May 3, 2017 / Property Spotlight

Darlington: An Architectural Masterpiece Reborn

Darlington, a magisterial mansion built in 1907, was reborn for the 21st century with a meticulous, seven-year, artisanal restoration


It is hailed as “the American Versailles.” It is listed on both the state and National Register of Historic Places. It rivals the great Gilded Age “cottages” of Newport, Rhode Island, in scale, grace, and handworked detail.

It is Darlington, a three-story, 58-room, 50,000-square-foot manor at rest on 12 verdant acres in Mahwah, New Jersey, overlooking the Ramapo Mountains.

“The American Versailles,” Darlington was built in 1907 by renowned architects James Brite and Henry Bacon for railroad scion George Crocker. Today, the magnificent 58-room Jacobean-inspired mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Darlington was the vision of George Crocker, son of Central Pacific Railroad magnate Charles Crocker. He saw Mahwah as a refuge from the bustle of New York City, just 25 miles distant, with ample space to build his dream palace.

A masterpiece that will stand out for generations to come.

The dream begins at the imposing main entrance. The central stone arch of a three-bay loggia flanked by doubled pilasters leads the eye upward to an oriel window, its curved bay rising toward the triumphant, florid pediment. It’s an architectural order one critic deemed “among the most fanciful pieces of Jacobean design.”

Architect James Brite of McKim, Mead and White modeled that entrance, and the rest of Darlington, on Bramshill House in Hampshire, one of England’s greatest “prodigy houses.” Brite, with his partner Henry Bacon, also created the original Madison Square Garden, as well as American University and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A crystal chandelier illuminates Darlington’s grandly scaled and beautifully appointed tea room, one of the mansion’s grand circa-1907 reception rooms.Large mullioned windows flood the interior with light, revealing opulently detailed, hand-carved woodwork and marble. In the great room, a fully restored, 30-foot tall Aeolian Player Pipe Organ presides—one of the few, if not the only one, of its kind. The library’s 15-foot ceiling was painted by muralist James Wall Finn, famed for his works in the New York Public Library.

Over 200 artisans, craftsmen, and other professionals addressed every room of Darlington.

Darlington’s seven-year renovation took longer than its original construction, preserving precious original materials. The renovators upgraded all mechanical systems, rebuilt all 29 bathrooms, replaced the slate roof, and added new living space of 12,000 square feet.

Darlington’s lavish 21st-century updates include the wine room, which connects to a wine cellar and a private-club-style recreation area with cigar room (complete with humidors), a poker room, a billiard room, a home theater, a spa and beauty salon, and a restaurant-style kitchen. More than 100 years after the original construction, the renovation again employed the most talented Italian wood carvers (whose works include the Italian Parliament as well as the Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf-Astoria hotels in New York City).

“This time, history repeated itself,” said owner Ilija Pavlovic, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate exclusive Affiliate Special Properties Real Estate Services. “Over 200 artisans, craftsmen, and other professionals addressed every room of Darlington. They spoke different languages, but shared the understanding that they are all part of the exciting process of creating a masterpiece that will stand out for generations to come.”  

Lush contemporary spaces are among the mansion’s new amenities, including a stunning, contemporary wine room with connected wine cellar, poker room, cigar room with humidors, a spa with a lap pool and attached steam and dry saunas, exercise room, massage room, a beauty salon, home theater room, a billiard room, and a restaurant-style kitchen equipped to serve 250 meals at a time.

Darlington’s glorious grounds have gained a tennis court, two fountains, two pergolas, a gazebo, and an outdoor pool with cabana. There is also an eight-car garage, a gate house, and staff quarters with five suites and a lounge.

The estate is being sold with bespoke furnishings by Francesco Molon, the Italian furniture maker whose work includes presidential palaces in Europe and distinguished hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton in New York City and The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.

The luxury spa is a sanctuary of seclusion with a lap pool, a relaxation area, a steam room and sauna, a massage room, and a gym.

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Lucy Carsen
Christie's International Real Estate