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Local History: A French Chateau in South Orange

Linden Lawn on North Ridgewood Road dates back to the early 20th century.

One of my favorite South Orange walks leads out of town and into the heart of London.  Or is it the Paris suburb, Fontainebleau? Neither, truly, but when I pass Linden Lawn, the stately home at the corner of North Ridgewood Road and Brookside, it’s easy to imagine that I’m far from home.

Linden Lawn was one of a handful of “named” houses in town when it was built in the early 20th century. In 1896, Edward and Josephine Gooch purchased the strip of property along Ridgewood Road. An architect who had recently moved from London, Gooch designed the house himself. A property restriction required the Gooches to build a home valued at $10,000; even a century ago, it wasn’t hard for the Gooch home to meet that standard. The chateau-style house was built with a distinctive mansard slate roof, a fountain in the circular drive, an elevator, and—imagine!—a third floor designated as servants’ quarters.

The Gooches had lived previously on Bryanson Square in London. Coincidentally, the current owner, Sam Joseph, lived just a block away 100 years later, while working at Harvey Nichols flagship store in Knightsbridge. According to Joseph, a local realtor and certified luxury home specialist, Gooch brought a linden tree, common in London, to South Orange. He and his wife planted it in the middle of the front yard, and christened the house Linden Lawn. 

When the Gooch family returned to their native London at the end of World War I, the house was sold to Mary MacMahon. She used the property for a small Catholic girls’ school. The home has changed hands a few times since then, and remains the property of Sam Joseph and Dan Arrighi. Joseph explains that, originally, the Linden Lawn property went as far up the hill as Forest Avenue, a fact borne out by a 1911 property map that shows the land owned by Harriet Hosker. According to Joseph, “Forest was one big mansion, and the circle at the top was a horsetrack for the owner to run his horses.”  Indeed, the “circle” at the top of Forest measures a precise quarter-mile.

Joseph also points out that two outbuildings, a servant’s home and a carriage house, still exist as private homes along the private road, Brookside Road. The tiny road runs alongside a deep cleft in the mountain, and follows a stream that eddies under Ridgewood Road. 

The linden of Linden Lawn continues to thrive and serve as a centerpiece to its grand front lawn. Indeed, it’s a landmark to me as I walk around South Orange. For the Gooches, the linden was a reminder of home. For me, this tree and the stunning house behind it are a reminder of where I’d like to travel, to a grand London home of the last century or an elegant chateau in Paris. This is my imaginary voyage, inspired by a tree, a house, and a walk along Ridgewood Road. 

Other source:

  • Welk, Naoma. Images of America: South Orange Revisited. Arcadia, 2006.

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