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A New Era Begins For Legendary Estate

Dr. Ernest Fahnestock (pronounced “fan”stock) was born in New York City in January 1876, the son of Harris and Margaret Antoinette Fahnestock. His father was a noted financier, enjoying a close relationship with the federal government during the Civil War. Ernest received his pre-medical education at Harvard and studied medicine at Columbia, graduating in 1900. He was a surgeon and a patron of varied medical and welfare organizations.

He married Georgette (De Grove) Perry, a widow with two children, on February 15, 1905 in New York. Together they had two daughters, Mildred Helen and Evelyn.

The George W. Stillwell farm, established in 1852, spanned both sides of “Stone Road” (now Broad Street). Mr. Stillwell was a farmer, real estate investor, cattle dealer and butcher. In 1908 Dr. Fahnestock purchased the 115 acre farm in Shrewsbury from the George W. Stillwell estate and named the property Shadow Brook Farm. He engaged the services of partnered architects Lewis Colt Albro & Harrie T. Lindeberg to design a Georgian style mansion as well as the farm buildings, and construction was completed in the summer of 1910. With the purchase of the farm, Dr. Fahnestock turned a working crop farm into a gentleman’s country estate.

The 25 room main residence was a five-bay, hipped-roof Colonial Revival, with segmental arches over the door and third-story dormers. Wings on each side were fronted by open piazzas. It was reported that the mansion was built at a cost of more than $200,000.00.

The mansion is set back from the road about 1,000 feet and is approached over a winding blue stone driveway lined with large maple trees. In laying out the estate as a whole it was the plan of landscape architects Pitkin & Weinrichter to have a carriage drive sweep about the entire group of buildings in a more or less irregular “U” shape leading from the public road and back to it again.

On the first floor of the main dwelling is a large entrance hall, beamed ceiling, oak paneled living room with large fireplace, tiled floor gunroom with fireplace, dining room with fireplace, butler's pantry, kitchen, flower room, powder room and maid's dining room. On the second floor there are seven master bedrooms and six tiled baths, two maid's rooms and bath. Four of the bedrooms have fireplaces. On the third floor there are eight bedrooms and bath. The house is heated by hot water with coal furnace.

The residence is equipped with a four-inch fire hose and other fire apparatus. The laundry, which has a large clothes dryer, is located in the basement. At the rear of the dwelling was a fountain and beautiful formal gardens. A rose garden, 100 feet square, had over 100 varieties of roses that would bloom from early spring until frost. A formal English cutting garden was designed with hardy plants and flowers.

In 1912 Dr. Fahnestock added to his country estate by buying an additional 65 acres of land from a neighboring farm. The price paid was $425.00 per acre, giving him a total of 180 acres.

Dr. Fahnestock’s rise in medicine included chairmanship of the executive committee of Misercicordia Hospital and positions at St. Vincent’s and the Foundling Hospital in New York. He was a contributor and honorary member of the Shrewsbury Fire Company and served on the borough’s zoning committee. He endowed a medal for bravery for the New York Police Department and was an honorary member of the Red Bank police. He also had some philanthropic endeavors pertaining to local medical and welfare institutions, in particular Monmouth Memorial Hospital and Red Bank First Aid & Rescue Squad.

In June of 1916, Dr. Fahnestock’s father, Harris C. Fahnestock died leaving an estate valued at a $16 million dollars to his four sons, a daughter and his sister. Dr. Fahnestock inherited $2,654,157.00.

He is said to have invested well over $1,000,000 in developing the estate.

On April 5, 1937, Dr. Ernest Fahnestock died at his residence in New York City. His wife stayed at Shadowbrook for five years after her husband’s death. As there was little demand for country estates during the Depression, Shadow Brook Farm sold for a mere $25,000.00 at the beginning December in1942 to Ray H. Stillman, a local real estate developer.

The property was purchased as an investment; included in the sale was 50 acres of land and all of the buildings. Mr. Stillman reserved the main house and about eight acres for private sale. The balance of the property would later be developed into single family homes.

At the end of December, 1942, Ray H. Stillman sold the main home with 10 acres of surrounding land to Frederick Thorngreen of Farmingdale, owner of the Squankum Inn, which was destroyed by fire in March of 1942.

In June of 1943, Fred Thorngreen opened his restaurant which was named Shadow Brook Inn.

