Historic Preservation

Preservation Efforts

In order to support the mission of the Morris County Park Commission, our staff are dedicated to preserving and interpreting the historical resources located within our many parks and facilities, including culturally significant buildings and objects. Historic preservation identifies places, sites, and resources from our past, evaluates their current meaning and value, and caresfor those significant places, sites, and resources to ensure their future survival.

This includes a wide range of preservation techniques, from large-scale projects such as environmental monitoring and historic restoration to smaller efforts, such as artifact conservation and using proper storage materials.

Under the direction of the Cultural and Environmental Resource Division, we strive to achieve the right balance to best serve the public now and for future generation.

Our preservation efforts include:

  • Inventory, documentation, and prioritization of cultural resources for conservation and further research
  • In-depth analysis of cultural resources using current best practices to provide improved access
  • Preparation of historic structures reports, preservation plans, and historic landscape reports to guide large scale projects.
  • Monitoring program to identify and mitigate a variety of potential threats to the long-term stewardship of the resources.
  • Restoration, stabilization and preservation of historically significant structures, sites and artifacts.
  • Education and outreach efforts – including interpretive programming

Here are some of the major park improvement historic preservation projects in progress or completed within the last 5 years. The list is not exhaustive, and does not include the great number of ongoing ordinary maintenance and land management projects that are carried out each year by our in-house Maintenance, Trails and Buildings, and Construction crews.

Upcoming

Phase 2 Restoration of The Willows – anticipated completion late 2024

The upcoming Phase 2 Restoration of The Willows at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm will restore select interior and exterior building elements, including all associated work on the chimneys, foundation masonry, roof, siding and doors, as part of the next major phase of work needed for the long-term stewardship of the historic home.  Funding has been made possible in part by a grants from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund and New Jersey Historic Trust/State of New Jersey. 

In Progress

Phase IV Restoration of the Gardens at Bamboo Brook – anticipated completion 2024

Bamboo Brook Outdoor Education Center, formerly known as Merchiston Farm, is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places for its associations with Martha Brookes Hutcheson, the second professional female landscape architect in the United States. Mrs. Hutcheson lived at the property, comprised of an 18th century farmhouse (expanded by into a Colonial Revival residence) and farmyard, from 1912 until 1959.  The house is surrounded by Hutcheson’s designed landscape, which includes informal gardens, a tennis court, swimming pool and orchard, streams, and axes, with viewsheds framed by allés and arbors.

Funding has been made possible in part by the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund administered by the New Jersey Historic Trust/State of New Jersey for the preparation of design documents (2019) and construction (2022) for the Phase IV restoration project which addresses the tennis court area (including the arbor and playhouse), orchard, and ha-ha wall feature. A previous New Jersey Historic Trust grant (2002) helped fund the first 3 phases of restoration of the gardens to their circa 1944 appearance. Areas of the garden that were restored include: theCoffee Terrace, East Lawn, Orchard, and water areas.

Completed

Restoration of the Speedwell Factory Waterwheel and Wheelhouse – completed May 2023

It was here in 1838, within the Factory Building at the Speedwell Ironworks, that Samuel F.B. Morse and Alfred Vail first demonstrated a perfected electromagnetic telegraph to the public. Attached to the Factory is the 1854 waterwheel which powered numerous pieces of equipment within the building. The restoration of the Waterwheel and Wheelhouse began in 2022 and includes: repair of the wood-shingle roof, repair and repainting of siding, foundation and wheel-pit masonry repointing, and complete restoration of the waterwheel.

Funding has been made possible in part by the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund administered by the New Jersey Historic Trust/State of New Jersey and the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Sustainable Management of Collections Environments with Limited Controls, Phase 1 and 2 – Completed February 2023

In partnership with both the Image Permanence Institute and the Conservation Center for Art &Historic Artifacts, this two-phased project documented conditions and tested low-cost passive or mechanical methods to improve the environment in terms of preservation and sustainability of historic collections and structures. The goal was to answer how to make low-cost or no cost improvements based on environmental monitoring in spaces with limited or no HVAC control and providing the Park Commission staff with analysis to make informed cost-benefit decisions regarding managing a range of structures. Funding was made possible in part by a Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Willows: Porches and Arches Restoration – completed 2022

The 1854 Gothic Revival residence at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm was built for Joseph W. Revere based upon an 1851 pattern book plan by Gervase Wheeler and built by Chatham basedMaster Builder Ashbel Bruin. The house is listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.

The historic preservation project included: restoration and replacement of the columns, arches,beams and millwork, painting of exterior woodwork, replacement of damaged porch floorboards and restoration of stone steps, and restoration of balcony framing and railings. Funding was made possible in part by a grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Phase 1 Rehabilitation of the Moses Estey House – completed 2019

The Moses Estey House is a two-story, center-hall 18th-century Georgian style house that originally stood at the corner of Spring and Water Streets in Morristown, NJ. Captain Moses Estey, a veteran of the American Revolution, built the house after a fire had destroyed his earlier home in January of 1786. In May of 1969, the non-profit organization Speedwell Village purchased the home for $1 from the Office of Urban Renewal and moved the house to its current location with the intention of preserving it. Used as storage since its move to the property, the exterior of the house was restored and stabilized as part of the Phase 1 Rehabilitation of the house. Future plans call for the stabilization and rehabilitation of the interior to allow for expanded classroom and meeting space. Funding was made possible in partby a grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Rehabilitation of the Cooper Gristmill Sill Beams – Completed 2018

The Cooper Gristmill, a 14-acre National and State Register Historic Site, located on the edge of the Black River County Park contains the only operational water-powered grist mill within the state of New Jersey. Restoration of sections of the exposed sill beams were completed with funding support provided by the Corporate Business Tax Historic Preservation Fund administered by the New Jersey Historic Trust.