Local Color

The Chatham Library Was Once the Site of a Luxury Hotel

The Fairview House used to stand where the Library of the Chathams is located Credits: Chatham Historical Society
The Fairview House used to stand where the Library of the Chathams is located Credits: Chatham Historical Society

DID YOU KNOW that the Library of the Chathams sits on a site formerly occupied by a luxury hotel? And that the hotel’s livery stable stood facing Passaic Avenue, near where Memorial Pool currently sits?

Chatham was a popular destination during the Resort Era, which spanned from the 1880s through the start of World War I. The Fairview House opened its doors as a summer hotel for the well-heeled seeking a picturesque setting and healthy country air. Prior to the Fairview House, Chatham had several hotels and boarding houses serving travelers passing through town. But it was the prestigious Fairview House that put Chatham on the map as a resort destination.

William Martin, a summer resident of Chatham with a mansion atop “the hill” (Fairmount Avenue), had the hotel built by Chatham’s premiere carpenter Merrit B. Lum. It was a sprawling, grand hotel, three stories tall with two levels of porches running the full length of the front. The white-shingled structure was anchored on either end by grand gables, surrounded by tall pine and maple trees. Approximately, 150 guests could be accommodated at a room rate in the 1890s of $3 per night.

Sign Up for E-News

Wealthy New Yorkers traveling through Chatham on their way to visit friends on Morristown’s “Millionaires Row” would stop at Fairview House to break up the trip and change out horses. Guests of the hotel typically arrived in their own coaches, stabling their horses in the hotel’s livery stables. Others arrived by train coming from New York City, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Newark.

The hotel offered horses and carriages for hire. A typical day trip for hotel guests would be a carriage ride through the woods to Morristown to get some ice cream. Guests also relaxed on the banks of the Passaic River and canoed on Parrott’s Pond. Other popular pastimes included euchre tournaments, lawn tennis, and bowling. Guests interested in more leisurely pursuits passed the time rocking contentedly in the many rocking chairs lining the hotel’s front porches.

On summer Saturday nights, Fairview House treated hotel guests to music and dance-filled parties called “hops.” Local residents often found their way into these festivities. Occasionally, Chatham residents held hops and euchre tournaments off-season at the hotel as charity events.

One of the country’s first big movie stars, Clara Kimball Young, created a buzz in Chatham when she and fellow castmates of Thomas Edison’s first film stayed at the Fairview House while filming in a wooded area that is now Canoe Brook Country Club.

In the early 1900s, the popularity of the Fairview house began to wane with the advent of the motorcar.  Cars allowed the well-to-do easier access to more sophisticated destinations. The formerly splendid hotel became rundown and more of a local watering hole than a retreat for out-of-towners. With the start of World War I in 1914, the Chatham Red Cross used the Fairview House dining room as its headquarters, returning bustling activity to the dying hotel.

In March of 1918, a fire started in the barroom of the Fairview House. Bitter temperatures and high winds made it a difficult fire to fight. The fire was contained but the bar was destroyed. The Red Cross’s operations were relocated to the Fish & Game Club. 

Prohibition delivered the final nail to the coffin for the Fairview House, when residents voted to make Chatham a “dry” town. All establishments serving liquor were given 30 days to shut down.

At the end of World War I, there was a strong stirring among the Chatham community to build a memorial honoring the 137 residents who served in the war. Around the same time, the Fairview House and surrounding property were put up for sale for $25,000. In February of 1919, Chatham resident Charles M. Lum proposed that the former Fairview House land, comprising about 5-3/4 acres, be purchased to create a Memorial Park to include an athletic field, a playground and a site to build a public library. 

Funds were raised through popular subscription, and Memorial Field was dedicated to Chatham’s World War I veterans on July 5, 1920. Further funding for the library came from a Lum family friend who in his will left $30,000 to the Chatham Library in memory of Charles Lum’s father, Frederick Harvey Lum, the first mayor of Chatham. The dedication ceremony for the Chatham Library was on May 10, 1924.

Ninety-three years later, the Library of the Chathams still sits proudly among the tall trees, it’s walkway welcoming residents up from Main Street; children still play on the playground and athletic fields of Memorial Park; and both the Chathams still honor their veterans with a ceremony each Memorial Day.

