- Cooper Mill
- The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms
- Fosterfields Living Historical Farm
- Frelinghuysen Arboretum
- Historic Speedwell
- Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum
- Macculloch Hall Historical Museum and Gardens
- Morris Museum
- Morristown National Historical Park
- Museum of Early Trades and Crafts
- New Jersey Fireman’s Museum
- Schulyer-Hamilton House Museum
- Whippany Railway Museum
Before the invention of steam and electric engines, people harnessed the forces of nature to power the mills that ground wheat and other grains into flour. Frequently they settled in areas where fast flowing rivers provided a reliable energy source. In the 1760s, one such person, Isaiah Younglove, began a flourmill at a site along the Black River in the village of Chester. The operation lasted until 1788. Another villager, Elias Howell, eventually took over the site and ran a gristmill and sawmill there until 1825. In April of that year, the mill lot was deeded to prominent businessman and landowner Nathan Cooper for the sum of $750.00. This included about 4 1/2 acres of land, a milldam, a gristmill, and sawmill. The mill and surrounding area were known as Milldale or Milltown.
In 1826 Cooper built the present mill to replace the earlier one. The new mill had two water wheels, each driving two sets of millstones. Additional modifications came soon after.
During the early nineteenth century, milling in America changed rapidly due to innovations suggested by Oliver Evans in his book, The Young Mill Wright’s and Millers Guide. Evan’s ideas, when put into practice, helped “automate” the milling process through the use of elevators, moving belts, and screw conveyors. By the time of the Civil War, Cooper Mill contained a number of Evan’s inventions. We can see some of these newer technologies in the mill today.
Through the nineteenth century, Cooper Mill remained the center of Milldale’s community life. Here farmers gathered to have grain ground into flour, discuss news, and transact business. The mill remained in operation until 1913.
In 1963 the Morris County Park Commission purchased the site from the John Kean estate and began restoration of the mill. A new wooden flume and a 6 1/2-ton metal Fitz waterwheel were installed to power two sets of stones. The restored fully operating mill opened to the public in October of 1978.
Today visitors can come here to examine the inner workings of an authentic water-powered mill and see wheat and corn ground into flour and meal.
Site openings and events are posted on the Park Commission website and Facebook. For group appointments call the Morris County Park Commission at 973.326.7645
The turn of the century brought many new ideas relating to art, architecture, and interior design. Craftsman Farms, owned by the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills, exemplifies this change in aesthetic sensibilities.
The 1911 Main Log House at Craftsman Farms was the former home of noted home designer, publisher, philosopher, and social critic, Gustav Stickley. Stickley is considered the “Father of the Arts & Crafts Movement” in America. The 5,000 square-foot log house is one of the most significant landmarks of the Arts & Crafts Movement. The site, a National Historic Landmark, comprises 27 1/4 acres of the original 650-acre tract, which straddled the road that is now Route 10.
Stickley, a proponent of “a fine plainness” in art and the art of living, is best known today for his straightforward furniture, sometimes called “Mission” furniture. He made a lasting impression in American decorative arts. His functional approach to design and unornamented, clean-lined furniture prepared Americans for the modern decorative arts to come.
Lectures and exhibits are held periodically. Tour information is posted on the website. The museum also has a library with archives, and book and gift shops.
Fosterfields Living Historical Farm traces its agrarian roots to before the American Revolution. Early records indicate that Joseph Ogden received the property as a gift from his stepfather in the 1700s, and a residence (of which the original foundation still exists) was built in 1774. According to tradition, the Ogden home served as headquarters for General Henry Knox, Commander of the Artillery during the encampment of Colonial troops in Morristown from 1779-1780. Over the years, the property was sold to various owners, the most notable being Joseph Warren Revere, a grandson of the famous Boston patriot, Paul Revere.
Like a character out of a novel, Joseph Warren Revere had lived the colorful life of an international adventurer and warrior. When, in 1854, Revere built a Gothic Revival home, The Willows, the house reflected his romantic spirit. The unique two-story veranda, steeped pitched roofs, and decorative pillars were striking features of the exterior. Consistent with the Gothic style, the interior boasted tromp l’oeil murals, intricate wood carvings in the foyer and library, and bed chambers with vaulted ceilings.
