Step Back in Time at Tyvan Hill

Mansion in May 2020 Designer Showhouse and Gardens Presents “Splendor in September”

By Laurie Pellichero | Photos Courtesy of Dannette Merchant

Historic 1920s country estate Tyvan Hill, located just 45 minutes away in New Vernon, has been chosen as the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center’s (WAMMC) 19th Designer Showhouse and Gardens, Mansion in May 2020 (MIM). Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the May 1 opening date of the Mansion was postponed, and it will now be presented as MIM 2020’s “Splendor in September.”

Founded in 1893 to provide financial support to Morristown Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, WAMMC has raised more than $25 million to date in support of the hospital’s mission to bring cutting-edge technology and superior health services to the community. With more than 400 volunteer members, WAMMC hosts a number of events, but its signature fundraiser is the Mansion in May Designer Showhouse and Gardens, open to the public every two to three years. Since its inception in 1974, this fundraiser has raised over $15 million for a variety of causes at Morristown Medical Center.

Tyvan Hill, a 10,000-square-foot U-shaped brick and stone mansion, was designed by prominent New York architectural firm Peabody, Wilson & Brown for John Wesley Castles Jr. and his wife, Dorothea Bradford Smith Castles. Built between 1928 and 1929, it features details such as a bell tower, curved staircase, elegant paneling and moldings, and an outdoor pool and pool house. There is a mystery to how it got its name, but it is thought that it was named as such by the Castles after a visit to the village of Tywyn in Wales.

As to why it was chosen as this year’s showhouse, Katie Nolle, president of WAMMC, says, “The Women’s Association is always searching for a ‘worthy’ mansion with wonderful history, and Tyvan Hill more than fits our expectations. The whole property, including the gorgeous grounds, provides a spectacular site for our premier fundraiser.”

Kathy Ross, “Splendor in September” co-chair, notes that “in addition to its architectural pedigree, its beautiful rooms, manageable size, and lovely grounds, it is a delight to bring life back to this beautiful home. Tyvan Hill has been a family home since it was built, particularly from 1958 until 1972 when it was occupied by the family of Anne and Donald McGraw; their four boys filled its walls with typical boyhood pursuits. The McGraws were avid horsemen and very involved in the Spring Valley Hounds and the Morris County Bridle Path Association. An elegantly designed map, dating from between 1925 and 1930, depicting the association’s network of bridle paths and area estates and other landmarks, has long been a fixture at Tyvan Hill.

“It is also notable that several of the families who have owned Tyvan Hill had connections to Morristown Memorial Hospital, now Morristown Medical Center, and to its Women’s Association. In 1932, Dorothea Castles served as secretary and a member of the executive committee of the Women’s Association and chaired the committee that planned and opened the Corner Store, the hospital’s first gift shop. The two women who subsequently owned Tyvan Hill, Dorothy Virginia Garrett, the wife of Douglas Bowman Weed, and Anne Schuyler Williams, the wife of Donald Cushing McGraw Jr., also were active members of the Women’s Association.”

The mansion is currently on the market and listed by Mary Horn of Weichert Realtors.

“We are very grateful that Tyvan Hill’s owner agreed to extend our lease through October in order for us to be able to present Mansion in May 2020 as “Splendor in September,” says Pat O’Connor, the event’s co-chair. “What’s more, we are humbled and thrilled that each and every one of our remarkably talented interior and landscape designers have stayed with us to enchant you with their combined over 50 design spaces. Without these designers’ remarkable commitment to Mansion in May and our cause, we could not have carried this event forward into September.”

“Each and every one of our designers had been working since early 2020 to create wondrous spaces for our visitors to enjoy when the pandemic shut us down in March,” continues O’Connor. “When approached about completing their designs for our September event, not one of them hesitated. This Mansion has truly been a labor of love for all involved and we can’t wait to welcome our guests to our mansion on the hill to enjoy the dramatic exterior spaces adorning its 22 acres as well as the unique and impressive design inspirations of its rooms.”

All proceeds from this year’s Mansion in May Presents “Splendor in September” event will benefit the expansion of the Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute at Morristown Medical Center. “The expansion of the facilities will allow the Institute to provide superior cardiac care on a regional, national, and international level,” says Nolle. “We are proud to support this expansion.”

In the interim, the expansion of the Gagnon facility has already proven to be a big benefit to the community as its rooms were converted to serve the needs of COVID-19 patients.

“Splendor in September” will be open daily from September 8 through October 4. The mansion opens for General Admission at 10am, with the last ticket sold at 3pm. Private tours are also available starting at 8:30am. For further information and to purchase your ticket, go to the “visit” tab at mansioninmay.org.

A self-guided mansion and garden tour takes approximately 1 1/2 hours. Required safety guidelines related to the COVID-19 virus will be in place to ensure that visitors experiences will be safe and worry-free.

Guests should note that children under the age of 12 are not permitted to visit the mansion, including infants. The mansion is not handicapped accessible.

Parking with free shuttle service will be available.

For more information, visit mansioninmay.org.