Getting to Know Garret A. Hobart, Jr

On November 20th, 1975, Ailsa Farms in Wayne was added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. Today, the property is part of William Paterson University’s campus, and is better known by the name of the family who lived there: Hobart Manor! One of the Hobart residents was Garret A. Hobart Jr, son of Vice President Garret A. Hobart (1844-1899), who you can get to know in the blog post below! This is cross posted from our friends at the Olmsted 200 campaign; learn more about Hobart and other members of the Passaic County Parks Commission here!


Born in Paterson, NJ on August 31, 1884, Garret A. Hobart Jr. was the son of Garret A. Hobart and Jennie (Tuttle) Hobart. His father was the 24th vice president of the United States, serving under President William McKinley.[1] The young Garret was named after his father and was lived at the Hobart family home Carroll Hall on the corner of Carroll and Ellison Streets in Paterson.


Hobart married Caroline Frye Briggs on June 6, 1906 and they had three children.

Figure 1- Garret A. Hobart Jr. Image from the Passaic County Historical Society.

Hobart had a private pilot’s license and did considerable flying. Late in his life Hobart took up the hobby of photography. He was also credited with owning one of the first automobiles in Paterson and was said to have given President McKinley his first ride in an automotive vehicle. The vehicle was said to have been powered by electric batteries.


Hobart was appointed by Justice Charles C. Black to the preliminary Passaic County Parks Commission. Hobart pushed for the commission to hire the most prestigious landscape architects and planners in the United States, the Olmsted Brothers firm. This Commission had the authorization to spend up to $10,000 in the creation of a survey. Following the lead of Essex and Union Counties, the commission petitioned the firm to prepare a master plan to certify the public need for a park system, evaluate potential sites to be acquired for parkland, and prepare a report that could be used to generate public support.


The firm’s report was submitted to the commissioners on July 9, 1927. In the report, they identified the purpose for the investment of public funds in the creation of Passaic County’s Park system was “to provide for the happiness and well-being of people....” and that “no other public expenditure tends to appreciate in value...with the passage of time, as do other public works.”


Following the adoption of the park referendum in the General Election held on November 8, 1937, Hobart was once again appointed to the permanent commission and was elected vice-president. On September 14, 1937 he became the president of the Passaic County Parks Commission following the death of Robert Dix Benson.[2]


Garret A. Hobart Jr. died at the family estate Ailsa Farms in Wayne (now on the campus of William Paterson University) on September 29, 1941.


Figure 2- Ailsa Farms- today Hobart Manor- photographed ca. 1876. From the Wayne Museum.

Ailsa Farms was constructed in 1877 for John McCullough, who made his money in the wool industry. McCullough spent $25,000 on his new property: a two-story castle with two octagonal turrets. McCullough enjoyed the home for about 25 years before selling the property. It was purchased by Jennie (Tuttle) Hobart, who gave Ailsa Farms to Garret Jr. as a Christmas gift. Initially, the home was used as a summer residence, but it appears to have been used more regularly by the family following a 1915-1919 expansion by Fred Wentworth and Frederick Vreeland. Besides the replacement of the turrets by a new entrance way, updated windows, and some added brickwork, Hobart Jr. had a three-story extension built. When construction wrapped up in 1919, Ailsa Farms was expanded into a 40-room structure.


Hobart Jr and his family moved into their expanded Wayne home soon after the expansion, and in 1940, they were joined by his mother. After Hobart Jr. and Jennie Hobart’s deaths in 1941, Caroline Frye Hobart sold the property to the state of New Jersey. In November 1951, William Paterson University- then the Paterson State Teacher’s College- moved onto the property, and they’ve been there ever since! Renamed Hobart Manor in the 1970s, the building underwent a renovation in 1985. Today, it is the site of the offices of the President, Development, Institutional Advancement, and Alumni Relations. [3]



Bibliography

[1] Newspaper Article: “Private Funeral Rites Wednesday for G.A. Hobart”, The News (Paterson, NJ) September 30, 1941 pg 25; 36.

[2] Paterson and Its Environs, p 149-150


[3] Zeman, Mary Beth. “History of Hobart Manor,” William Paterson University. Accessed October 28th, 2022. https://www.wpunj.edu/about-us/history/fullstory_hobart.html?host_id=ef0c8c29-9114-44f7-8c74-6e30b922d5c9.

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