Jul 09, 2019

Schmetterlinginland: A Resident’s Historic Home

By Lori Draz

Schmetterlinginland david meenan

One of the area’s most well-known and truly fascinating folks is David Meenan. This former Broadway singer and dancer and current teacher of the next generation of stars is a world-traveled bon vivant in every sense of the word, and so it surprises few that his home is a remarkable reflection of an extraordinary life.

Schmetterlinginland is German for home of the butterflies which crowd his back garden each July and August. Over the years, the philanthropic Meenan and his partner, Bill Goodman, have opened this home to numerous nonprofits in search of a unique hosting site. He also welcomes fine artists to study his collection of original art by artists like Picasso, Rembrandt, Goya, Dali, Erte, Chagall and Peter Max and to paint his changing gardenscapes.

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The home is tucked onto the northwest corner of Red Bank in a section many called the Polish Picnic grounds. Across the street is where Barnum and Bailey would set up the circus tents, and in the back end of the garden is a memorial made from bricks from the shop where Count Basie got his hair cut.

The home was a former hunting lodge that was almost entirely destroyed during Hurricane Irene. There is little of that structure left, however the contents of the home are tour-de-force of history, fine art, unique collections and pop culture.

The experience starts with the doorbells which were custom-made by the craftsman who made the chimes for “Downton Abbey.” The stained glass windows were imported from a London Pub, circa 1850.

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Goodman’s father invented the Hickok belt, the same belt champion boxers raise in victory.

There is also an original Edison phonograph with the original music cylinders.

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The stairway is crowned with a carving from the Metropolitan Opera House and lined with a wall of vintage mirrors. A touch of whimsy awaits children on the landing; the fairy door is special place where fairies answer children’s requests with gifts left inside.

Upstairs in the studio is an eye-popping collection of fine art, and tucked in a corner is a special piece donated to him by the family of Betty Able, better known as Betty English, whose family founded Englishtown. She is also the founder of the Fine Art Guild in Shrewsbury.

Meenan’s career, humor, sophistication and curiosity have led him around the world. He spent one season as the toast of Viennese royalty, who gifted him with an actual piece of the Votivkirche Cathedral and part of the royal Belvedere Palace in Vienna.

Meenan is a Holocaust expert, and his office is a Holocaust museum with articles that include a concentration camp uniform, letters and numerous artifacts.

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One of the more unusual collections are the showcases of vintage eyewear, along with a separate collection of celebrity eyewear he calls Legends Lounge that include frames from Ella Fitzgerald, Prince Albert, Vanna White and Hugh Hefner, to name a few.

In a home with so many marvelous items, it’s hard to call anything a standout, but then there is the custom-designed fireplace which was built with pieces from 90 famous locations from around the world. You will see pieces of Abraham Lincoln’s house, Lizzie Borden’s House, the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Henry Ford’s House, Anne Frank’s house, the Berlin Wall, Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger’s last stand, the World’s Fair of 1893, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Fenway Park and so many more, woven into the hearth.

If you are lucky enough to be one of Meenan’s friends, as I have been for decades, or fortunate enough to be invited to a fundraiser at Schmetterlinginland, go and enjoy one of the most unique experiences anywhere on the Jersey Shore.