In the early 1900’s, the trend was for wealthy New York City families to acquire rural property within a comfortable distance outside of the city. This was in part because they desired an escape from the immigrant crowded city, and also to have a forum to grandstand their newfound wealth. Wealth which was made possible by the recent Industrial Revolution. Here they built extravagant “Country Homes” and had parties typical of the Gilded Age, showcasing their profound success and prestige.
In 1905, using her vast family fortune, Kate Macy Ladd and her husband Walter Ladd followed this trend and acquired roughly 1,000 acres in the rolling hills of Somerset County, near the last train stop out of Manhattan. They commissioned architects Guy Lowell and Henry Janeway Hardenbergh to design their 33,000 square-foot brick Tudor mansion on their estate; which they named Natirar, an anagram for Raritan. Green lawns slope gracefully from the mansion down to the very banks of the winding Raritan which traverses the estate for more then a mile in its course.
The architectural features of this Manor House are as timeless as it’s hilltop location. The exquisite brickwork, intricate limestone trim, and slate roof highlight the exterior features while molded plaster ceilings; wood-linen fold panels and teak floors adorn many rooms in the interior. Several of these features carried through to other structures once present on the estate such as cottages, carriage houses and gatehouses.
Unlike many of their contemporaries, the Ladd’s did not host glamorous parties or flaunt their wealth. Natirar became the primary residence of the Ladd’s, and Kate’s Quaker upbringing and values inspired her into a philanthropic life with a mission to help others. Specifically, she opened an estate cottage, The Maple Cottage, to help ladies in distress regain their strength after illness. After her death in 1945, the convalescence center was moved into the mansion where it provided resources to women for a period of 50 years from the death of Walter in 1933.
In 1983 the now 500 acres property was sold to The King of Morocco, Hassan II who only visited the property a handful of times. Malcolm Forbes, a friend of the King originally introduced the property to him as a way to have a property close to Princeton University, where the King’s sons attended. After his death, Mohammed VI of Morocco sold the 500 acres for $22 million to Somerset County in 2003. The ninety acres at the top of the property, which includes the Mansion, was then leased in a public-private partnership with the intent to restore this generational property back to greatness.