Take a look inside a 45-room, 14,000-square-foot historic mansion once owned by the inventor of Morse code
By Talia Lakritz,2023-05-28
- Inventor Samuel F. B. Morse spent summers at his Locust Grove Estate in New York's Hudson Valley.
- The 14,000-square-foot Italianate villa, built in 1852, has 45 rooms over six floors.
- It was purchased in 1901 by the Young family and has remained uniquely preserved.
When Samuel F. B. Morse wasn't creating Morse code, inventing the telegraph, or painting portraits, he was relaxing on the grounds of his Locust Grove Estate in upstate New York.
Located about 80 miles outside New York City in Poughkeepsie, Locust Grove was built in 1852 on a bluff with views of the Hudson River below. The 14,000-square-foot Italianate villa has a total of 45 rooms over six floors.
Morse, his wife Sarah Elizabeth Griswold Morse, and their four children spent every summer there until his death in 1872. (Morse also had three adult children from his first marriage to Lucretia Walker, who died in 1825.)
The home was then rented to a wealthy local couple, William and Martha Young, who purchased it in 1901 and spent about $15,000 renovating the interior and installing modern amenities like electricity and central heat.
The Youngs' daughter, Annette, recognized the historical significance of the estate and established a nonprofit that continues to preserve and maintain the property. Locust Grove opened to the public in 1979.
While the grounds are open year-round, tours of the home are available from May through October on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays and cost $15 per person .
"It's a really unusually preserved house, so people that are interested in art and history and architecture can always find something here," Ken Snodgrass, director and curator of the Locust Grove Estate, told me on my tour.
Take a look inside Locust Grove.Located in Poughkeepsie, New York, Locust Grove once belonged to Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of Morse code and the telegraph. The estate is situated on 200 acres of land. During my springtime visit, I enjoyed walking through the fragrant gardens to reach the house. The home didn't look very big from the outside, but my tour guide, Ken Snodgrass, described Locust Grove as "deceptively large" with 45 rooms spanning 14,000 square feet. Morse worked with architect Alexander Jackson Davis to design Locust Grove in an Italianate style inspired by Italian villas, with decorative arches and a wraparound veranda. What makes the interior of Locust Grove unique is that it's almost exactly as the Young family left it, as opposed to other historic homes that have been restored by curators, according to Snodgrass. Our first stop after the entryway was the dining room decorated with portraits of members of the Young family, who purchased the home from the Morses in 1901. Just off the dining room was the pantry, where some of the estate's 14 full-time staff members plated meals brought up on a dumbwaiter elevator from the basement kitchen. The drawing room was used to entertain guests before and after dinner. The Youngs also hosted dances and concerts here since the furniture was lightweight and easy to rearrange. In the tea room, my tour guide said that Locust Grove residents and guests enjoyed afternoon tea with a silver tea set from Tiffany and Co. The music room, another entertaining space, features color-corrected scans of the original wallpaper from 1908. This receiving room was used for lounging with family and close friends. Martha Young also hosted card games here on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The library at Locust Grove was decorated in an Italian Gothic style, and I loved the collection of 75 teapots atop the shelves. The second floor contained three family bedrooms and three guest bedrooms, one of which included a dollhouse made for the Youngs' daughter Annette by her uncle in 1895. The spacious primary tower bedroom, the largest bedroom in the home, featured gorgeous views of the Hudson and portraits of the Young children over the bed. I couldn't believe how large the billiards room was. It functioned as a playroom of sorts, where guests played on a pool table from 1895 and listened to music on a phonograph. Our last stop on the tour was the basement, where staff members prepared meals in the kitchen on a wood-burning stove until it was upgraded with coal in 1910 and gas burners in 1920. Between the estate's 14 bedrooms and five bathrooms, every day was laundry day at Locust Grove. Next to the laundry room, the servants' dining room and lounge was usually full of staff members writing letters, mending clothes, or carrying out other household tasks. After my tour, I visited the museum and gallery at the estate's visitor center, which featured artifacts from the development of Morse's inventions, as well as some of his paintings. I enjoyed learning about Locust Grove's fascinating history, touring the perfectly preserved interiors, and taking in the stunning Hudson Valley views. I can see why Morse's family wanted to come back year after year. Read the original article on Insider