What About the Horses?

by Amy Curry, Executive Director
October 19, 2021

Horses and wagon at work at Acorn Hall, early 20th C. Horses were in residence at the Hall since at least the 1860s.
One of the earliest known photographs of the carriage house. It was taken from what is now the garden around 1910.

In the 19th century, nearly every country home, like Acorn Hall, had a place to stable/house their horses. While these structures varied based on property type and personal means, carriage houses were somewhat ubiquitous across the landscape. Today, however, few remain to tell a once-so-common story of both culture and transportation; Acorn Hall’s carriage house is one of the last remaining, locally. Its restoration, currently in process, will soon open a whole new perspective on the ways of life for generations past.

Last year, MCHS began the long anticipated stabilization and restoration of Acorn Hall’s carriage house. Drive by the intent to present an accurate representation of a mid-19th century gentleman farmer’s utilitarian carriage house, none related to the project knew the building itself still held the keys to making the project a success: troves of original fabric.   

Unearthed under the two layers of roofing materials, preservationists found the original lead-coated copper roof. Created in panels rather than sheets, as was standard, these original panels allowed for 1,800 identical replicas to be manufactured and installed. Additionally, in the carriage house’s basement and crawl spaces were the original beaded board wall and ceiling treatments. Fortunately, this found material accounts for ~80% of what’s needed to be replaced onto the walls. Darkened to a warm brown with the passage of time these boards are in the process of being reinstalled, providing a historical authenticity, bar none!

While the interior restoration is ongoing, the carriage house’s exterior restoration will soon be finished. Stained gray to match both its original color and Acorn Hall, the original boards and battens are, again, protected and ready for another 100 years in place. A success story for historic preservation, we further look forward to filling the carriage house with both original and donated transportation and land-use equipment that illustrate the nature of Morris County’s 19th century history. Once complete, the building will be open and interpreted to the public, so locals and visitors alike can step back in time.

Roof and first floor ceiling installation in the carriage house.