Kingsland Manor, a Brief History

Kingsland Manor: Out of the Past

History and Legends Merge in 1700s Colonial Manor

The history and legends surrounding Nutley's Kingsland Manor are fascinating. Far more than just another early American homestead, the Kingsland Manor has a captivating personality and charm.

The brownstone and lumber from which it was built were still unquarried and uncut in 1668 when Major Nathaniel Kingsland of Barbados dispatched his nephew, Capt. William Sandford to the territory of East Jersey to acquire land for British colonization.

Bus McGinnity origial art. George Washington Surveyer, Kingsland Manor, Nutley NJ

Bus McGinnity Rendering

The task was accomplished and Sandford purchased in his own name 15,000 acres between the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers seven miles north from their confluence in Newark Bay. It was called New Barbados.

Sandford built a home near what is now Union Avenue, Lyndhurst, in 1670. Soon after, he agreed with Major Kingsland that the territory would be divided between them. The Major retained the portion north of a line from Snake Hill in the Meadows to a 'blazed tree” in what is now Belleville.

Sandford's home was taken over by Isaac Kingsland, another nephew of the Major, in 1673. The first Kingsland to settle here, Isaac, fled London because he had married the daughter of his employer against her father's wishes. His wife disowned and himself jobless, Isaac had written to his wealthy Uncle Nathaniel in Barbados for help.

Nathaniel offered him the New Barbados tract and a home to settle in if he would come and develop the land. Making his home in Sandford's house, Isaac became an influential force in developing East Jersey, serving two terms on the King's Council. Later another brother, Gustavus, joined Isaac. Thus, began the Kingsland “dynasty” in America.

It was Isaac's grandson, Joseph Kingsland, who purchased the Nutley property in 1790. Born in Kingsland, Bergen County in 1738, Joseph grew up across the Passaic River.

The Kingsland family was torn by loyalty to the crown and devotion to American freedom and independence. Our Joseph was a Tory with such a loyalty to King George, that during the Revolution he emigrated to Nova Scotia, where he remained until after the conflict.

Joseph Kingsland then returned to New York City and took up residence at 29 Greenwich Street. There he ran a lumber yard and made a living as a carpenter. Needing timber to fill an order for curbing for New York Town, Joseph looked to the forests of New Jersey.

He found the perfect spot by the mouth of the Third River across from his boyhood home. He set his slaves to work felling trees and, in the Third River Saw Mill he erected, he cut them into curbing, which was shipped on his sloops to the developing city from a dock at the mouth of the Yantacaw or Third River.

Kingsland Manor: The Nutley Tract

1700s Colonial Manor Obtained in Sheriff's Sale

The Kingsland family records show that the property was in the hands of John and James Walls, both of Newark, Essex County. The Walls were living on about 40 acres of land running north and west from the mouth of Stinkers Fells along the Third River to the mill dam where there was a grist mill; near the mill was a small brownstone house.

The Walls seemed to have financial difficulties before and following the Revolution. The property was collateral for several loans, one with a John Robinson in 1753 and another with a William Millener of New York City in 1771. Millener in turn, released the property to a widow, Jane Knox, of New York City.

The same tract, with the Walls still living on it, was brought up for foreclosure before the New Jersey Supreme Court by Mrs. Knox in 1790. After Mrs. Knox won the judgment, the property was sold to Joseph Kingsland. The deed actually states that Kingsland purchased the property at a Sheriff’s sale on November 22, 1790 for eleven pounds, five shillings.

The Kingsland family moved into an enlarged house in 1796 with at least five of their nine children. Isaac John remained in York City to conduct his father's business, one daughter, Mary, died in 1778 at the age of two, another daughter, Hannah, was married and Benjamin had not yet been born.

We discovered evidence of a third floor sleeping loft in the main section of the house above two large rooms and one smaller room, reconciling a family of eleven with servants living in the home.

Kingsland Manor: Tall Tales

Restored 1700s Colonial Manor Hints of Indian Raids, Secret Tunnels, Underground Railroad

- But Are They True or Tall Tales?

The house has been described as containing “17 rooms, 2 kitchens, ballroom, slave prison, slaughter house, smoke house and underground Indian raid cellar, 125 foot tunnel leading to a stone barn fort, solitary confinement torture pen with manacle leg irons, neck yokes, a double ball and chain captors”.

Main entrance, Kingsland Manor, Nutley NJ

Kingsland Manor Main Entrance

How much of this description is lore? There were probably no Indian raids in 1796. A sub-basement, most likely a root cellar, was probably the “underground Indian raid cellar”.

A resident of Clifton, however, swears the tunnel still traverses her yard and a number of Nutley residents have sworn that they saw the chains and manacles.

 At the word of a Nutley man who says he was present the day the tunnel was bricked up, archaeologists are drilling through a wall of the root cellar.

Preliminary probes show the tunnel, if there, is filled with dirt, stones and coal; how long and where it goes is still to be answered.

 Furthermore, Joseph Kingsland was very considerate and humane in his dealings with his slaves. The tales of manacles and torture pen do not agree with his last will and testament concerning the care of his slaves after his death.

