Victorian culture was a central aspect of many small towns in 19th-century Northern New Jersey, and Acorn Hall in Morristown accurately represents the lifestyles and designs of the wealthy during that time period. Serving as the headquarters for the Morris County Historical Society, Acorn Hall transports visitors back to the mid-1800s, where they can explore the various rooms and decorations associated with the wealthy Schermerhorn and Crane families. Both families inhabited the house from the 1850s to the 1970s. As a historic, 1853 Victorian Italianate building complete with authentic furnishings and time-period pieces, Acorn Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places as well as the New Jersey State Register. Because of its role in preserving the woman’s suffrage movement in the 19th century, Acorn Hall is also part of the NJ Women's History Trail.
Backstory and Context
Acorn Hall dates back to 1853, when the famous New York Schermerhorn family contracted the build of a Victorian Italianate mansion. The mansion acquired its name due to the large, two-centuries-old oak tree that formerly stood on the properly.
The Schermerhorns didn’t live there long, however, and sold Acorn Hall to Augustus and Mary Crane in 1860. From 1860 and onwards, various descendants of the Horn-Crane family owned the mansion, and Mary Crane Hone gave the home to the Historical Society. As part of the donation, she also gave all of its contents and the surrounding five-acre garden and land to the Morris County Historical Society.
The mansion still contains many of its original furnishings and interior design, which showcases the characteristics and styles associated with the upper-middle class lifestyle. In fact, many of the carpets, wall coverings, and decorative paint techniques remain exactly the same as they were in the 19th century.
Visitors to the museum can tour through seven total period rooms, each of which the Historical Society has interpreted contextually, and two extra rooms feature Acorn Hall’s exhibits.1
Exhibits and Collection
In addition to the historical styles and interior designs, Acorn Hall’s collection stands in high acclaim. The Morris County Historical Society manages, preserves, and displays the collection, and although a majority of the collection comes from the Schermerhorn and Crane families, the Historical Society welcomes any artifacts pertaining to the Victorian or mid-19th century local culture.
Most of the collection pieces are located throughout the seven period rooms, and some collections on display include the American flag collection, a sewing box collection, and the Board Member Emeritus Learned T. Bulman’s Stickpin Collection, which features a scarab stickpin that dates back to the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh King Ramses II (around 1,200 B.C.).
The rotating exhibits at Acorn Hall are in the two extra rooms on the first floor, and every year, the Historical Society rotates the exhibit to highlight the depth and variety of the ever-growing collection. Some exhibits also showcase important historical events that took place in Morris County and around the world.2
Throughout the year, Acorn Hall and the Morris County Historical Society host a variety of special events and programs. As an example, some of the programs featured have included, “The Women’s Suffrage Movement in NJ,” “The Conflict, the County, & the Citizens: Morris County in the Civil War,” and “Behind Closed Doors: Health, Hygiene and Sexuality Among the Victorians.”3