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The Strange History of Stonemere

Stonemere, 1937, Click to Enlarge.

Many estates in the Somerset Hills were grander, but few had as colorful a history as Bernardsville’s Stonemere.

The mansion was built around 1905 for James E. Hulshizer (1869-1921) of Jersey City, president of the New Jersey Title Guarantee and Trust Company.  Hulshizer and his family vacationed at the Somerset Inn on Mendham Road north of Bernardsville for several years and decided they liked the area.  In November 1904, Hulshizer bought a property from Robert P. Staats on Washington Corner Road, near Hardscrabble.  He began developing an impressive estate, which included more than 112 acres straddling Bernards and Mendham townships.[1]  Hulshizer hired architect Hugh Roberts (1867-1928), who later designed the Hudson County Court House, to draw up plans for a new brick and stone house,[2] originally called Maltheim.[3]

Hulshizer did not enjoy his estate for long.  In 1912, he sold it to the Bernardsville Land Company, of which he was president.  The company quickly sold it to Samuel S. Childs (1863-1925), owner of the Childs Restaurant chain.[4]  Hulshizer later worked as an executive for the Childs chain.[5]

Stonemere Lobby and Piano

Between 1919 and 1922 the property was owned by Gustave F. Saltzman and Charles E. Gremmels.   Then in 1922, Alberta Sigretto, acquired the estate.[6]  Alberta was the wife of Joseph L. Sigretto (c.1866-1940), a wealthy contractor.   The Sigrettos called the estate Stonemere and became famous, or infamous, because of their marital troubles.  It seems Joseph Sigretto or Cigaretta also had a wife and child in New York.  This discovery led Joseph and Alberta to divorce and several legal actions followed.   Alberta Sigretto later married James H. Germond.  In 1928, Joseph Sigretto was sued by his father-in-law (father of Sigretto’s first wife).  The father-in-law claimed to have incurred expenses raising Sigretto’s daughter.[7] 

In October 1928, the house was sold to the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, a charitable organization affiliated with the Freemasons.[8]  The Order operated a home for the aged in the mansion until approximately 1940 (see postcard photos).

Stonemere Library Fireplace

In 1947, the house again made headlines when it was the private residence of John D. Currence.  A skeleton was found concealed in a ceiling.  An investigation determined the bones were the remains of Mrs. Annie Christopher who had vanished from the Eastern Star home in 1931.  Mrs. Christopher apparently wedged herself into the ceiling crawlspace and remained undiscovered despite an extensive search in 1931.[9]

Stonemere was acquired in 1955 by Filomena Doherty, a registered nurse, who obtained variances to open it as the Stonemere Nursing Home.  Doherty also operated a dog kennel where she raised champion pugs.  On April 3, 1969, a fire broke out in Stonemere.   Twenty-nine elderly residents were safely evacuated, but the fire destroyed the building.[10]

After the fire, the Bernardsville Board of Adjustment did not allow Doherty to rebuild because a nursing facility was not a permitted use in the residentially zoned area and a new building would not have the residential appearance that the original structure did.[11]  The land was then subdivided and sold off for development.  Today, only Stonemere’s carriage house with its distinctive central tower survives on Carriage House Road.  


[1] Somerset Co. Deed Book J-10, p. 91

[2] Randall Gabrielan, “The Hudson County Court House and Hugh Roberts: A Building and Architect in Perspective,” NJS: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Summer 2018, p. 77-78, Download pdf.

[3] “Eastern Star Home Opens Oct. 13,” Bernardsville News, Sept. 20, 1928, p. 1

[4] Somerset Co DB C-13:10 and DB H-13:329.

[5] “James E. Hulshizer Dies,” Bernardsville News, Dec. 22, 1921, p. 1.

[6] Somerset Co DB X-16:384 and DB Z-18:188.

[7] “Sigretto Is Sued by Father-In-Law,” Bernardsville News, Sept. 6, 1928, p. 2.

[8] Somerset Co DB J-21:250.

[9] “Identify Skeleton Found In Ceiling,” Bernardsville News, Mar. 6, 1947, p.1.

[10] “Fire Cause Unknown,” Bernardsville News,  Apr. 10, 1969, p. 1.

[11] Bernardsville News, Jun. 23, 1977, p. 20.

Comments

  1. Roy such an interesting article. I didn’t know anything about Stonemere. Many of the mansions on the Bernards Mountain had storied pa8tes and it’s interesting learn more about them. Thanks for posting.

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