History Marks the Spot: Madison, Part 1

by Erin Feith, Research Assistant
July 2, 2024

Morris County’s 39 municipalities are home to a fascinating tapestry of historic sites recognized on the state and national level for their significance. Some famous, some little know, together they preserve the story of the people, industries, and culture that shaped our community. In the second blog of this series, MCHS highlights some of the sites to be found in Madison and how they contributed to the diverse and multifaceted county we live in today.

For the historic sites of Mine Hill and Wharton, check out this blog.

Gibbons Mansion (right) and Rose Memorial Library (left) with breezeway between.

Gibbons Mansion (Mead Hall): One of the few early-19th century millionaires, William Gibbons began construction of his sprawling mansion in 1833. By 1836, the Savannah native and his family took residence in the Greek Revival-style home, which they often called “the Forest” due to its verdant grounds. Following Gibbons’s death in 1852, the estate was sold to Daniel Drew, who established the Drew Theological Seminary and renamed the home Mead Hall in honor of his wife, Roxanna Mead Drew. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, the Gibbons Mansion now serves as an administrative building on the campus of Drew University.

Rose Memorial Library: By the mid-20th century, Drew University sought to expand and update their campus. Constructed in 1930 by architect Charles Z. Klauder, the Rose Memorial Library was connected via breezeway to the Gibbons Mansion. While boasting a modern interior, the library’s exterior closely resembled that of the mansion, complete with ionic columns and a brownstone foundation. Today, the Library still serves the University, containing over 900,000 titles.

The first Madison Public Library, today home to METC.

The James Building and the Madison Public Library: Built one year apart and owned by prominent local resident Dr. Willis James, the two structures share an interrelated history. In 1899, the James Building was erected to be a major commercial hub in Madison, located on the corner of its main thoroughfare. As arranged by Dr. James, rent from businesses occupying the spot went directly to support the construction and operation of a public library for the town. As a result of this plan, which continued until the Great Depression, the first Madison Public Library was built in 1900, boasting stenciled ceilings, oak woodwork and stained glass. Today, the Madison Public Library is occupied by the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (METC) and the James Building is home to a number of businesses, as well as the Education Annex of METC. Both structures were jointly named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Hartley Dodge Memorial Building: Upon purchasing the estate of Dr. Willis James and renaming it Giralda in 1916, Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge and Marcellus Hartley Dodge became longtime residents and benefactors of Madison. Following the tragic death of their only son, Marcellus Hartley Dodge Jr., in 1930, they constructed the Hartley Dodge Memorial in the center of town. Donating $800,000, the Dodges dedicated the marble and granite building in 1935. Since its completion, it has served as the town hall for Madison.

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