Historic Speedwell & Morris Museum:
Two Great Places to Visit in Morris County, New Jersey
Morris County, New Jersey is home to some of the most distinguished heritage attractions in the northeast, and perhaps in the entire USA, such as Historic Speedwell, birthplace of the telegraph, and the Morris Museum, one of New Jersey’s largest and most active cultural institutions.
Looking for a new way to spend the day in New Jersey? Morris County has a wealth of fun, exciting and historic adventures. Historic Speedwell and the Morris Museum are just two of many incredible places to spend the day in Morris County, New Jersey.
Here’s more about what Historic Speedwell and the Morris Museum have to offer visitors:
Historic Speedwell brings the birth of the American Industrial Revolution to vivid life. Here is an overview of just a few of the structures that are part of this National Historic Landmark site:
- Vail House: This 7.5-acre National Historic Landmark site preserves the restored estate of Stephen Vail, proprietor of the Speedwell Iron Works from the early to mid-1800's. The Vail House offers a peek into the lives of the Vail family during the mid 19th century. Fully renovated by Stephen Vail in 1844, the home boasts original furnishings, period antiques, and portraits of Stephen and his first wife Bethiah, painted by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1837.
- L’Hommedieu House Visitors Center: The perfect place to begin your visit, the L'Hommedieu House Visitors Center houses the new exhibit, Rocking and Rolling a Historic House. This exhibit explains how three historic homes (Moses Estey House, L'Hommedieu-Gwinnup House and Gabriel Ford Cottage) were all moved to Historic Speedwell in the late 1960s to spare them from demolition.
- The Factory: The most significant building at Historic Speedwell is the Factory, a National Historic Landmark where Stephen Vail’s son, Alfred, worked with Samuel F.B. Morse to perfect the telegraph. It was here on January 11, 1838 where the electromagnetic telegraph was first publicly demonstrated - making Historic Speedwell the “Birthplace of the Telegraph.” The Factory Building includes a variety of interactive displays about the history of the telegraph at Speedwell.
The Morris Museum is one of New Jersey’s oldest, largest and most active cultural institutions. The Museum’s collection consists of nearly 50,000 objects including costumes and textiles, fine and decorative arts, dolls and toys, natural science specimen collections and objects that educate about the American Indian experience in New Jersey.
The Morris Museum is also home to the equity Bickford Theatre.
Here are just a few of the displays you can see at the Morris Museum:
- Musical Machines & Living Dolls: Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata from the Murtogh D. Guiness Collection: Over 700 music boxes in a new gallery with interactive exhibits on the history of on-demand musical entertainment from the Victorian era down to today’s mp3 players. This visually and aurally stunning exhibit has become one of Morris County’s most popular tourist attractions.
- Dinosaur Den: Have you ever wondered what New Jersey was like in the age when dinosaurs roamed the earth? The Dinosaur Den houses some of the museum’s most well-loved exhibition materials, including real and cast fossils, reconstructed dinosaur skeletons and life-sized dinosaur models. Visitors learn about native flora and fauna, what dinosaur tracks looked like, and how paleontologists work to uncover fossils in the field and much more.
- Rock and Mineral Gallery: The museum’s geological collection, considered one of the best in New Jersey, is home to numerous specimens from throughout the world. The geological collection also represents 100 percent of New Jersey’s minerals, including Franklin and Watchung Mountain materials. In the Rock and Mineral Gallery, visitors can view a variety of geological specimens in an interactive, hands-on setting or walk into a dark “cave” in which they can enjoy the fluorescent properties of certain rocks in a specialized light setting.
Ready to spend your day at one of these cultural sites in Morris County? Excellent. And remember, in addition to Historic Speedwell and the Morris Museum, there are plenty of other amazing attractions that would allow you to spend days learning, in fun and exciting ways, in your own backyard in Morris County.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol Barkin is the research and product development coordinator for the Morris County Tourism Bureau as well as a tour docent for the Bureau’s Summer and Fall walking tour programs. x