Catholina Lambert was born in 1834 in the village of Goose Eye (near Keighley) in Yorkshire, England. At age 10 he was apprenticed as an errand boy to the Boar’s Head Mill, in Darley Abbey, Derbyshire. The mill was owned by Walter Evans. The Evans’ were known to be benevolent employers. Their mills were “in beautiful settings, they built houses with gardens for their workers, each house was provided with a cow and sometimes a pig.”
After his seven-year apprentice, Catholina gathered his savings of five pounds, his Book of Common Prayer and a few belongings, and left England. Lambert recalled reading that “one out of ten succeeds in England, nine out of ten in America.” He arrived in Boston in 1851.
Catholina began working for Benjamin Tilt and Walter Dexter, silk manufacturers with business interests in Boston and New York. Several years later Tilt left the company and Dexter offered Lambert a partnership and a loan of $5,000 Lambert accepted and within three years repaid the loan. He then bought Dexter’s share of the business. One of the stipulations in the agreement of sale was that the firm name, Dexter, Lambert & Company should be perpetuated.
The growth of the business from the time that Catholina became associated with it was rapid and steady. Early in the 1860’s a three-story factory was built in Paterson, NJ. This was known as the Dexter Mill. During the Civil War, the mill did a large amount of government contract work.
Catholina married Isabella Eldridge Shattuck in 1857. They had eight children. The Lamberts lived well and accomplished much in their lifetimes, but their lives were filled with much sorrow and sadness. Seven of their eight children predeceased them.
Florence Dexter Lambert, their oldest daughter, was born in 1859. Florence died of typhoid pneumonia in 1883 leaving a husband and two small children. Frederick Nelson, born in 1861, died of scarlet fever at age 13 while a student at the Poughkeepsie Military Institute. Walter Stanley was born in 1863. He joined the firm of Dexter, Lambert & Co. in 1885; and was Catholina’s only heir. Clifford Whitfield, born in 1869, died of cholera in 1870. Percy Russel born the next year died at age 11 of scarlet fever. Chester Nicholas born in 1872, died 17 days later. Henry (Harry) Wilson born in 1875, died of nephritis in 1885.
Although the 1870’s and 1880’s were filled with personal tragedies, they were years of growth and expansion for Lambert’s business endeavors. Mills were purchased in Paterson and Hawley, Pennsylvania. The company made valuable foreign connections and branches were established in Florence and Milan, Italy. The Lambert firm photo on the left was probably taken in 1885 when young Walter Lambert and William Suydam became partners. Catholina is seated. Left to right are William Suydam, Walter Lambert, Henry Wilson and Charles Sterrett.
It is not known exactly when Catholina and Isabella moved to Paterson. In the 1860’s they purchased “Maplewood,” the south Paterson estate of James Close. The Lamberts continued to maintain a home in New York City until 1893.
Catholina was president of the Merchants Loan and Trust Co. of Paterson; a director of the Ninth National Bank of New York City; president of the Silk Association of America and one of its organizers; a member of the Union League, of the Manhattan, the Lotus and the Republican Clubs of New York City, of the Hamilton Club, Paterson, and of the Board of Trade. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a generous supporter of all charitable works.
He was also a man of cultured interests. Through the years Lambert acquired an extensive antique and art collection and a comprehensive library of sacred music. By 1892, Maplewood was no longer large enough to house his vast art collection. That year work began on a new home, “Belle Vista,” now known as “Lambert Castle.”
In 1892, the Lamberts established residence at Belle Vista. A grand reception was held on January 31, 1893. Four hundred guests were invited to the lavish party.
Isabella, for whom the luxurious Castle was named, died eight years later in 1901.
Several years later Catholina married Isabella’s widowed sister, Harriet Estelle Shattuck Bibby. Harriet also predeceased Catholina. She died in 1916.
The labor movement of 1913 brought financial difficulties to the firm of Dexter, Lambert, and Co. The firm was liquidated in 1914. In an effort to meet liabilities against the firm, Lambert signed notes payable in two years with the pledge of his estate as collateral. Subsequently, it was decided to sell the art collection. An auction was conducted by the American Art Galleries in the Grand Ballroom of New York’s Hotel Plaza from February 21 to 24, 1916. It is estimated the collection was sold for about one-third of the real value.
Catholina continued to live at the Castle until his death on February 15, 1923.
The Castle is now the home of the Passaic County Historical Society. Its fascinating history continues to charm and capture the imagination of all who visit the museum and library at Lambert’s beloved “Belle Vista.”