A profusion of phlox-like wildflowers along the walking trail

Nestled in the hills of Somerset County is an unexpected natural hideaway with an odd name:  Natirar.  This swath of gorgeous country has a rich history behind it:

In April 1905, Walter Graeme Ladd and his wife, Catherine (“Kate”) Everit Macy Ladd, began to buy up land in the area, eventually amassing one of the largest estates in the area at 1,000 acres. They named their estate “Natirar,” an anagram for the Raritan River that meanders for two miles across the property.  In 1912, the 33,000 square-foot Ladd residence was completed by the prominent Boston architect, Guy Lowell, who is famous for a bunch of buildings like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and New York County Courthouse on Foley Square in Manhattan, and Henry J. Hardenberg who designed Copley Plaza in Boston and the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Amidst this grandeur, the home incongruously was used by its owners also as a convalescent center for women, a purpose it served until 1983, when it was sold for $8.5 million to King Hassan II of Morocco, in accordance with the provisions of Mr. Ladd’s will.  King Hassan died in 1999 and Natirar was inherited by his son, Mohammed VI. The property as it stands now is owned partially by the Somerset County Parks Department (the lower portions encompassing the fields and river) and Virgin magnate Richard Branson who is converting the upper portion (residence and outbuildings) into a high end spa resort. Behind the main residence, an imposing but partially crumbling structure becoming popular with the wedding planner set, is a chic restaurant called Ninety Acres with a huge wine selection and trendy dining options.

Daisies smiling at us at Natirar

The Raritan River flows through the lower fields and offers a picturesque walk that leads up a hill to rear pastures filled with wildflowers and charmingly dilapidated barns and outbuildings.  The path is dotted with benches for rest and butterfly watching. Like a Milton Bradley puzzle come to life, a train trestle is visible through the foliage of the surrounding trees.  A totally peaceful spot.

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