WAYNE, NJ – The Dey Mansion is one of Wayne’s most important historical sites and is a museum to the time when it served as General George Washington’s headquarters during July, October, and November of 1780. The formal garden area to the north of the mansion has been painstakingly restored to its 1930s design over the last fourteen months.
When the property was acquired by the Passaic County Park Commission in the 1930s, formal gardens were first planted to the north of the mansion. “However, by the 1980s the Dey Mansion gardens had begun to deteriorate and most of the 1934 landscaping had been lost,” said Jessica Bush the Museum Curator for the Passaic County Department of Cultural and Historic Affairs.
“The idea of restoring the Dey Mansion formal gardens started back in 2006, the designs were finally approved in 2017 and the work to restore the gardens began last summer,” said Bush.
During the American Revolution the Dey Mansion property was owned by Colonel Theunis Dey who served in the Bergen County Militia, but in 1801, Dey’s eldest son, General Richard Dey, sold the homestead and 335 acres of land around it. “From then on, various private owners possessed the mansion and surrounding acreage until January 10, 1930, when it was acquired by the Passaic County Park Commission,” said Bush.
“During the winter of 1933-34 it was restored under the supervision of Charles Over Cornelius, architect and former associate curator of decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Bush.
Cornelius restored the mansion to its 1780 design, and it opened as a museum on October 8, 1934. It wasn’t until 1941 that the formal gardens were finished around the site.
“When the Dey family lived here, they wouldn’t have had a formal garden out back. It was a working farm, so there would’ve been vegetable and herb gardens there,” said Bush. “However, in the 1930s the movement was colonial revival and beautification, and so the back was turned into a beautiful garden setting, designed by the Olmsted Brothers who were the preeminent designers for public parks in the 1930s.”
According to Bush, the original plans for the species of plants and flowers for the garden called for things that “didn’t do well in an area full of deer and ground hogs and the like, and back then, it was volunteers who came and watered the plants and weeded, so it was a continuous difficulty to keep the garden thriving.”
“With this restoration, we have a nice irrigation system, and we have plantings that will survive fluctuations in weather and the natural environment including the local animal population,” said Bush.
“This area is very special and with the gardens restored, it’s just a really nice place to go and sit. Its relaxing and peaceful. We’ve had a wedding here and another is scheduled in October. We’re looking to use it more for special occasions,” said Bush.
This Saturday, September 25, the Historic Dey Mansion and Passaic County invite you to attend the Garden Extravaganza and ribbon-cutting for the Dey Mansion Formal Gardens. The event is from 4:00pm – 7:00pm. There is a nominal fee of $25.00 per family which includes entrance to the museum and food, drinks, games and live music.
The ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 5:00pm.
For more information and reservations, please call: 973-706-6640