Friday, December 9, 2011

Ralston Heights

The Castle at Ralston Heights
This has nothing to do with jazz, but I'm proud of it, so I figured I'd share it with you.  I recently wrote a story for the Hopewell Express about an old mansion in my hometown, Hopewell, NJ, that was once the capital of a strange health cult.  Its figurehead was Webster Edgerly, a weird, paranoid man who formed his own obsessive-compulsive philosophy of racial purity in the late 1800s.  He planned to put his beliefs into action on Ralston Heights, where the mansion sits.  There have been stories about this guy circulating in my town for a long time.  That's why I was happy to do the research and reporting necessary to put it all in perspective.  Here are the first four paragraphs:

Small-town stories are often apocryphal, the stuff of popular myth. However, in the case of Webster Edgerly, a bigoted health reformer who moved to Hopewell in the late 1800s to establish a utopian community based on his own principles of hygiene and eugenics, the odd and disturbing stories surrounding him are mostly true. 

Next to the Lindbergh House, probably the most well-known artifact of Hopewell’s parochial history is the Castle, across the street from the Highland Cemetery on Greenwood Avenue, up a long, gravel road, and tucked snugly away in a wooded clearing dappled with tall Japanese maples and ginkgo trees. 

Most Hopewell residents are told that an eccentric white supremacist once lived there; that he wanted to create an exclusive, utopian community; that he failed, and his mansion—the Castle—is all that really remains. Those details are, indeed, accurate. 

And today, the current residents of the mansion—a married couple seeking to foster community involvement—serve as an intriguing foil to the legacy of the bizarre man who once haunted the estate formerly known as Ralston Heights.

Read the rest here.

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