BY TOM HESTER SR.
As the result of what is described as a malfunctioning furnace, Ringwood Manor, the historic country house in the heart of Ringwood State Park in northern Passaic County, will be closed for the remainder of the winter to allow for the cleanup of soot that has covered artifacts, furniture, walls and floors.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday that a forced-air furnace misfired in January, spreading soot through parts of the first and second floors of the historic house. The State Park Service will be working with historical conservators to what the DEP describes as a careful and thorough cleaning of the interior of the house and artifacts.
The soot damage is the second major problem to effect Ringwood Manor in the past 11 months. In early March, one or more burglars struck what was the lightly guarded manor and stole valuable Hudson River School of Art paintings, antique weapons, two antique clocks, two vases, and a complete set of silverware. The crime has not been solved. The manor also displays, among other things, antique furniture, china, and statuary.
"This was a most unfortunate event at one of our premier and most popular historic sites," Amy Cradic, DEP assistant commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources, said. "The State Park Service will take every precaution necessary to ensure the protection of artifacts and the home's interior surfaces during the removal of soot."
Park Service personnel have been meeting with museum emergency response experts to discuss cleanup priorities and will work with qualified conservators during the cleanup process.
Ringwood Manor dates to the early 1800s, when its initial version was built by Martin John Ryerson, owner of the Pompton Ironworks. Hewitt, a partner in the iron-mongering firm of Cooper & Hewitt, expanded it in the early 1860s, and in 1878, a Paterson architect designed the manor hall. Abram Hewitt died in January 1903. His widow continued to use the manor as a summer residence until her death in August 1912 when their daughters, Sally and Nellie, inherited the manor. Their brother, Erskine Hewitt, presented the manor to the state in 1938.
Ringwood State Park and other buildings continue to maintain normal operating. Tours of the Manor House have been suspended pending completion of the cleanup. Most scheduled programs are taking place in other buildings around the manor.
The manor’s furnace system is being evaluated for repairs or replacement.