Local History

Sometimes when I just have to get away from the design studio.  I’ll take a few hours off and just go somewhere.  No mumbo jumbo, just a little bit of spontaneity in an increasingly less spontaneous life.

Anyway last week I went to two places that are about a mile apart.  Both are historically significant and both tell a different story since their heydays.

I had never been to Historic Speedwell despite driving past it 100s of times.  Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail first demonstrated the telegraph there.  The county park site is a hodge podge of relocated buildings in various stages of disrepair or renovation, poorly laid paver walkways and NO gardens except an unplanted vegetable patch.   It’s a shame.  The biggest shame is the Moses Estey house.  It  was moved here in 1969 to save it and it  looks as if once moved it was forgotten.  It is an incredible example 18th century Georgian architecture.  The park  information says it is structurally in tact.  I have no idea why the county park service and the community has allowed this beautiful building to fall into rack and ruin for more than 40 years.

The Moses Estey house entry

No steps, boarded up windows, interior windows covered in plastic and peeling paint.  I have to ask why?

My second stop, about a mile away was McCullough Hall.  It is a museum with a collection of American decorative arts and a gallery dedicated to Thomas Nast who lived across the street.  A rich merchant’s house from the same early 19th century period, it was closed for the day, but the garden was open, both house and garden are carefully maintained.

The McCullough Hall entry

To me the entries to both houses tell their stories much better than I can.

4 thoughts on “Local History

  1. How nice that you took the time for yourself to do this. And why not? Thanks for the little bit of NJ history.

    One of the oldest wisteria is at McCullough Hall. Given as a gift by Admiral Perry to the family in the 1850s.–s

  2. Next time you go to the McCullough Hall gardens, stroll to the rear of the garden and find the tree dedicated to Maise Macy. As you know, I bought her home from her in 2001 and have a nice wisteria on our pergola that is from the McCullough Hall plant.

    I’d be charmed to share my garden with you or your friends. Maise’s roses are blooming again, the cicadas are making their sing song sound and time stands still at Maises’ Wood.

    Cheers to you my friend for writing such a lovely piece. Damned shame about Speedwell Village.

    I did go and sit by Maises’ little tree. The small sculpture on that rear patio is one of my favorites. It was blazing hot that day but the patio was cool.–s

  3. Good to get away now and then. Gets the design juices flowing. Tomorrow I head eight blocks down the road to Canada. I need a break too. BTW. I am on my local Historic Preservation Commission, so kudos to you for your angst on the Moses Estey house. More people need to get fired up over the home falling into disrepair.

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