Despite its location just off of busy Bloomfield Avenue and Route 23, Verona in Essex County is home to an estate often open to the public that is one of the best-kept secrets in the area.
Built between 1902 and 1905, Kip’s Castle, located on the First Watchung Mountain along the Montclair border at 22 Crestmont Road, has been owned by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs for the last decade. The mansion was originally referred to as Kypsburg, according to the Township of Verona, and was built for Frederic Ellsworth Kip, who was the president of Salt’s Textile Manufacturing Company, and his wife, Charlotte Bishop Williams Kip, who designed the grounds.
It later was owned by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the Schwartz, Tobia & Stanziale law firm, according to The New York Times, which describes the castle as “one of the state’s last estates that dates to America’s Gilded Age.”
In the years since the County acquired the property, it has been converted into the 11-acre Kip’s Castle Park, which is open daily. There are views of nearly the entire region from the grounds, from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the Jersey City and Manhattan skylines to Montclair Center.
Although the upper floors of the castle contain County offices and are not currently open to the public, visitors can take a free, self-guided tour of the first floor from 12:00pm to 3:00pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from May until December.
The first floor of the building is also decorated and open to the public during the annual Essex County Historic Holiday House Tour, and it can be rented for weddings and other events.