Grove is intimately connected with the life
of Samuel F.B. Morse, the 19th century painter and
inventor of the telegraph and Morse Code. Nearly 100
acres of land, farmed and logged since the 1700s by
the Henry Livingston family, formed the nucleus of
the property that Morse acquired in 1847. Over the
succeeding decades of his residency, he shaped his
home into a graceful country manor.
From Locust Grove, Morse
maintained his active involvement with many artistic
and educational organizations. He was a graduate of
Yale University where a prominent building bears his
name. In 1834, he became Professor of the Literature
of the Arts and Design at New York University. Under
his guidance, NYU stood at the forefront in the development
of professional training in art and art history. This
later led to the founding of NYU's preeminent Graduate
School of Art History., the Institute of Fine arts.
He was also a member of the first Board of Trustees
of Vassar College, the founder and first President
of the National Academy of Design, and a Trustee of
the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of the many outstanding
features of Locust Grove, few can rival the historic
gardens. At the top of the bluff, the main house is
surrounded by extensive gardens containing shrubbery,
trees and flowers that Morse would recognize from
his own design. Scenic vistas, planned by Morse, reveal
the spectacular terraced setting, as the Hudson River
glints through the trees on lower tiers. The influence
of the picturesque, Romantic 19th century landscape
design is evident. The grounds also reflect Morse's
knowledge of painting and landscape architecture in
the broad, sweeping river views, as well as in the
subtle detail of the geometric flower beds.
Locust Grove, with
its 150 acres of trees and gardens, is the largest nature
preserve between Cold Spring and Hyde Park. The small
lake, coves, and wooded areas are home to many kinds
of fish and wetland creatures, and attract thousands
of migrating birds. Over 3 miles of walking trails lead
to sunny coves along the river, a cool waterfall, and
stands of oak, tulip, and locust trees that date to
Morse's time. As part of a greenbelt, including the
Rural Cemetery and Springside, Locust Grove possesses
unmatched natural resources.
Locust Grove has seen
three major phases of development. Samuel F.B. Morse
acquired a Georgian house, built in 1830 by John and
Isabella Montgomery, as part of the estate he purchased
in 1847. Central to his plan for improving the estate,
Morse consulted his friend, the well known architect
Alexander Jackson Davis, and together they created a
villa in the popular Tuscan style. To the original home,
Morse and Davis added two wings to the North and South,
creating an octagon, as well as the porte-cochère
and billiards room to the East, and the four-story tower
structure facing west toward the river; this established
a powerful focal point for the landscape that Morse
was already planning.
1901, the Young family added the large dining room
wing at the north end, bringing the house to its present
form. The ground floor contains the original kitchen
and the laundry, both used throughout the history
of the house. This floor also contains the Morse Exhibition
Room, filled with Morse artifacts including telegraph
memorabilia and a copy of the original telegraph patent
The unique combination
of landscaped lawns, vistas, and architecture make
Locust Grove one of the most handsome Hudson River
estates. In 196, it became the first in the valley
to be designated a National Historic Landmark.
In 1901, three decades
after the death of Samuel F.B. Morse, his family sold
the estate to William and Martha Young, whose daughter
Annette Innis Young, realizing its historic importance,
preserved the estate essentially as it had been in
Morse's time. Today the house contains works of art
and decorative arts from both the Morse and Young
Original Morse family
pieces are exhibited in period-room settings with
diverse collections of 18th and 19th century furniture
and decorative arts acquired over the generations
by the Young family. Among the most important pieces
of furniture are a paint and parcel-gilt rush-seated
suite consisting of a settee and six chairs owned
by the Morse family and used in the drawing room.
Morse family silver and porcelain are also displayed
in the house. These are shown along with important
pieces collected over the years by the Youngs, such
as two Duncan Phyfe settees, numerous other Phyfe
pieces (c. 1820), a rare Chippendale card table and
chairs (c. 1750), and a collection of mid 18th century
Dutch marquetry furniture. The fine arts collections
include paintings by Samuel F.B. Morse, representative
works by George Inness, Sanford R. Gifford, Henry
Farrer, and the Canadian artist Cornelius Kreighoff,
as well as a rare bound collection of Birds of America
by J.J. Audubon.
Morse: The American Leonardo
& his "Invention of the Century"
What sets Locust Grove
apart from other historic sites is the additional
dimension of Samuel F.B. Morse's life as artist and
inventor of the telegraph. Called "the invention of
the century" in the first issue of Scientific American
magazine, a replica of his original telegraph is in
the Morse Room on the ground floor of the main house.
Visitors can learn about Morse Code and practice sending
messages on telegraph and radio keys.
Our guides tell the story
of the telegraph: from its beginning in a university
art studio, through its powerful first message, "What
hath God wrought!", sent from Washington, D.C. to
Baltimore, MD. to the further improvements made in
telegraphy after Morse's death. This fascinating history
has led to the instantaneous, world-wide communication
that we enjoy and depend upon today. After seeing
Locust Grove, the visitor to his home soon understands
why Samuel F.B. Morse, the father of modern communications,
is known as the American Leonardo.
The house and gardens
are open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas,
and every month except January and February.
House tours are available
May through October for walk in individual tours from
10am until 3pm, group tours by appointment. During
November, December, March and April the house is open
for tours, by appointment only, from 10am until 4pm.
You can arrange for a house tour in French, Italian,
Spanish, German, Japanese and American Sign Language.
The new Visitor Center
and Gift Shop are open all year from 10am till 4pm,
except major holidays.
The grounds are open 8am
to dusk daily, weather permitting.