Legends of the Manor as a station on the underground railroad prior to the Civil War also tend to discredit any tales of mistreatment of Kingsland servants.

Kingsland Manor: The Homestead

The Kingsland Family Homestead to Generations

As for the homestead itself, as the members of the Kingsland family called it, the main section was probably built around 1768 with a small summer kitchen annexed in the 1790s. Other interior renovations and three dormers were added to the front of the house in the same period. 

Joseph Kingsland portrait, Kingsland Manor, Nutley NJIn about 1860, a separate outbuilding which served as a barn was connected to the main house and converted into the “ballroom” by Joseph, Jr. who inherited the homestead. At this time, the triangular dormers at the back of the house were added, changing the character of the house to Victorian.

 Kingsland branched into the paper business with such an abundance of wood pulp available in the woods nearby. Joseph and his son-in-law, Peter Morris, operated the “Madison Mills”. During this time, the partners purchased many tracts of land along the Essex/Passaic County line, mostly in the Delawanna area.

After Joseph senior died in 1821, Joseph Jr. and Morris continued operations. The sons of Joseph Jr., Joseph III and Richard Kingsland continued paper manufacture in the “Passaic Mills” after their father retired in 1856. The mill burned in 1873.

The Manor served the Kingslands well. Joseph Jr. lived there until his death in 1878 and his two daughters, Martha and Margaret lived there until 1902. After almost 120 years of Kingslands in residence the homestead changed hands in 1909.

Kingsland Manor: Keeping Pace

From Colonial Manor to Speakeasy to Private Home to Living Museum

Katheriine and Bernard 'Bus' McGinnity wth boxing gloves worn by Bob Fitzsimmons  at Kingsland Manor, Nutley, NJThe building kept up with the times. In 1909, the McGinnity family purchased the home. Daniel McGinnity, a famous fight promoter and entertainment entrepreneur, used Nutley as a training camp for his prize fighters.

It was Bernard “Bus” McGinnity, Daniel’s son who ran a speak-easy in the basement of the Kingsland Manor during Prohibition.

After Prohibition was repealed, he and his mother, Katherine, ran it as the Colonial Club until their liquor license was revoked. Then the Manor became known as the Nutley Private Hospital, as the McGinnitys operated a convalescent home.

 On June 6, 1938, Assemblywoman Olive Sanford, suggested that Nutley purchase the house at a Sheriff’s sale for roughly $4,000 in back taxes and liens. The idea that it be made into a local museum was rejected by the Town Commission.

Ralph Smith rescued the house at the Sheriff’s sale, refurbishing the building, adding another dormer and indoor plumbing.

The house was then owned by L. John Denney, an ITT Vice President. He in turn sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Norman Schepps of Passaic. During their residence, the remaining modernization took place. When they moved in 1973, the future of Kingsland Manor was in jeopardy.

Created in 1973, the Historic Restoration Trust of Nutley is a group of actively interested citizens whose continuing task is to move Kingsland Manor toward the broad goal of landmark, museum and local activity resource. Working in committees, the volunteers have set the restoration program on course.

Bus McGinnity Speakeasy 2018 Renovations

The Bus McGinnity Speakeasy is taking shape and we're about ready to install a bar.

Opening The Bus McGinnity Speakeasy to visitors will be announced when renovations are complete. Meanwhile visit our open house tour for more background on where this gin joint was located in good old Nutley, New Jersey.

The Bus McGinnity Speakeasy Renovations, Kingsland Manor, Nutley, NJ The Bus McGinnity Speakeasy Renovations, Kingsland Manor, Nutley, NJ

The Bus McGinnity Speakeasy Renovations, Kingsland Manor, Nutley, NJ  The Bus McGinnity Speakeasy Renovations, Kingsland Manor, Nutley, NJ

We believe that Bus constructed his bar out of old panel doors. If you have any 30" to 32" wooden panel doors that you would be interested in donating to our project, please contact the Kingsland Manor on our Gmail account or leave a message on our phone 973-661-3410. Thank you.

Kingsland Manor: Toward the Future

Last of 40-acre 1700s Colonial Manor Preserved, Restored

The latest chapter opened when the then owner requested permission to subdivide two side-yards and build new homes on them. By 1973 the original 40 acres had dwindled to one acre.

Bus McGinnity origial art. George Washington, Kingsland Manor, Nutley NJ

A Planning Board member petitioned the Town Commission to save the site. A Green Acres grant was sought and eventually the Town purchased the Kingsland Manor shortly thereafter in 1973 for $90,000, half of this covered by the grant.

With roof, walls, and floors in Town possession, the dreams aired during preservation pleas needed foundation, expression and execution.

To this end, in 1973, the Commission authorized formation of The Historic Restoration Trust of Nutley, a group of actively interested citizens whose task was to move Kingsland Manor toward the broad goal of landmark, museum and local activity resource. Working in committees, the volunteers have set the restoration program on course.