By 1872 ill health had forced Revere to move into Morristown, and The Willows became a summer rental. One tenant, novelist Brett Harte, incorporated scenes and ideas from nearby Washington valley in his book, Thankful Blossom. Charles Grant Foster, commodities broker from Brooklyn, NY, also rented The Willows for three seasons, and upon the death of Revere in 1880, purchased the house and 88 acres.
Charles Foster, then a widower, moved to the estate in 1881with his only surviving child, four-year old daughter Caroline. He enlarged the property to 188 acres and turned it into a successful breeding farm for Jersey cows by implementing many progressive ideas of the day. When Caroline Foster inherited Fosterfields in 1927, she continued farming operations on a limited scale. Remaining single throughout her life, Caroline devoted much time to local civic, political, and historical organizations. A proud achievement was her collaboration in the book Washington Valley, which was printed in 1960. When she died in 1979 at age 102, Caroline Foster bequeathed her estate to the Morris County Park Commission for use as a living historical farm.
Designated as the first living historical farm in New Jersey, Fosterfields is a working, early twentieth century farm that is open to the public. Notably, the Foster’s acreage is still intact, as are many of the original buildings. Demonstrations include seasonal plantings, cultivating, harvesting, and milking. Special programs held during the year feature sheep shearing, carriage driving and period cooking. In the spring, young animals are a major attraction. The farm hosts the New Jersey Sheep Dog Trials on Labor Day Weekend and an annual Civil War encampment every fall. Permanent exhibits and periodic displays may be viewed in the Visitor’s Center. On a daily basis, visitors are invited to engage in a variety of farm and garden hands-on activities. Open to the public since 2002, the circa 1920s farmhouse highlights domestic life of the farm superintendent and his family. Guided tours of The Willows focus on the Foster family and their home during the early twentieth century. An archive is available to researchers by appointment.
Visiting, Tour, and special program information is posted to their website and FaceBook page.
Of the many mansions built in and around Morristown during the late nineteenth century, few match the grace and elegance of Whippany Farm, better known today as the Frelinghuysen Arboretum. Built in 1891, this summer residence of George G. Frelinghuysen is one of the few unaltered examples of Colonial Revival architecture. The Boston firm of Rotch and Tilden designed the house using many distinctive colonial Revival features, including Ionic columns, Federal urns, and a Palladian window. The grounds were landscaped in the eighteenth century pastoral style characterized by sweeping lawns, fields, and woods.
Following his death, Frelinghuysen’s daughter Matilda continued living at the mansion. Throughout her life, people associated the name of Matilda E. Frelinghuysen with the arts, which she generously supported. She also played a major role in the creation of the Morris County Free Library by donating land for its construction. Historic preservationists and conservationists especially honor her memory for having bequeathed Whippany Farms to the Morris County Park Commission. Today the Commission uses the mansion as its administrative headquarters.
The Frelinghuysen Arboretum has extensive collections of trees and shrubs and demonstration gardens featuring plants suited to the soils and climate of Northern New Jersey. The Hagarty Education Center provides space for classes, special horticultural events, a reference library, and a visitor information area. The Center also features a gift shop operated by the Friends of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum. The Visitor’s Center is open daily 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.; grounds open 8:30 A.M. to dusk except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Information about this and other facilities within the Morris County Park System can be found at their web site at www.morrisparks.net.
Throughout history, iron has played a vital role in the development of civilization. From ancient to recent times, iron production has supported the economies of entire regions. Here in Morris County where the hills contained iron in great abundance, workers mined ore, forged it into pig iron, and then manufactured it into finished goods.
