A Gentleman’s Pursuit: The Commodore’s Greenhouse
WHEN: Feb. 16 – June 3. The Opening Event celebrating the exhibition and its sponsors will be held on Thursday, February 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, Princeton
ADMISSION: Adults - $10, Seniors (60+)/Students/Active Military Personnel - $8, Children 6 and under - Free, Friends of Morven- Free. Morven’s Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit morven.org or call (609) 924-8144.
Research done in the 2000s, revealed that Commodore Robert F. Stockton (1795-1866) had built the greenhouse during his tenure at Morven. Account books showed that the Commodore had paid for the installation of gutters on the building in October 1854, placing its construction at approximately 1852-54. An inventory upon his death indicated that the greenhouse contained 15 lemon trees, 100 Japonicas, 10 cati, 4 azaleas, 3 Daphnes and “Misc. plants.” Based on research it is believed that the greenhouse was torn down in the 1880s.
Little else was known about the greenhouse until a 2013 archaeological dig conducted by Hunter Research, Inc., who is partnering with Morven for his exhibition, uncovered the brick and stone foundation of the structure. Excavations over the next two summers revealed thousands of cultural artifacts, including the remains of the cast iron furnace which heated the greenhouse, and glass from the window panes that allowed sunlight in. The greenhouse denotes the refined gentleman’s pastime of the Commodore, reflecting his social prominence and financial standing to enjoy such an exquisite hobby. Due to New Jersey’s gradual emancipation law, the Commodore no longer owned any enslaved people by the time the greenhouse was constructed. The maintenance of the structure and plants within was likely left to a trained gardener and paid farm hands.
“This exhibition is unique in that it allows visitors to follow the process of archaeologists and historians as they work their way from identifying archaeological digs, unearthing and dating artifacts, researching primary documents, and comparing contemporaneous sites to reveal a fuller picture of what Morven’s greenhouse would have been like,” says, Elizabeth Allan, Curator of Collections & Exhibitions.
“The exhibit shows how archaeology opens a fascinating window into the greenhouse that serviced Morven’s gardens,” says Richard Hunter, President/Principal, Hunter Research, Inc. For the past 30 years, Trenton-based Hunter Research, a historic preservation and cultural resources consulting firm, has been actively engaged in interpreting historic sites for the benefit of the general public.
Situated on five pristine acres in this university town, Morven is a short walk from the Princeton Campus. The museum boasts a growing collection of fine and decorative arts, including loans from the Boudinot Collection at the Princeton University Art Museum. Morven's second floor galleries serve as a changing exhibit space with new shows opening every few months that celebrates the cultural heritage of New Jersey.
For more than 200 years Morven has played a role in the history of New Jersey and the nation. Originally part of a 5,500-acre tract purchased from William Penn in 1701 by the Stockton family, it became the site of the home of Richard Stockton, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. As well as serving as a Stockton homestead into the 20th century, Morven was also home to Robert Wood Johnson and his family, and eventually five New Jersey governors. In 1982, the New Jersey Governor's Mansion was relocated to nearby Drumthwacket and Morven began its conversion to a museum and opened to the public in 2004.
Morven Museum & Garden is supported in part by a grant from the New Jersey Department of State, Division of Travel & Tourism.