Local color is written by Sharon Knightly, who grew up in Chatham Township and returned years later with her husband, Jack, to raise their family here.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Update: Driver Escapes Icy River After Car Goes Off GSP Near Clark/Cranford Border

March 21, 2018

This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. Thursday.

CLARK, NJ — A car went off the road and into the river on the northbound Garden State Parkway between the Clark and Cranford exits during Wednesday night’s snow storm.

According to Clark’s chief of police, Pedro Matos, the car’s driver managed to escape the water — divers went into the river and determined the car ...

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting on March 19

March 22, 2018

Following the board announcements, I noted the increased police presence at each of our ten schools, thanking the town and police department for their efforts.  I also noted that we’ve been working on updating our crisis communication plan in light of today’s climate of instant communication.

Board president Gretchan Ohlig thanked the mayor and police chief for working with ...

Upcoming Events


Fri, March 23, 12:00 PM

Resolve, Scotch Plains

Free Teen Anxiety Group (Ages 14-17) at Resolve


Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM


March for Our Lives - Westfield

Government Law & Justice

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Burent Middle School , Union

Union County Wide - March for Our Lives

Government Law & Justice

Westfield Police Blotter: More Than $2K Worth of Items Reported Stolen from Business, & More

March 21, 2018

March 11, 2018 6:42 p.m.

Marion Bethea, age 56, of Roselle, was arrested on the strength of an outstanding warrant for her arrest from Columbia Municipal Court in the amount of $500 pursuant to a motor vehicle stop. Subject was processed and released on recognizance.


March 16, 2018 11:16 a.m.

Blas Barquin, age 34, of Cranford, NJ, was arrested on the strength of an outstanding ...

Enjoy 5 Engaging Films at the Spring Jewish Film Festival of Central NJ

March 22, 2018

The Jewish Film Festival of Central NJ is pleased to present five films this spring at the Rialto NewVision Theater, 250 East Broad Street in Westfield. Screenings begin April 10 and run through May 7. All films start at 7:30 p.m.

We begin the spring series with The Testament on Tuesday, April 10. In The Testament, an uncompromising Holocaust researcher uncovers highly classified evidence that ...

Staying On Top

Some people are bulldozers. They move mountains, conquer countries, achieve the seemingly impossible. But then when there are no more mountains to climb, they falter. Routines, maintenance and sustainability are not their strong points. They respond to excitement and challenge, not to the uneventful, monotonous daily grind.

The title word of this week's Parshah, Tzav, means ...

White Standard Poodle Missing from 700 Block of Belvidere Ave. in Plainfield

A Plainfield neighbor in the 700 block of Belvidere Ave. is missing Chanel, her standard white poodle, who ran out the door and was last seen near Leland and Cushing avenues toward Union County College on Wednesday evening.

Chanel is not wearing a collar or tags, and is not micro-chipped.  She has been recently groomed and weighs about 36 pounds.  She is friendly, but may not come if ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...

Can I Change My Partner?

March 21, 2018

Couples oftentimes look to change the “other.” “If only” the other would make these changes, or do as I say, our relationship would be great. We tend to focus on the other. We tend to focus on changing the other. We tend to focus on the other’s negative behavior. Couples like to report what their spouse/partner is doing and how they are ...

16 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Sixteen homes sold last week, March 11 to March 18, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Cranford:*


TOWN        ADDRESS                  STYLE           RMS    ...

Charitable Spirit Alive and Well in Westfield Public Schools

Students, staff and parents in Westfield Public Schools continue the district’s long tradition of helping others both in and outside of the community, with a number of students recently recognized for their efforts.

Fifteen Westfield High School juniors and sophomores were honored by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey for collecting more than 5,000 pounds of food items for families in ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


Financially Savvy Charitable Giving: Donor-Advised Funds

Americans are known to be philanthropic, with an estimated 83% donating to charitable causes. Making the donation convenient and tax-effective is a win-win for both charities and those with a generous heart. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are a simplistic funding structure available to those with both small and large charitable giving pots.  

Mechanics of Donor Funds

DAFs can be set up ...


Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

Suspended Hillsborough HS Athletic Director Charged with Theft

March 19, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ — Suspended Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Michael Fanizzi has been arrested and charged with the theft of $10,704 in athletic event receipts over a four-year period from 2013-2017, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Fanizzi, 53, a resident of Conover Way in Hillsborough who had been athletics director for 14 years, had been ...