The New Jersey Historic Trust has awarded Morris County Historical Society $157,545 in grants to restore Acorn Hall’s mid-19th century Carriage House in Morristown.
The restoration of the Carriage House is a critical part of MCHS’s efforts, especially over the past five years, to restore Acorn Hall and the nearly six-acre property to its 19th century appearance. The Carriage House is a contributing factor to the Acorn Hall site’s state and national significance due to its connection with early land-use and cultural history of the property. While the exact construction date of the Carriage House in unknown, Augustus Crane’s meticulous personal records, as well as the auction held at the time of Crane’s death in 1906 lends credibility to its existence in 1857, when Crane took ownership of the property from New York’s Schermerhorn family, which had built the home in 1853 as a simple Georgian Four Square, a four-room over four-room home.
Crane modified the home to its present appearance between 1857 and 1860 and named it Acorn Hall for the large Red Oak tree that until 2007 stood on the western side of the property.
The Crane family was “upper-middle class.” Augustus Crane moved to rural Morristown to live as a gentleman farmer, practicing orchard-tending, small-scale farming and animal husbandry. The Carriage House reflects the more utilitarian and agrarian nature of Crane’s interests and hobbies while living at Acorn Hall. The 50’ x 25’ structure, located next to the foundation remains of the Crane’s hothouse, has five horse stalls, all still intact, a large area accessible with double-doors for the family’s carriages and sleighs, a half-story second floor/hay loft, and a basement. The exterior has board and batten siding; the original roof was a standing seam metal.
“MCHS staff and leadership recognize the significant nature of the Carriage House as few such utilitarian outbuildings remain to tell the story of mid-19th century Morristown,” said MCHS Executive Director Amy Curry. “That ours still retains as much historic fabric as it does is another aspect of its significance. Today, it’s hard to image that a man of modest means could farm his nine-acre property less than two miles from The Green, but with the restoration of the Carriage House we intend to create a sense of reality to that relatively common mid-19th century fact.”
Coupled with original family items – including horse-drawn farming equipment, orchard tending equipment, and a horse-drawn ice sled, as well as donated items (e.g., a one-horse carriage, a one-horse open sleigh, a local wheelwright business sign, a high-wheel bicycle), MCHS intends to establish the Carriage House as a significant resource in understanding and appreciating life in mid- to late-19th century Morristown.