When I featured a post about a country home in New Jersey a couple weeks ago and mentioned that it was near Charles Lindbergh’s former house, a lot of people showed particular interest in the Lindbergh house so I thought I would devote an entire post to the storied home.
The house is famous for being the site of the 1932 kidnapping of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh’s and Anna Morrow Lindbergh’s 20 month old son, Charles Junior.
Baby Charles was taken from his nursery on the second floor – presumably through the window and down a rickety ladder which was left behind at the site.
The toddler was missing for 2 months, then tragically, in May of 1932 his battered, decomposing body was found in a ditch only a couple of miles from the Lindbergh home. You can read more on the kidnapping and subsequent events here.
I have read a couple of books on the kidnapping because it is such a tragic, intriguing and – many would argue – possibly unsolved case. A German-born carpenter (Bruno Richard Hauptmann) was tried and convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Charles Jr. and executed in 1936.
However, there are many competing theories that persist to this day; one being that Hauptmann was merely an innocent scapegoat or a peripheral figure in the crime that some other person committed. Some investigators and historians even go so far as to say that Charles Lindbergh himself was responsible for the death of his first-born son. According to many historical accounts, Charles Lindbergh was one weird bird.
In any case, my heart feels heavy for the little boy who was lost, but he is in a better place now… so the house where the kidnapping took place holds the most fascination for me.
Located in the once rural area of East Amwell, New Jersey, near the town of Hopewell, the sprawling two-story French-country style home was newly built in 1932 when the kidnapping occurred. The house was situated on 700 acres of wooded land and cleared fields. Charles Lindbergh wanted a place that was far from the public eye, very private and had enough cleared property for an airplane landing strip.
The property near Hopewell, New Jersey fit all the criteria – and, it was very difficult to find, courtesy of numerous winding and branching country roads. Today, the area is populated with homes, farms and country estates, but back in the 1930’s it was quite isolated.
While the house was under construction in 1931, the Lindberghs spent most of their time at Anne’s parent’s estate in Englewood, New Jersey, which incidentally, looked a lot like the house Charles Lindbergh had built.
Charles and Anne drove out to their Hopewell house (which they named Highfields) to spend the weekends when it was nearing completion.
In fact, Charles Lindbergh and his wife, son and a handful of servants had just barely moved in prior to the kidnapping. That is what makes the kidnapping so baffling – no one other than very close associates and family members knew where Charles Lindbergh’s new house was. Even for those people, it was difficult to find the house, let alone know what room the baby was sleeping in.
The interior of the mansion was newly decorated at the time of the crime but had little furniture.
The large home had 23 rooms as well as an attached 3-car garage.
During the investigation, the Lindbergh house became command central for the detectives who worked the case. Apparently, they even slept there, along with various other guests whom Charles Lindbergh invited over to help with the investigation.
There are only a handful of grainy old photos of the interior of the house that were taken by investigators shortly after the kidnapping.
Below is the window where the kidnapper(s) reportedly exited with the baby:
And this is the actual crib from which baby Charles was taken during the night of March 1, 1932…
The nursery was on the second floor and many historians question the validity of the theory that a single man could climb down a thin ladder with a sleeping child under arm on a cold, windy and rainy night.
You can see images of how the nursery looks today at the following Flickr website here. (material is copyrighted so I can’t reproduce the images on this blog).
It is a house with a haunting history, and it is sad that the Lindbergh’s never really got to enjoy their dream home in rural New Jersey.
Besides the Highfields estate, Charles Lindbergh was fortunate enough to live in several other beautiful homes in his lifetime. Here are just a couple that I was able to dig up…
Charles Lindbergh’s college rental house in Madison Wisconsin:
Charles Lindbergh lived in the basement apartment of this house during his second year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In the second semester of that year, Lindbergh’s grades were so bad, his advisor suggested he drop out of school before he flunked out. Lindbergh left UW to attend flying school. The rest is history.
– from: http://www.avweb.com/
Charles Lindbergh’s childhood home in Little Falls, Minnesota:
The home is now publicly owned as part of a state park in Minnesota – it was donated by the Lindbergh family in 1931 in recognition of Lindbergh’s father Congressman Charles August Lindbergh .
Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is a 569 acre (2.3 km²) Minnesota state park on the outskirts of Little Falls. The park was once the farm of Congressman Charles August Lindbergh and his son Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator. Their restored 1906 house and two other farm buildings are within the park boundaries.
– from: http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites
You can tour the home today — still decorated with its original family furnishings and possessions.
See here for interior photos of Charles Lindbergh’s boyhood home in Minnesota.
Charles Lindbergh’s “Long Barn” retreat in Kent England:
Frustrated by the unrelenting media attention on his home and family life after the kidnapping, Charles Lindbergh took his family and fled secretly to England in 1935.
The family eventually rented “Long Barn” in the village of Sevenoaks Weald, Kent, England. … At the time of Hauptmann’s execution, local police almost sealed off the area surrounding Long Barn with “orders to regard as suspects anyone except residents who approached within a mile of the home.” Lindbergh later described his three years in the Kent village as “among the happiest days of my life”
Long Barn is believed to date from the mid-fourteenth century and has hosted many other famous people over the centuries (including the likes of Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks).
Today, the most famous Lindbergh residence – Highfields in New Jersey – still stands. The site of the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping is now a residential treatment center for male juvenille offenders.
In 1933, just over a year after his son’s disappearance and murder, Charles Lindbergh gifted his Highfields estate near Hopewell to the state of New Jersey.
If Charles Lindbergh revisited his former home in East Amwell Township today, he would probably be pleased. When he gave Highfields to the state on June 29, 1933, he stipulated that the estate be used to help boys, and that’s what is happening there.
The Albert Elias Residential Group Center is home to 20 boys, ages 15-17. These boys have gotten into trouble and the state is using the rural setting and a new way of life to rehabilitate them. The place is staffed with teachers and social workers, not corrections officers.
– from: http://blog.nj.com/lindbergh – article by: By John Curran
Although there are few public photos of the inside of the Lindbergh home today, anyone from the public can request a private tour of the facility – see here for more details.
At first I was disappointed that the Highfields estate was being used as a juvenile offender’s home, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.
The fact that the fated home now serves to help rehabilitate troubled boys is a tribute to the home’s unique, albeit tragic, past.
Intrigued by the Lindbergh kidnapping case? See the following websites for all the details: