Mahwah Museum is now CLOSED for the Summer.
We will reopen in September 2019 with three new exhibits highlighting the 50th anniversary of Ramapo College’s creation, Palisades Park Amusement Park and Mahwah’s 75th anniversary, since its split from Ho-Ho-Kus Township.
Please check back in the fall for more information about these upcoming exhibits.
The Donald Cooper Model RR and Les Paul in Mahwah are permanent exhibits and will reopen in September.
The Donald Cooper Model Railroad
CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR THE SUMMER.
The Museum’s Donald Cooper Railroad is an operating HO-Scale model railroad with many trains traveling between levels and on different routes. Centralized electronic switches allow the operator to control the entire layout from the DCC central control panels. The railroad yard is fully functional allowing operators to make up trains and dispatch them to their own destinations. The four-level high layout has three independent scenic modules that are constantly changing, as well as a trolley, a subway system, logging station, waterfall, roundhouse and turntable. We invite engineers of all ages to come and visit our ever-changing and growing railroad world. The Donald Cooper Model Railroad is CURRENTLY CLOSED THE THE SUMMER. For information about joining the train crew, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201-512-0099.
Please note: the DCMRR is not a free train display (admission is free only for members of the museum) and it is not a train ride.
Les Paul in Mahwah
CURRENTLY CLOSED THE THE SUMMER.
Mahwah Museum has a small permanent exhibit featuring some Les Paul history which allows visitors to learn the essential facts of Les Paul’s life and career. It has sections on his inventions and innovations, a display of one-of-a-kind precious guitars made especially for Les, and a re-creation of the studio in which Les did his work. Learn how this creative genius transformed rock, country and jazz music. See how he and Mary Ford performed for their weekly radio show from their home in Mahwah.
Mahwah Museum receives operating support from the New Jersey Historical Commission in the Department of State.
This article by Charles Anderson was first published in “The Old Station Timetable,” of January 1978.
The area in which Skylands is now located was a prime source of wood for the smelting operations at Ringwood during the 1700’s. Small farms were carved out of the stony hills where some level ground could be found. These were mostly along the Eagle Valley Road out of Sloatsburg (NY) and along the Wanaque Valley Road. The Ramapo Mountains were gradually cut up among small owners.
Around 1880, Stetson, a counsel for J.P. Morgan, with several associates bought up 1200 acres of these small holdings and established several large estates. Part of the Stetson property is now Skylands. His mansion was baronial and impressive. Sheep were grazed on the front lawn. A nine-hole golf course was laid out on land laboriously leveled. His wife was a paraplegic but could drive a buggy. Each year he cut additional miles of wood road through the estate so that she could travel about the property. Eventually, over 20 miles of road were cleared. Most of them are still available for hiking. They are easily distinguished from old wood roads used for lumbering by their easy grades, uniform width and solidly built stone bridges.
In the 1900’s Clarence Lewis bought property In Mahwah and lived here. He was a lawyer for the multi-million dollar firm owned by the Solomons of New York. Retiring a very wealthy man in 1933, aged 53, he was to live 30 years more. He owned a large piece of land east of the Birch property on the north side of the Ramapo River extending to a piece of Pierson property which extended west from the Glove and north to Pierson Ridge. Another large acreage owned by Lewis lay on both sides of the easterly third of Bear Swamp Pond, separated from the Stetson estate by a small piece of property owned by one Hines. When the Stetson property was up for sale, he bought it intending to join it with the Bear Swamp acreage. It is believed that Hines refused to sell, and he was not able to do this.
However, Skylands was his. He tore the house down. There are two stories giving a reason why, neither of which may be true. One states that his mother did not like the Stetson house, the other, that being a tallish man he bumped his head in several places while going through the house. At, any rate, the present building was put up in Jacobean style from stone quarried locally and embellished with interiors purchased from old castles in Europe. His mother died a year before the house was completed.
In the many years that he lived at Skylands, being an ardent horticulturist and well able to afford 60 gardeners, he developed an English style series of plantings complete with statuary and vistas, most of which are being restored today. Late in life he offered his estate to the New York Botanical Gardens. They insisted on a large endowment which he was unwilling to provide. The deal fell through. Later, he offered the property to Shelton College at a very reasonable price on condition that they follow his advice on management. They would not listen, he discontinued his help, and the college soon went bankrupt.
Developers were ready to purchase and carve the estate when Robert Roe purchased for the state 250 acres, the first acquisition of land under the Green Acres Program. House and grounds had been sadly neglected during the college ownership. Some restoration work was done on the house, and work was started In reclaiming the neglected gardens. However, with only ten gardeners, reclamation Is progressing slowly. The dedicated staff had made it possible for us to visualize the beauty of the gardens.’ Each year new discoveries of hidden beauties are made. Lewis’s dream of an estate extending from Skylands to the Ramapo has been realized. The boundaries of Ramapo Park have been extended past Bear Swamp Pond and now join with the wooded acreage of Skylands.