The residence was transitioned into a modern restaurant, hotel and night club. On the first floor, patrons enjoyed dining and an up-to-date bar. Several hotel suites were arranged on the second floor and the third floor was used as living quarters by Mr. Thorngreen and his employees. Added to the home was a new driveway that created a private entrance to the restaurant.

The war years were not opportune for new restaurants, with Thorngreen claiming he was compelled to close for a time in 1944 due to inadequate meat supplies. He continued on until 1953, when he sold the restaurant to co-owners Rod Keller and Robert Downs of Summit, who then changed the name to Shadowbrook.

Known to the locals as Rod’s Shadowbrook, the restaurant enjoyed success and a stellar reputation for its elegant atmosphere and gourmet cuisine. This management team also owned and operated two North Jersey restaurants, Rod’s of West Orange and The Ranch House in Convent Station.

During these years, the Oak Room was expanded so the main dining area with beamed ceiling and paneled walls now included a wide expanse of windows looking out over the gardens which featured a pergola and miniature lake.

There were smaller rooms on the main floor (formally the dining room and terraces) that were used for more intimate parties. A Bride’s Room was designed on the second floor for wedding party use.

In 1969, the Regency Room was added, giving Shadowbrook the ability to host two separate events.

Rod Keller owned Shadowbrook until 1971, when he sold it to the Zweben family. Sidney Zweben, who at the time had owned resort hotels and restaurants along the Jersey shore, became the new owner along with his sons; Sandy, a law school graduate and Robert, who held a degree in restaurant management from Cornell University. Together they continued the tradition of fine dining that Mr. Keller had established.

During these years, it has been said that the guest list at Shadowbrook has included such notables as Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, rock star Bruce Springsteen, popular composer Henry Mancini, artist Leroy Neiman, Robert Kennedy and Vice-President Walter Mondale.

The Zweben family was as conscious of the restaurants stately décor and elegant ambiance as they were about the food. A notable acquisition from the Paramount Theater in New York City is the brass handrails leading down the grand staircase as well as the art deco chandeliers and wall sconces that grace the Regency Room.

Major renovations began in December of 1982. Original and authentic materials to evoke the early 1900’s were chosen. The front porch was enclosed and a new portico was installed. Restored antique doors, standing 11.5 feet height, opened onto the restaurants foyer. The showpiece of the foyer is a honeycombed wood ceiling that the Zweben’s brought back from an English castle.

There are two galleries in the front of the home off of the foyer that were added. Each includes wooden panels installed in the ceiling from the Villard Houses, turn-of-the-century brownstones on New York’s Madison Avenue. The brownstones are now part of the Helmsley Palace Hotel. A wardrobe from the Governor’s Suite of Philadelphia’s Fairmont Hotel was converted into a bar in the Victorian Suite.

Off of the Oak Room is the stunning Horseshoe Bar; a Monmouth County artisan made the brass rail, adorned with horse heads, that edges the bar. And at the focal point of the restaurant’s stairway is a golden 32-light chandelier rescued from the main ballroom of New York’s Biltmore Hotel.

On February 3, 2015, a new chapter in the history of Shadowbrook began. After 43 years, Robert Zweben, who had been the sole owner for 20 plus years, retired and sold the mansion and it’s surrounding 18 acres to partners Jim Kourgelis, Mark Spinelli, George Kourgelis, Mike Kourgelis, Carl Carfello and Chris Gourmos who currently own and operate the Venetian in Garfield and Seasons in Washington Township.

There is a strong commitment to maintaining the history and integrity of the original mansion, while bringing in modern touches for today’s client.

In this new era, exciting changes have already begun...

New Construction began in Spring 2019. The addition of The Grand Ballroom - accommodating up to 600 guests-includes dramatic 30ft ceilings, a Newport inspired fireplace, crystal chandeliers, a dueling grand staircase, theatrical lighting, a big swing band stage and so many more amazing details. Your guests will be enchanted by the perfect balance of old world charm matched with luxurious amenities.

We look forward to sharing this next exciting new chapter with you.

Jim Kourgelis, Mark Spinelli, Geroge Kourgelis, Mike Kourgelis, Carl Carfello and Christos Gourmos who currently own and operate the Venetian in Garfield and Seasons in Washington Township.

February 2015

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