and the Welfare Department of the city. 

 

 

Credited to: Mrs. Nancy B. Dukek, Vincent Lepre, Allison Ziefert of The Fortnightly Club of Summit

National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service

Dated: April 25, 1997