By Jane Primerano
Acorn Hall is familiar as the symbol of the Morris County Historical
Society looking like a Victorian House that fits into the look of old
Some changes are in the works.
One is complete. The house has a new slate roof after the removal of two
layers of asphalt shingles.
The next is coming. Acorn Hall will be painted in its original color: a
simple farmhouse grey.
That’s because it was a farmhouse, Amy Curry, executive director of the
historical society, pointed out. When Augustus Crane bought the house
in 1860 it was a simple Georgian Foursquare built in 1853. He expanded
the house, making it nearly three full stories and gave it some Victorian
touches, but he painted it the color of a farmhouse. He did farm the nine
acres of land.
The house is two miles from the square which seems like part of the
town as a steady stream of Hyundais and Subarus zip past in the
direction of the courthouse. When the mode of transportation was horse
and buggy, however, it was a little past the edge of town Curry pointed
Curry explained when the Historical Society inherited the property in
1971, the conventional wisdom in preservation was to paint it a period-
accurate color. She had a paint analysis done to fine the true color. She
explained the Cranes were not wealthy and they came to Morristown
before the age of the millionaires which coincided with the Industrial
Revolution. Most of the mansions of Morristown were built between
1885 and 1890. The millionaires didn’t last too long with some losing
their wealth when the income tax was introduced and most of the rest
seeing ruin from the stock market crash in 1929, she pointed out.
Before painting can start, however, there is some wood that needs
replacing and a few other items that need to be fixed. All replacement
wood has to be milled on site, she pointed out since measurements of a
house this age are more precise than modern milling allows for.
The choice to go back to the original color scheme wasn’t without a little
controversy, Curry admits, but it was introduced at the society’s gala and
is continuing to be talked up during construction tours of the house.
Some inside work will also hark back to the original Crane days, Curry
said. The butler’s pantry is painted in the original colors and will display
Once more funds have come together, the carriage house will be restored
and used to house a one-horse open sleigh and tools that belonged to the
Cranes or other famers of the era. The society has two New Jersey
Historic Trust grants toward the carriage house work, but is still working
on matching those grants.
“Most middle-class carriage houses no longer exist,” Curry said, because
properties were subdivided. The Acorn Hall lot was not subdivided
before the society got it from Mary Crane Hone because it had stayed in
Crane Hone originally decided the house was so well preserved it should
be a museum sometime in the 1950s, Curry said. She also had family
items and items from the original owners dating back to 1853 that she
wanted to see preserved.
She left the back three acres along the Whippany River to the Morris
County Park Commission. That land is the site of a powder mill dating
to Colonial days. The mill was operated by Jacob Ford Jr. and Curry
speculates one of the reasons George Washington stayed at the nearby
Ford Mansion was to keep an eye on the family’s mill.
The Historical Society and the Park Commission have teamed up to get
an archeological management plan for the mill site and to have it listed
on the state and national Register of Historic Places.
Meanwhile, Acorn Hall will continue to feature exhibits from various
eras of significance. Right now nine custom wedding gowns from the
1980s loaned by Jeanne Floersheimer grace four of the rooms on the
The historical society is most known for its collection of vintage textiles
and another planned exhibit will feature fashions from the 1920s through
the 1970s, or “the little black dress through bell bottoms,” Curry said.