In 1935 the Department of Interior sent unemployed architects to make drawings and record in great detail for the Historic American Building Society houses they thought worthwhile to document. The Kingsland Manor was documented in 1941 during the time the home was inhabited by Ralph Smith. The Trust was very fortunate to acquire from the Library of Congress copies of the H.A.B.S. drawings to guide us in the restoration.

Kingsland Manor: This Old House Needs A Lot of Love and Care


Kingsland Manor interior during renovation of 1700 colonial manor

Bus McGinnity Ballroom Art Work

Although the building was rated “very good” for its condition relative to its age at the time of its purchase by the Township of Nutley, much work was needed to bring it to good repair according to H.A.B.S.’s plans.

Much of the work was normal maintenance and repair made more difficult by the historic significance of the Manor. The Town does ground keeping and light repairs, but the Trust tackled the big jobs. Dormers were relocated and chimneys rebuilt and cleaned. A new wood shingle roof was installed on the house in three stages, the main and final section completed in 2005. Flashing, copper lined gutters and downspouts were added.  Doors, windows, shutters and trim were scraped, painted and caulked.

The stone work was repointed, replaced and cleaned. Inside, original floors were bolstered to meet standards for public buildings. Windows and doors were replaced and the porch rebuilt.

The property was landscaped and a colonial garden with period plants added. Extensive exterior brick walkways were restored.

Kingsland Manor Hallway Plastered and Painted, Nutley, NJ

Restored Center Hall Staircase

Kingsland Manor: A Living Museum

A Living Museum of Life in the 1700s


 The larger more fascinating task involved restoration of the interior as a living museum. Room-by-room extensive and expensive renovation was required.

Kitchen –The original wall was replaced dividing the room into a historic and a functional kitchen. The old fireplace and beehive oven and pot warmer were fully restored. Modern flooring was removed and the modern picture window replaced with two windows.

 Dining Room – The dining room, called the “south parlor,” needed less work. The wainscoting was removed and the well-preserved fireplace refinished. A picture window was replaced with two windows, matching those in the living room. This room is often used for refresh­ments at small social events sponsored by the Trust.

Kingsland Manor, Nutley, NJ - Anteroom

Restored Anteroom

 Living Room – Modern paneling has been removed and the wall has been replaced that once divided the room and supported the beams of the floor above. The walls and ceiling have been replastered and all new trim handmade to match original which was found or documented has been installed. New doors were milled and installed.

“Office” – When paneling was removed a border of silhouettes painted by Bus McGinity depicting the life of George Washington were discovered which were part of the house’s Colonial Club days. These were preserved by DVD before renovation. The original small room has been restored and furnished as an office befitting a flourishing mill owner. A desk displays Kingsland family letters and papers related to the mill operations. Other Kingsland memorabilia is housed in glass cabinets. This room provides access to the ballroom.

Kinglsland Manor, Nutley, NJ, restored ballroom

Restored Ballroom

 Ballroom – The ballroom was added during the Victorian period, circa 1860.  A modern bar, false ceiling beams, ceiling and wall paneling were removed during restora­tion. More silhouettes were uncovered when the paneling was removed and also recorded before renovation. New mill trim was installed. The original plaster walls and ceiling have been restored. The modern fireplace has been replaced with a plaster version of the original and a marble mantel added. The room is furnished in the Victorian style and contains a working Mason & Hamlin Organ circa 1904 and a square grand piano. A modern replica of a gaslight chandelier was installed. Rosewood ballroom side chairs and marble topped side tables circa 1900 complete the room furnishings. The ballroom is used for social and business events and small musical concerts sponsored by the Trust and other civic organizations.

 Upstairs – The modern bathrooms and closet were removed and the space restored to its original use - a children’s bedroom. The north bedroom is an exhibit room containing Kingsland family artifacts including numerous photographs and family bibles. The south bedroom has been furnished in the Victorian style. The fireplaces were rebuilt, woodwork and doors have been replaced, and all woodwork painted. There were originally only three dormers. One dormer was moved, and an unsuitable one added. The latter has been removed and the others moved back as originally built.

 Basement – Whatever can be done to prove and support the legends is up to the committee probing history. What they find, however, will be restored around what is left of the speakeasy days. The two epochs will coexist in restoration.


 Clearly, the restoration of the Kingsland Manor was an enormous task and our work is not done. Continued restoration work and maintenance of this living museum is needed. Join the Trust. Members volunteering their time to make this dream a reality are needed. The original 25 members have grown to over 100 and there is still much to be done by many more!

 Visitors, neighbors and interested persons who can offer gifts of knowledge, time and energy or those who can contribute materials and furnishings and others who can make donations of money continue to be the mainstay of the Trust. We would like all interested persons to join our organization.


 All monetary donations, of course, will be accepted, but to aid in the continued restoration and maintenance of the Manor, The Friends of Kingsland Manor program has been established. Those wishing to become an associate of the Manor may make donations according to the following schedule:

A special honored Board of Governors will be composed of those persons gracious enough to donate $10,000 or more. Enroll as a member.

Virtual Tour of Kingsland Manor in Nutley, N.J.

Text based on archival Kingsland Manor brochure

Kingsland Manor Restoration Trust
3 Kingsland Street
Nutley, NJ 07110

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