Morris County’s iron-based economy began in the eighteenth century when people started building forges throughout the countryside. In Morristown during the Revolution, an iron forge was built at Speedwell–the place where the Whippany River runs through a natural gorge. The venture failed. In 1814 businessman Stephen Vail acquired the forge with two partners. Within a year he became sole owner of the ironworks. Under his management, the business prospered. Local blast furnaces supplied pig iron, which the ironworks manufactured into a variety of products including machine and engine parts. The machinery for the SS Savannah–the first steamship to cross the Atlantic–came from Speedwell.
Uninterested in his father’s business, Vail’s elder son, Alfred, studied for the ministry. On September 3, 1837, while attending New York University, Alfred Vail saw a crude version of Samuel F. B. Morse’s telegraph during a demonstration. Alfred realized the telegraph potential and offered Morse technical and financial assistance. Shortly thereafter, the two men signed a contract, which gave Alfred an interest in Morse’s patents in return for his assistance. That autumn Alfred constructed working instruments at Speedwell. Morse visited several times–to suggest experiments, to see Alfred’s innovations, and to paint portraits of Stephen and his wife, Bethiah. During the next six years, Alfred significantly improved the instrument. In Baltimore on May 24, 1844, he sent the famous message via “Morse” code, “What hath God wrought.”
Historic Speedwell, a historic site of the Morris County Park Commission and a National Historic site, preserves part of the Homestead Farm of Stephen Vail, including his home, and the cotton factory where Alfred Vail perfected the telegraph. Visitors to the cotton factory–a National Historic Landmark–can see an operating waterwheel. The site also includes three historic houses moved from the center of Morristown when they were threatened with demolition in the 1960s. A special permanent exhibit “The Speedwell Ironworks: A History of Workers and Work” illustrates the different processes involved in the production of iron machinery. The exhibit also examines the role of ironworkers and their families in Speedwell’s development from a small nail-producing mill to a dynamic industrial complex. Other collections and exhibits capture the flavor of life here during the early nineteenth century when the Vails developed machine production, steam-powered transportation, and instantaneous communications–creations that helped generate America’s Industrial Revolution.
The museum is open to the public and hosts special events throughout the season. Information on opening times and special events can be found on their website and Facebook pages. An archival collection is available to researchers by appointment.
Located in a rustic nineteenth century building, which served as a lock-tender’s house on the Morris Canal, the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum offers an enlightening look at the history of New Jersey’s largest lake. The Museum invites visitors to, “Step back to a time when the lake was two bodies of water and the Lenape Indians lived along its shores. Learn about the building of the famous Morris Canal and the forming of modern day Lake Hopatcong, its main source of water. Travel back to the era when the lake was a tourist mecca and some forty hotel’s and rooming houses graced its shores. Relive the days when thousands flocked to Bertrand Island Amusement Park for dancing and ‘nickel nights.'”
Hours of operation change by season. For information about programming and special events, please call or visit their website and Facebook page.
Born in Bombay and educated in Edinburgh, George Macculloch came to this country with his wife and two children in 1806. An adventurer, scholar, and dreamer, Macculloch is best remembered for having conceived, planned, and built the Morris Canal; the vital lifeline of Morris County’s iron industry. He also built the first three-story section of the red brick Federal style mansion in Morristown’s Historic District known as Macculloch Hall.
Five generations of Macculloch’s descendants occupied this impressive building for 139 years. In 1949 the Honorable W. Parsons Todd acquired the house. Mr. Todd, a distinguished philanthropist and former Mayor of Morristown, restored the mansion and gardens and opened them to the public. In so doing he preserved the structure as a handsome memorial to the Macculloch family, and realized his ambition to create a museum and art gallery where the history of Morristown could be preserved.
Today Macculloch Hall houses a fine collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century English and American decorative arts, as well as presidential china and oriental rugs. The museum is renowned for a major collection of drawings and prints by the famous political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who lived across the avenue from Macculloch Hall. Nast is best remembered for his creation of the Republican elephant, Democratic donkey, Tammany Hall tiger, and the popular image of Santa Claus. The museum also features changing exhibits on Morris County and New Jersey history. An archival collection is available to researchers.
Information about the museums hours, tours and special programming can be found on their website and Facebook page.
