The Unique History of Pleasantdale Château
A genuine display of artisan craftsmanship and luxurious comfort, Pleasantdale Chateau has a long and storied past. In 1912, Charles Walter Nichols, a renowned industrial leader in New York City, purchased a number of contiguous Dutch farms in New Jersey. The farms and portions of the Château date to 1835, during the time of Andrew Jackson’s presidency and 30 years prior to the Civil War. They became known as “Pleasantdale Farms” on which the Nichols established their new home to escape the rigors of city life.
Mr. Nichols, who frequently traveled to Europe for business and pleasure, developed a fondness for the Norman architecture of Northern France and Southern England and thus retained Augustus N. Allen, an architect renowned for his great homes and buildings on Long Island and in New York City. Together, Nichols and Allen toured Europe seeking Norman-style buildings for inspiration that would shape the design of what is now Pleasantdale Château.
Their European tours also inspired the inclusion of 17th century tiles from Seville, Spain, which were laid in the entrance hall to the spectacular conservatory, now known as the Château’s “Fountain Room,” which is made entirely of richly colored Portuguese tiles. The indoor pool’s columns also feature intricately arranged Portuguese tiles.
With the goal of having the expansive grounds visually support such a spectacular château, renowned landscape architect Augustus E. Furlong was tasked with incorporating pristine woodlands, multiple ponds with interconnecting streams, bridges, and meandering paths. Antique gazebos and formal gardens embellish the landscape and to this day are maintained by skilled tradesmen.
After Mr. Nichols’ death in 1959, the house was left to the board of directors of his company, Allied Signal, for use as an exclusive corporate training retreat.
In 1994, the Knowles family acquired the estate, ensuring that its elegance and rich history would remain intact. This local, sixth generation family of restaurateurs also endeavored to expand upon the grand notion of the Château, updating it with deference to its history, so that the Château could be shared and enjoyed by a discerning public for use as a special occasion venue.
Chief among their efforts was the construction of the Grand Ballroom. This spectacular event space is unique in its self-supporting octagonal design and its English Georgian architectural style. The Knowles family also invested in several restorations that were made without sacrifice to the essential character of the buildings, and added over 900 trees throughout the estate.
In keeping with the property’s earlier roots as farmland, the family later restored the farm, greenhouse, and apiary on the grounds. To this day, they provide much of the produce, herbs, and honey that the Château, as well as the Knowles family’s West Orange restaurants, The Manor and Highlawn Pavilion, use in preparing meals for their guests.
The authentic and distinctive architecture has also made the estate a regularly sought after location for major motion picture and television productions, as well as design and style magazine shoots. The HBO hit, “The Sopranos,” shot multiple episodes on-site, often creating up to six sets throughout the Château. Other productions that have filmed at the Château include “The Hoax” with Richard Gere, multiple episodes of “Law & Order SVU,” Food Network programs, as well as the filming of several scenes of “Cadillac Records” starring Beyonce Knowles and Oscar winner Adrian Brody.
Today, Pleasantdale Château continues its legacy as one of the world’s great estates, available to the public for unparalleled special occasions and events.