A nondescript building on Main Street in Orange is flanked by two parking lots. Its façade is covered in signs advertising businesses that no longer exist. Only a date, 1925, and a name, Manton Bradley Metcalf, carved into the lintel hint at the building’s legacy.
By their own description, the Metcalfs were one of the oldest family in the United States. Based first in Rhode Island, and owners of mills, early generations of the family were associated with Providence. The Rhode Island School of Design was a legacy of Jesse Metcalf, (birth date uncertain) who established the school in memory of his wife. A believer in “practical philanthropy,” Metcalf remarried. His fifth child from that union was Manton Bradley, born June 26, 1864, who moved to Orange.
Manton Bradley Metcalf joined the family business, the Wanskuck Company, also known as Metcalf Brothers and Co., wool merchants, in New York City. He married Susan Maud Browning in 1886, and had three children, according to Metcalf family records.
Their home in Orange was Ely Wynd, a ten-acre estate at the corner of South Centre Street and Elm-Wynd Drive. The home was adjacent to the Colgate family estate, according to records from The New York Times.
Mrs. Metcalf was “long active in social circles in the Oranges,” according to The New York Times. She belonged to the Women’s Club of Orange, the Bureau of Family Service of the Oranges, the Colony Club and the Essex County Country Club. A particular interest of the Metcalf family was the Welfare Foundation of the Oranges and Maplewood.
Looking for a country retreat, the Metcalf family built land in Rumson, the site of the Bonner family estate. New York architects JR and FB Hinchman designed a Georgian revival house. The house was constructed by commercial builders at work on a new office building for the family firm; thus, the home was built to higher standards than most homes of the time.
Named Apple Wynd, the 11,000-square foot house was typical of 1920s building in having a coal shed, a telephone room, a refrigeration room, and a screened sleeping porch. Less typical – or more surprising, at least – the house had a hidden liquor vault where, decades later, Cuban cigars, cases of scotch and a bottle of port that dated to the coronation of King George V were discovered. The house also allowed the Metcalf family to indulge their love of horses, as it had a polo field and stables where they established the Rumson Polo Club and the Monmouth County Hunt. The house and grounds are now known as Scothigh Farm.
Manton Metcalf died unexpectedly in 1923, even before the estate was completed. He was buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, and, two years later, his widow presented the Manton Bradley Metcalf Memorial Building on Main Street to the Welfare Foundation of the Oranges and Maplewood.
Susan Metcalf left Orange in 1929, selling her estate at the corner of South Centre Street and Elm-Wynd Drive to Sydney M. Colgate, chairman of the Colgate-Palmolive Company. Colgate intended planned to divide the land into small parcels with houses that cost from $35,000 to $150,000.
Susan Metcalf had homes then in Llewellyn Park and at 1060 Fifth Avenue. A story told by family recounted that, in the same year, Mrs. Metcalf lost a 77-pearl and diamond necklace as she was getting into a taxi. Another taxi driver found the pearls, and was rewarded with $5000, almost a year’s salary. Thus the houses that are known to us as Seven Oaks estates were a significant investment. Susan Metcalf died in 1945 at age 83.
What remains of the Metcalf family in Orange is a building and the street named Elm-Wynd Drive. If any readers know more, please add to the story of the Metcalfs, the Colgates, and the places they once lived nearby.