Fanwood Arts Council
In 1998, as a project funded in part by The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Department of State (through a grant administered by the Union County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs), the Carriage House Poetry reading Series was established in Fanwood. This project brought eight of the finest contemporary poets in the United States into our community, including New Jersey's first Poet Laureate, the 1998 National Book Award Winner, and a Pulitzer Prize recipient. The Reading Series was so well received during its 1998-99 season that former mayor Maryann Connelly and grant author/series director Adele Kenny began to discuss the establishment of a more comprehensive arts program for the community. In March 1999, The Fanwood Cultural Arts Committee was established as a special Mayor´s Committee.
The site for community cultural arts events—the Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center (formerly the Fanwood Carriage House) - is one of Fanwood's historic landmarks, a 19th century building that once housed the carriages, sleighs, and horses for the Homestead, a popular country resort before the turn of the 20th century, which stood where the present Borough Hall is located. In 2005 the Arts Committee's name was changed by Mayor Colleen Mahr to the "Fanwood Arts Council."
The Arts Council seeks:
- To maintain a cultural arts program that will provide a wide range of arts experiences for Fanwood's residents as well as guests from other communities.
- To create a venue in which New Jersey artists will bring their particular gifts and talents to the public.
- To preserve and develop the Kuran Center as a diversified and fully functioning arts center.
- To present programs that will encourage cultural arts awareness, appreciation, education, and participation.
- To work cooperatively with the Mayor and Council and other Borough commissions and committees for the benefit of our residents.
The committee holds as its "motto" Tolstoy's statement in What is Art? - "Art, like speech, is a means of communication and therefore of progress, that is, of the movement of humanity towards perfection." many Arts Council events have been taped and shown on Fanwood's community access television station, Channel 35 (Verizon Channel 24)
Arts Council members are appointed by the Mayor, but volunteers are always needed to assist with various activities. Grants, Fanwood´s Council, and donations from our local merchants have helped support past programs. Donations are always needed and are gratefully received.
Carriage House History
The Carriage House, now known as the Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center, faces Watson Road, across for our new Carriage House Pocket Park, and is located on the grounds of Borough Hall. It is the only building left on the site of the Homestead, a late Victorian resort hotel. The Patricia M. Kuran Cultural Arts Center is home to the Fanwood Arts Council.
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.