|The Strauss Mansion|
The Strauss Mansion and Museum, located at 27 Prospect Circle in Atlantic Highlands (view map) , is open every Sunday from 1-4pm. The museum is the home of the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society and is the only Queen Anne Style building open to the public in Monmouth County.
The mansion now holds various permanent displays and period furnished rooms including a Victorian parlor, turn of the century tool room, Native American and Lenape room, and a library. A Victorian style garden was established last spring.
The mansion also houses a gift shop which sells various publications and gifts.
Admission is free. For more information please leave a message at the Strauss Mansion 732-291-1861 or email us.
The Strauss Mansion is a 21-room house built in 1893 for use as a “summer cottage” by Adolph Strauss, a wealthy New York importer and merchant with offices at 120 Broadway. He was one of a group of friends who all owned brownstone houses on 49th Street in New York City where they spent the winter months. They all put up large houses in the rapidly developing town of Atlantic Highlands, on newly created concentric circles of streets capping the hill above Sandy Hook Bay. They nicknamed themselves the “49ers”, an echo of their Manhattan home street and also the Gold Rush.
Designed in Queen Anne style, the house is almost on top of the highest elevation in the Victorian town. From high floors, there are wide views over the town and the hills beyond, to the bay below and along the shoreline stretching to the west, and out to Sandy Hook Bay and the New York skyline. The eccentric roof line has peaks, dormers and gables and a variety of shapes and textures. Its two front towers, unique in town, are circular on one corner and six-sided on the other corner; in fact, the house originally was called "The Towers." A two-story porch wraps around three sides of the house. There are 69 doors and 70 windows. It probably had gas lighting and gas-operated fireplaces, based on piping found during restoration.
The size and decor of the house matched the Strauss' lifestyle. There was space for a family of nine and frequent entertainment of guests.The children's names were Morris, James, Rosalie, Lenora, Flora, Emma and Alice. Adolph's brother Nathan was also listed as a resident in 1895.
Bought in July 1892, the property consists of three lots from the town layout made by the Atlantic Highlands Association (today known as Block 76 Lot 6). Two were bought from John L. Perrine, and one from Thomas Henry Leonard. Nothing is known of the gardens surrounding the house.
Adolph Strauss died in 1905. His estate sold the property in 1907 to Ferdinand Minroth who owned the house into the 1930s. Its twelve subsequent owners took it through a varied life as a year-round home, apartment building, and even as the setting for a mystery movie. By 1980 it had fallen into deplorable condition and was condemned by the town. For a purchase price of $26,000, the Historical Society took ownership of the property on January 22, 1981 for use as a museum, library and headquarters. It also soon paid $1,500 to get back original stained glass windows which the previous owner had taken away.
Over the years, the many owners of the Strauss Mansion had each expressed personal ideas of decoration, but fortunately always kept intact the basic integrity of the structure and many original architectural details. Paneling, floors, stained glass windows, molded plaster cornices and ceiling medallions all survived. Under ugly asbestos siding was found a pattern of fish-scale and pointed shingling.
In the early 1980s, extensive restoration of the outside and the first floor was accomplished largely through volunteer efforts and donations of professional labor. Electrical circuitry, plumbing, two new ceilings and some carpentry were all donated by local artisans. Members of the Local 694 Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades painted the large porches with donated paint and equipment. Hundreds of hours were spent by members, clearing out debris, landscaping the grounds, cleaning and wallpapering, repairing and rebuilding.
The culmination of this act of faith and courage (some said foolhardiness) was June 8, 1986, when the first floor of the museum was opened to the public. After further work, the second floor was restored and opened in 1989. About half the third floor was refinished as of 1996. Major fundraising at community-level made it possible finally in 1999 to install a heating system, fight off cold and mold, and use the Strauss Mansion year-round for the first time.
Strauss Mansion stands as a strong example of how the Historical Society works to preserve the history of our area and to educate present and future citizens about it. The next stage of its restoration will permit the Mansion to expand its community roles, becoming an information and outreach center that helps interpret, preserve and promote the town's historic district and the heritage of the area.
Architecturally , a prime example of an elaborate Victorian summer cottage: 2-story porches wrap around three sides. Eccentric roof with multiple dormers, peaks, gables, gambrels, and hips. Two corner towers -- one round, one six-sided. Natural wood shingles. Seven stained glass windows. It's the only Victorian mansion in Queen Anne style open to the public in Monmouth County.
Geographically , it sits on steeply pitched land near the summit of the old town, with commanding views over the bay and historic district. It is part of "The Circle" of cottages built on Prospect Avenue by wealthy summer residents from New York City.
Culturally , it represents the life style of a coastal resort town from Monmouth County's "Golden Age". At the same time, it was within easy reach of the great New York metropolis by steamer boat and train.
Historically , it reflects not only the house design, but also the home life, social and community patterns of the Victorian boom era. Visitors experience this through its furnishings, decoration, displays, and museum materials.
Restoration: Boarded up and destined for wrecking in 1980, it was saved by the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society. It has gone from urgent rescue, to rehabilitation, to restoration still in progress. Twenty years of community effort have brought the mansion back to life as an historic resource and museum on all eras of local history -- Lenape, colonial, Victorian, and modern. This revival has been supported by community donations, volunteer labor, fund-raising events, member dues, and grants from the Monmouth County Historical Commission and New Jersey state.