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While I’ve been working at TSTI for a long time, I am still learning so much about the building that we all consider a home away from home.

But did you know that it really was once someone’s actual home? I was once lucky enough to meet some of the family who grew up here.

One of the highlights of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel is the mansion, officially referred to in the Historic Montrose District as the Kip-Riker Mansion. Built by Ira Kip Jr. for his wife Katherine in 1900, the mansion features rooms fashioned after European-style homes, including Versailles.

In 1912, the Kips sold the mansion to Clarence and Jessie Riker. Over the next thirty-five years, the Rikers celebrated many events in the home. This included the wedding anniversary of Clarence and Jessie, which was featured in an article in the Newark Evening News in 1937. The Riker family lived in the home until it was sold to Temple Israel in 1947.

The only surviving member of the Riker family who actually spent time in the mansion is Martha Ann Riker Trundle, who is now 91 years old.

Riker Family Photo

Jessie Riker (front, with the long pendant necklace) and Clarence Riker is behind her. Clarence and Jessie sold the mansion to Temple Israel. Martha Ann Riker Trundle is on the far right bottom step.

A few years ago, Louise Riker Ferrara, Martha’s niece, wrote a letter to TSTI to request a tour of the mansion for her aunt. Martha had always wanted to come back to visit the elegant home of her grandparents and parents, but it would take the efforts of her niece to make Martha’s dream come true. 

A few days after Thanksgiving 2018, the Riker family descendants arrived for a private tour. They were in awe of the home that still looked like the many personal photos and newspaper articles they had seen over the years. As she walked from room to room, Martha relived a part of her life in each room of the mansion. She touched the banister of the staircase reverently. It was clear the Riker family was filled with joy to be in the space once occupied by their ancestors. 

Martha brought pictures and articles that described the mansion and the Riker family events. She had pictures of herself on the staircase as a child with her grandparents and other family members. She told us small facts, such as how the original chandelier was still hanging in the Great Hall. She talked about the billiards room and the social events and parties that were held. I learned from Louise that the original stained glass windows in the mansion were gifted to the First Presbyterian & Trinity Church in South Orange by Temple Israel.

Before the Rikers left, they gathered to take a family portrait on the staircase that had been the backdrop for so many family pictures in the past. Now, the staircase was the scene of the last direct descendent of the Riker family with her family.

Riker Family Photo 2018

Martha Ann Riker Trundle in the front center with gray blazer.

TSTI is truly a place to create memories. More importantly, it’s about family, friends, and especially life. It is a place where we can enjoy the past as we celebrate the future.

—Karen Patton

Karen Patton has held various positions in her 25-plus years at TSTI, including receptionist, Catering and Event Coordinator, and Assistant to the Executive Director. Her current position as Facilities Manager provides her with the opportunity to use all the skills she has acquired. 

Karen Patton and Louise Riker

Karen Patton and Louise Riker Ferrara in 2018.