Below is historical information about the Old Carriage House, which has been home to the Fanwood Performance Series since 2009. The building is currently undergoing much-needed repairs and restoration. In the meantime, our shows are being held at the community building in Fanwood's Forest Road Park.
The Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center
Also known as "The Old Carriage House"
The Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center is a charming old carriage house that has long been hosting the Poetry Series, Philathalian Theatre Group, various fine art gatherings, Borough of Fanwood meetings, and the Fanwood Performance Series. It is a beautifull historic ginger bread horse barn that has excellent acoustics and is considered by audience and performers alike as an intimate "listening room"! With the help of a grant from Union County and the donations we receive on the evening of performances, many upgrades to the performance space have been made including a professional sound system and performance gear.
The Old Carriage House was once part of the Historic Homestead Hotel where the Borough of Fanwood Bourough Hall now stands. It was used for many years as a horse barn and housed the carriages and sleighs that the hotel used to pick up guests at the Fanwood Train Station. The horse stalls are still in their original configuration but the rest of the structure has been updated, renovated, and added to over the years. Ask to take a peak at the old horse stables the next time you attend a performance!
Below you will find a number of articles from various sources which discuss the hisory of the Carriage house and Old Holmstead Hotel.
The following is an article from: "http://www.visitfanwood.com/arts/kuran.htm":
Built circa 1750, the main building began as a humble pre-Revolutionary War farmhouse. The identity of the first owners is unknown. During the mid-nineteenth century, the farmhouse underwent various changes and became a guest house for visitors to the community. In time, a rear wing was added, and as many as fifty guests could be comfortably accommodated. The site was ultimately transformed into a showplace destined to become a prestigious summer health resort for the affluent and elite.
Its modest beginnings notwithstanding, the changing structure grew to three stories and was distinguished by high ceilings, wide floorboards, and decorative fireplaces. The realignment of the railroad tracks through "Fanwood Cut" in 1874-75 brought new numbers of visitors to what was, at the time, a country area. Known until circa 1890 as the Russell House, the guest house grew in popularity as a haven for city dwellers who sought escape from the confines of more urban areas during the hot summer months and as a picturesque site for spring, autumn, and winter retreats.
The property was purchased by the Boucher family (two maiden sisters and their brother) around 1890 and was renamed "The Homestead." A large dining room was designed and became the center for musical evenings, dances, and other social events for the guests and invited towns people. Tennis courts and croquet areas were also added for the guests' entertainment.
The Homestead property included several out buildings and a carriage house. A chicken coop stood on Watson Road at the current site of the Fanwood Rescue Building. This was a long, low, white washed structure that also served as a shelter for sheep and cows until the early 1960s. A smoke house, about the size of a one-car garage, was located immediately to the read of the main house. For many years, this building functioned as the hotel kitchen and was later used to store maintenance equipment. The carriage house functioned as a barn for horses and a storage facility for the carriages needed to transport visitors to and from the railroad station.
Although portions of the original carriage house no longer exist, the structure's unique architectural Gothic Revival character, brick and stone foundation, board and batten siding, grain bins, and horse stalls remain intact. The original building had sliding barn doors and double-hinged doors with Italianate paneling. Recent renovations have included a new staircase, installation of a fire safety features, and a patio on the Borough Hall side of the building. At one time, all the Homestead buildings stood in the shadow of majestic oaks in the center of well-groomed lawns and abundant foliage.
After the deaths of the Bouchers, around 1931, the Slocum family purchased the property and proceeded with extensive alterations in order to remodel the structure for residential living. Much of the Homestead building was eliminated, including the rear wing and the wide porches that surrounded the structure.
When the Slocums moved away in 1974, the property (including the Carriage House) was purchased by the Borough of Fanwood. It was hoped that the building might be utilized as a new Borough Hall; however, after considerable study and debate, the building was found unsuitable and was finally demolished in 1978. Today, only the tree-lined, circular driveway and the Carriage House remain.
The Following is an article from: "http://www.fanwoodnj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/1999-09-Fanwoodian.pdf":
"The development of the Fanwood Carriage House as a community arts center was one of Mayor Maryanne Connelly’s goals when she began her term of office. Early in 1999, the Carriage House was renamed The Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center in honor of former Mayor Patricia Kuran whose efforts resulted in preserving the historic building when other parts of the estate were dissolved. In March of 1999, Mayor Connelly established the Fanwood Cultural Arts Committee with the objective of working toward full realization of cultural arts opportunities in Fanwood in addition to the long-time Philathalian Theater Group productions at the Center...
...The committee cites, among its goals, the provision of a center where residents of all backgrounds can gather for shared arts experiences through diversified programming which will encourage and enhance cultural arts awareness, appreciation, education, and participation. Along with this goal is the objective to work cooperatively with the Council and other Fanwood committees to protect and preserve the former Carriage House for future generations.
The following is an article from: "http://www.fanwoodnj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2000-03-Fanwoodian.pdf":
One of the structures of historical importance in the Borough is the building housing the Patricia Kuran Cultural Arts Center which previously had been called the Carriage House. The structure once housed the carriages, the sleighs and the horses which served The Homestead, a popular country resort for as many as fifty guests before the turn of the twentieth century. The Homestead had spacious porches and verandas, tennis and croquet courts, and tidy gardens in its five acres of grass and lush foliage. A graceful horseshoe-shaped driveway lined with majestic trees provided access from Martine Ave... The Carriage house is its only surviving remains. For more than fifteen years the Philathalians theater group had used the structure as a theater for their annual productions. With the recent disbanding of the Philathalians whose origins date back to the mid 1930s...
In recent years over one hundred thousand dollars of grant money was spent on the construction of a rest room in the building, a new roof, window replacement, a new staircase to the upper level, some electrical upgrading, a fire suppression sprinkler system, and painting of the exterior. A kitchenette facility that was installed by the Philathalians has been removed to provide for handicap access to the rest room. A circulating hot air system provides heat for the building... Mr. Mark Hewitt, an architect retained by the Borough with expertise in the preservation of historical structures, indicated that the lack of documentation on the structure’s origins and its various stages of development might handicap an effort to include it in the register of national historic places. The Carriage House cannot be restored to its original status as a shelter for horses, carriages and sleighs that served The Homestead in a bygone era. Its rehabilitation as a public place with a range of uses still to be determined will be a constructive step to preserve an important piece of the Borough’s historical legacy.