A bicentennial celebration
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Macculloch Hall, a gracious house museum in the middle of Morristown’s National Historic District. Built in 1810, the Federal-style mansion was Morristown’s grandest home at the time. Its first owner was George Macculloch, a visionary intellectual of Scottish background who was the brains behind the Morris Canal and headmaster of a boys’ school right in the house. Carrie Fellows, Macculloch Hall’s executive director, tells us about the bicentennial celebration and what it’s like to run this elegant house museum and gardens.
Somehow it seems only right that this house should have its own birthday party. It has a distinct personality. It’s spacious and gracious, yet welcoming and friendly. It seems almost human. And the gardens are so pleasant.
Well, it was, after all, a family home until the mid-20th Century. George and Louisa Macculloch began a dynasty. Five generations of the Macculloch-Miller family lived here, including a U.S. Senator Jacob Miller and a well-known author Alice Duer Miller.
After Parsons Todd, a former mayor of Morristown, bought the house in 1949 and started a foundation to run it as a museum, he filled it with important antiques and oriental rugs from his collection, which has been enlarged over the years. And the gardens, with their heirloom plantings, have been carefully restored, thanks to the Morristown Garden Club. Visitors are always saying they’d love to live here.
How do you give a house a 200th birthday party?
We’re calling Sunday, October 24, Tartan Day, in honor of the Maccullochs’ Scottish heritage. We’re hosting a gala brunch at the Morris County Golf Club, with a celebrity guest, former governor Tom Kean, another prominent New Jerseyan and educator with a passion for history. This will be followed by a Scottish-themed concert at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, where the Maccullochs were founding members. Kilts, bagpipes, singers, and there will be a wreath-laying at the Macculloch graves in the churchyard, then back to what the family called The Old House for Scottish shortbread and cider.
Even though you have 10 period rooms and three exhibition galleries for permanent and changing exhibits, is it fair to say there’s more to this house than just a pretty face?
Much more. Perhaps most important to the nation is our Thomas Nast collection, the largest in the country and the focus of our previous main exhibit. Nast, as you undoubtedly know, was the famous 19th-century political cartoonist and artist whose drawings popularized the Republican elephant and the Democrat donkey. He also gave us our image of Santa Claus as a jolly, roly-poly character in his illustrations for the Clement Moore poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Nast lived right across the street and was friends with the family here. We also have a Presidential Collection with letters and artifacts from various presidents. And a room that echoes Parsons Todd’s early 20th-century office.
This is definitely a “people house.” In addition to being open to visitors, we have lots of special events, preview receptions, garden happenings, wine tastings, lectures, poetry, music and drama performances. Each summer the NJ Shakespeare Theater puts on Shakespeare in the Garden. We even have 18th-century dancing lessons and an open house in early December, complete with a holiday gift shop. Check out our Web site: maccullochhall.org. Can you believe we’re also on Facebook?
Learn more about Macculloch Hall’s bicentennial celebration in the current issue of New Jersey Countryside Magazine, available now at bookstores, on newsstands and by subscription. Click here to get one free bonus issue and save more than 80% on a subscription.