The mission of the Morris Museum is to elevate the cultural consciousness, excite the mind and enhance the quality of life by advancing the understanding and enjoyment of the visual and performing arts, natural and physical sciences, and humanities through exhibitions, performances and educational programs in a welcoming, inclusive and creative environment that responsibly uses all museum resources, including stewardship of a permanent collection.
Morristown was, and still is, the cultural center of Morris County. Here, in the early 1900s, many wealthier members of society made their home. They included Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen, president of P. Ballantine & Sons Brewery. Frelinghuysen built the Neo-Georgian mansion known as Twin Oaks in the Normandy Heights area. He also turned part of the 150-acre estate into the Twin Oaks Dairy Farm, which employed many workers, even during the depression.
Today Frelinghuysen’s mansion is the Morris Museum, considered by many one of the foremost museums in the state. Here visitors can view permanent and changing exhibitions. The Museum’s extensive collections cover fine arts, anthropology, geology, decorative arts, history, and natural science. Long time favorites include model trains, dinosaurs, and two American Indian exhibits.
The museum’s 312-seat Bickford Theatre offers an intimate setting for both the new and experienced theatergoer, with programs that feature an array of performing arts for all ages. Its well-known educational activities for adults and children include community classes, school tour and loan programs, outreach services, and special event days held throughout the year.
The Morris Museum is available for catered corporate rentals. The Museum Gift Shop offers books, artwork, and other items.
Please visit their website and Facebook page for information on exhibits, tours, and other programming.
30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ 07960
The history of Morris County is inextricably linked to the American Revolution. Following the Battle of Princeton, Washington marched his army north to Morristown where they encamped during the winter of 1777–and later in 1779/80. Here Washington set up his base of operations, protected from the enemy by mountains and swamps south and east of Morristown. With his headquarters at Ford Mansion and 13,000 of his men stationed at nearby Jockey Hollow, Morristown became the military capital of the American Revolution. The Morristown National Historical Park commemorates Morristown’s major role in American History. This important landmark was established in 1933 as the first national historical park in the United States after the Washington Association of New Jersey gave the Ford Mansion and its surrounding property to the National Park Service.
The Park is divided into four units at different locations. The Washington’s Headquarters unit features a guided tour of Ford Mansion and a museum that includes exhibits, multi-media presentations, a gift shop, and an archives. A permanent display, “War Comes to Morristown: The Impact of the Revolutionary War Upon a Small Village, 1775-1783” shows how the American Revolution affected civilian life when George Washington brought thousands of soldiers to winter quarters in an around Morristown between 1777 and 1780.
The Fort Nonsense Unit marks the site of an earthwork fort built in 1777, and includes overlook and wayside signs. The Jockey Hollow Unit includes a Visitor Center with exhibits, a movie theater, and gift shop. It also features a furnished eighteenth century farmhouse (with herb garden) known as the Wick House, a paved loop road, 27 miles of hiking trails, and five reconstructed soldier huts. The New Jersey Brigade Unit, located at the Cross Estate in nearby Bernardsville (Somerset County), preserves the site of the New Jersey Brigade’s 1779-1789 camp; it includes hiking trails and the Cross Estate Gardens.
The Park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Locations are as follows:
- Washington’s Headquarters 30 Washington Place, Morristown.
- Fort Nonsense Off Western Avenue, Morristown.
- Jockey Hollow Off Tempe Wick Road, Harding Township.
- New Jersey Brigade Area–Cross Estate Gardens Leddell Road, Bernardsville
Programming, visitor hours and other information on the park can be found on their website and Facebook pages.
History as popularly presented frequently spotlights famous people and major events. But history also tells us about the lives of “the common man” responsible for building America. With this in mind, Edgar and Agnes Land founded the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in Madison, New Jersey. The Museum emphasizes the contributions and accomplishments of working people by looking at what they did and how they did it.
