The year 2010 marked two important anniversaries for Macculloch Hall. Two hundred years before, in 1810, George Macculloch began construction of his Federal style mansion over an existing farmhouse on 26 acres at what is now 45 Macculloch Avenue in Morristown. In 1950, W. Parsons Todd began the gracious old home's transformation into his vision of a historical museum serving the community.
George Macculloch is best remembered as the Father of the Morris Canal, but he was also the first president of the Morris County Agricultural Society. He raised crops, including more than two dozen varieties of pears, on his twenty-six acres of pasture, orchards and cultivated farmland in Morristown, assisted by several domestics and day laborers, some of whom were, until 1819, slaves. Macculloch originally conceived the Morris Canal to transport farm produce from northwest New Jersey to metropolitan New York markets.
After Macculloch died in 1858, his wife, Louisa, stayed on in the house as tenant to daughter Mary and her husband Jacob Miller, New Jersey's last Whig senator, and a founder of the state's Republican party. In 1888, the Millers divided the property into a land development corporation, and succeeding generations occupied the house until 1947.
In 1949, W. Parsons Todd bought the house and its remaining three acres from Henry W. Miller for $10,000. Known as "Mr. Morristown"—having twice served as mayor and a life-long supporter of fire departments, houses of worship, Boy and Girl Scouts, libraries, social service organizations—Todd wanted not only to preserve an important piece of the town's history, but also to create a museum to exhibit his personal collection of eighteenth and early nineteenth century high style antiques. At the age of seventy, Todd began collecting in earnest with purchases from the notable Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York, acquiring objects specifically for the museum as well as implementing items from his personal collection to furnish and interpret its period room settings. Although his profession was in copper mining ventures, Todd had somehow trained his eye to focus on the finest antiques available to furnish his historic house museum.
Already world-renown as an illustrator and political caricaturist, Thomas Nast moved into the house across the street from the Macculloch-Millers in 1872, raising a family there, while continuing his work and touring the United States as a lecturer and a sketch artist. Nast popularized some of America's most famous images, including the Democratic Donkey, Republican Elephant, Uncle Sam and Santa Claus. Nast's son, Cyril, knew the Macculloch grandchildren, and played baseball with W. Parsons Todd. Todd later purchased nearly 2,000 of Nast's works directly from Cyril, preserving a significant record of American political and social history, while lending assistance to an old friend. Macculloch Hall's Nast collection is the largest in the country.
At his death at the age of 98 in 1976, the W. Parsons Todd Foundation was endowed to insure that the Museum would continue as a community resource for local history and the decorative arts. "One of our biggest challenges here is to tie together and package three marginally related collections in a way so that visitors aren't confused," says Executive Director Carrie Fellows, who staffs the museum along with Curator, Ryan Hyman, and Event and Program Coordinator, Karen Hollywood. "We're a house museum, so we're talking the history of the Mucculloch-Miller family, W. Parsons Todd's collection, and this other family relationship with the Nasts that brought many of his works here. Todd's collection does not necessarily embody the Macculloch family aesthetic enough to really represent what it was like when they were here. And Nast didn't live here; he lived across the street!" The glue, of course, is the house, interlocking and standing as testament to relevant spheres of local, national and international culture.
Of Morristown's six historic house museums, only Macculloch Hall is built of brick, reminding the visitor that Macculloch had emigrated from the tight neighborhoods of London where wooden buildings were a fire hazard. So, while even Morristown's courthouse and churches were frame dwellings, Macculloch's house made a statement about his worldly experiences and ambitions. Still, today's visitors see a house that is both grandly elegant and cheerfully relaxed; home to a family that held frequent large house parties lasting sometimes for a week. The rooms are large and filled with light, and there is a sense of movement throughout the house beginning in the center hall with a staircase that sweeps upward. The architecture and atmosphere remain un-muddled, just as George Macculloch intended.
The center hall, the building's main entrance, was built later than the original section to the left as you enter. A walk through this earlier section, constructed over a farmhouse kitchen downstairs that dates to 1765, begins at Macculloch's office and den, filled with canal maps, models, artifacts and original furnishings. In the dining room, the house's most opulent chamber, Todd's collection of fine and unusual examples of porcelain, silver and china from across the globe, evoke a sense of splendor and refinement typical of the most lavish estates of the early nineteenth century, but likely not the simpler tastes of the Macculloch family. Among the glittering assembly of Worcester, Meissen, and Sevres, porcelain collections from the Presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Franklin Pierce, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Abraham Lincoln are tucked in corner cupboards. Todd was the great grand-nephew of Dolly Madison from her first husband, John Todd, and his Presidential collection also includes the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, as well as a Peale painting of George Washington above the fireplace in the drawing room, or parlor. Known by the family as the "best room", it also contains period furniture, a music stand from the Maccullochs, and a harp donated by Todd. A local carpenter was paid $17 to fashion the room's original moldings and mantel carvings, which are completely intact. On another wall hangs a famous painting of Morristown seen from Fort Nonsense in 1850, one of several images owned and licensed by the Museum as sources of income.
The grand stairway in the center hall, built soon after the Macculloch family's arrival, rises beneath a magnificent chandelier, originally one of three in a great room at the nearby Twombly Estate and acquired by Mr. Todd at auction. On the landing, an English grandfather clock, dating to about 1810, stands where it has since the 1860s.
The family had nine bedrooms upstairs, three of which currently recall their appearance during the first two generations in the home. The original Macculloch master bedroom looks southwest over the back of the house, and, opposite, facing Macculloch Avenue, the Miller bedroom appears as it did a generation later, in the mid nineteenth century. Adjoining that room, sleeping quarters for any of the nine Miller children contains more period furnishings and an assortment of toys from the era.
Three exhibit galleries complement Macculloch Hall's period rooms. Thematic rotations of the artist's work appear in the permanent Nast Gallery, as well as along the upstairs corridors of the house, including drawings in both pencil and ink, gouache, paintings in watercolor and oils, preliminary drawings and doodles, and artist and printer proofs. The Nast archives contain his personal correspondence and personal photographs, including the family photo album. While Nast works are always on display at the Museum, the bulk of the collection, which now numbers over 3,000 pieces, is available for research only by appointment.
Downstairs, a large gallery occupies the section of the house built to accommodate the Latin School for boys founded by Louisa and George Macculloch in the early nineteenth century. Classes were held here, while students often boarded at the house. Today, the spacious room hosts exhibits representing all facets of the Museum, including this summer's display of Todd's antique carpets. Collected since the 1920s, the rugs range geographically from Morocco to China and chronologically from the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries, all prized for their beauty, rarity, and content.
Outside, the gardens of Macculloch Hall, the oldest in Morris County, have also returned to their nineteenth century splendor. Incorporating original plantings and landscape features, the gardens display seasonal blooms including numerous varieties of heirloom roses. Commodore Matthew Perry brought the wisteria planted along the rear porch arbor as a gift to Senator and Mrs. Miller circa 1857. The sundial on the upper lawn has been a part of the Macculloch Hall landscape since 1876, and the very old sassafras tree at the far end of the lawn is the second largest in New Jersey. Two annual open-house events highlight the historic gardens, as well as poetry readings and other scheduled events. The gardens and grounds are open for visitation free of charge weekdays from dawn 'til dusk.
Macculloch Hall is open to the public on Weds., Thurs., and Sun., 1 to 4 PM; group tours at other times by appointment. Admission is Adults $6; Seniors, Students $5; under 12 are free. The gardens are open every day, dawn to dusk, free of charge. 45 Macculloch Avenue, Morristown. (973) 538-2404. Website
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