The history of Hollybush Mansion

HOLLYBUSH
1920s photo of Hollybush mansion as a women's dormitory

The history of Hollybush Mansion

Hollybush has had a long and varied history, first as the home of a prominent Glassboro family and later as a part of Rowan University.

South Jersey’s strong history of glassmaking has deep roots in Glassboro, where the Whitney family established Whitney Brothers Glassworks in 1842. The company became the largest and most successful of the South Jersey glass houses.

In 1847, Thomas Whitney toured Europe. Upon returning home, he built a mansion in Glassboro on a 100-acre property, inscribing his name and the year 1849 on a stone set on the mansion’s tower. Whitney also developed his grounds as a landscaped park. The property stayed in the Whitney family until the early 1900s.

Eventually, the Whitney land was subdivided. A group of 107 Glassboro residents who were committed to bringing higher education to the town raised more than $7,000 to purchase 25 acres of the property, including the Whitney home. They offered the land to the State of New Jersey for free if it selected Glassboro as the site for the normal school it wanted to establish in South Jersey. Glassboro was considered an excellent location because of its rail system, harmonious blend of industry and agriculture, natural beauty and location in the heart of South Jersey.

In 1923, the Glassboro Normal School, dedicated to training teachers for South Jersey classrooms, opened to 236 students. In the nine decades since then, the institution has gone through many changes (and names) and extended its mission. Today, it is a comprehensive university with 11 schools and colleges, including two medical schools.

When part of the Whitney estate became home to the college in 1923, the institution renovated the mansion for use as a women’s dormitory. President Jerohn J. Savitz and his family lived there as did President Edgar F. Bunce, President Thomas E. Robinson, and President Herman James. The James family occupied Hollybush until 1998.

Hollybush was much more than a residence or dormitory, however. In June of 1967, it served as the backdrop for some easing of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin met in the library of Hollybush.

The talks were successful, and Johnson dubbed the relaxation of conflicts between the two countries and the promise of good future relations "the spirit of Hollybush."