The writer gave brief information about a few surviving historic New Jersey mansions. The house on Washington Street that had caught my eye was among them. It had been built for John H. Ballantine of Ballantine Brewers, a brewing company based in Newark, New Jersey in the late 19th through early 20th century. Happy to know who the house had originally belonged to, but not satisfied with the basics, I dug into the details.
The Ballantine family of Newark started with Peter Ballantine, born in 1791 in Dundee, Scotland. After immigrating to Albany, New York in 1820, he married and started a family. In 1840, Peter moved with his wife, Julia, and children — Peter, eight; John, six; and, Robert, four years old — to Newark, New Jersey. In January of 1883, at the age of ninety-two, Peter passed away at his residence, now 74 Front Street. Since Peter, the oldest, had died of pneumonia the year before, the family business passed to John H. Ballantine, the second eldest son. Two years later, in 1884, the Ballantine House was built.
& THE BALLANTINE HOUSE
George Edward Harney, a New York architect, was commissioned in 1882 to design a house for John H. Ballantine and his family in Newark to be built on Washington Street. The house was originally designed as a seventeen-room house over three floors. It would be the most luxurious house on Washington Square. Only the best craftsmen and suppliers were contracted.
The building of Romanesque revival style was built of Philadelphia pressed red-brick in common bond with grey Wyoming sandstone trim. The entry porch was designed with trefoil archways and included polished granite columns with Corinthian capitals. The windows were carved with a floral and foliate design, and the roof was completed with a modified mansard with gabled dormers.
The home included the most up to date modern amenities. Perfection of indoor plumbing at this point questionable. Drainage ventilation was still in the development stages which aroused some health concerns. As late as 1887, home building plan books were asking whether or not it was desirable because of these concerns. However, the Ballantines were not to do without, and so five bathrooms were added.
Of course, the house also included a central heating system which was an absolute necessity. However, the Ballantines would not include the most innovative heating system of the time — hot water radiators.
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It seems the Ballantines could not imagine the monstrous iron radiators in their home. Despite efforts to disguise them, radiators were considered distasteful and inelegant at the time. Instead they would include a hot-air system which was tried and true and could sport ornate return registers in the floor and walls.
FROM RESIDENCE TO MUSEUM
John H. Ballantine died of throat cancer in 1895. Family members continued to live in the house up to about 1920. Over the next seventeen years various individuals lived in the house until it was sold to the Commercial Casualty Insurance Company. It was eventually acquired by the Newark Museum in 1937.
The Newark Museum continues to provide a view into the life of the Ballantines with period decorated rooms from 1891 along with other galleries with belongings which may have been typically found in people’s homes from 1650s to the present. That is the tip of the ice berg of what you can find and learn at the Newark Museum.