The Land Collection, the basis for the Museum, comprises pre-1860 tools and implements of everyday life used by the artisans and workers who built and sustained our nation’s roads, farms, shops, and industries. There also is an archives. The museum itself is a former library constructed in 1900 by Madison resident and philanthropist, Willis James. This outstanding example of Richardsonian Romanesque Revival architecture is the cornerstone of Madison’s historic area.
The Museum’s exhibits offer a hands-on view of the past, tracing the legacy of eighteenth and nineteenth century artisans. Many of these exhibits are interactive; they focus on doing, not just observing. Visitors also will find workshops, demonstrations, discovery days, treasure hunts, and more for all ages to enjoy. The Museum is in easy walking distance of restaurants, shops, and a university campus.
Please visit their website and Facebook page for more information on hours, exhibits and special programming.
565 Lathrop Avenue, Boonton, NJ 0700
The Firemen’s Home is also home to an 8,000 sq. ft., two-story museum, which opened in May 1985. Steamers, ornate hose carts, and fire trucks are among the many items on display.
William G. Lathrop served as General Manager of the Fuller, Lord, & Company Iron Works from 1850-1852. Under his leadership, Boonton’s iron industry flourished. He expanded the market for locally produced iron products to the far reaches of the world, including such countries as Japan, China, and South America. In 1873 Boonton’s citizens chose Lathrop as their mayor, the same year that construction was completed on Lathrop’s impressive 25 room Italianate mansion. Lathrop died in 1882. The Fireman’s Home purchased the 60 acre homestead in 1898 for $40,000. The building became the first retirement facility for firemen in the state, and the second in the nation.
The museum is open daily from 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 1-3:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
5 Olyphant Place, Morristown, NJ 07960
The American Revolution brought many well-known patriots to Morristown. Many of them stayed at Ford Mansion, which served as Washington’s Headquarters. Others occupied private dwellings in the surrounding area. One such place, now known as the Schuyler-Hamilton House, was the colonial home of Revolutionary War doctor Jabez Campfield. Dr. Campfield and his wife, Sarah, moved here from Newark in 1765.
In 1779-1780, George Washington’s personal physician, Dr. John Cochran, stayed at the house, along with his wife, Gertrude. Dr. Cochran’s wife was the sister of General Phlip Schuyler of Albany, New York. General Schuyler’s daughter, Elizabeth (Betsy) Schuyler visited the Cochran’s at the house during that winter. General Washington’s Aide de Camp, Colonel Alexander Hamilton, often visited this house to court Betsy. They later married.
In 1923 the Morristown Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the house to save it from demolition. The house was renamed the Schuyler-Hamilton House and opened as a museum. The house contains furniture and artifacts from the Colonial and Federal periods (1720-1820). Please visit the Schuyler-Hamilton House Facebook page for information on museum hours, exhibits and tours.
In Morris County as elsewhere, the railroad revolutionized transportation. Compared to the canal it was faster and cheaper to construct. It did not freeze over in winter, which made it more reliable. It could bring produce and other goods to market quickly and cheaply. For people traveling from Morris County to large urban centers, the railroads became a way of life.
Today it is possible to experience the golden age of railroading at the Whippany Railway Museum, a beautiful turn-of-the-century fieldstone station of the Morristown & Erie Railroad. Situated at the intersection of Route 10 and Whippany Road in Whippany, New Jersey, it is the only museum in the North Jersey area devoted entirely to railroading. Here you can take a leisurely stroll through the Whippany railroad yard and see many pieces of full-sized, historical railroad equipment and rolling stock on display.
A re-creation of a small suburban retail coal yard, complete with conveyor machinery and classic coal advertising, recalls an era when “King Coal” not only heated our homes and powered our industries, but also fueled the mighty steam locomotives of America’s Railroads.
Other exhibits include a large Lionel Train layout and a collection of railroadiana–tickets, lanterns, photos, dining car china, bells, whistles, headlights, etc. The Museum also has a unique and popular Ocean Liner exhibit that pays tribute to the ships that sped countless European immigrants across the sea to the major waterfront Railroad Terminals at New York Harbor. In addition, the Museum holds special events and train rides. Please visit their website for museum hours and special events.