Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

New Jersey Historic Trust Affiliated with the Department of Community Affairs

Historic Speedwell: Estey and Vail Houses

Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund
Historic Site Management Grant
Grant Award: $50,000 (2007)
Grant Recipient: Morris County Parks Commission
County: Morris
Municipality: Morristown

Historic Speedwell is known as the birth place of the telegraph. Samuel F. B. Morse conducted the first successful demonstration of the electromagnetic telegraph at the Factory Building in Speedwell in 1838. Stephen Vail, owner of the factory and ironworks, had provided financial support and a workshop to Morse, a friend of Vail’s son Alfred. The Stephen Vail Homestead probably dates from the first quarter of the 19th century, although no precise date of construction has been determined. Vail became part-owner of the iron works in 1807 and eventually became the sole proprietor of this very successful enterprise. The Vail family lived in the house from the 1820s through the 1950s. The house was completely renovated by Stephen Vail during the 1840s.

The Estey House dates to the last quarter of the 18th century. The house was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1786. Captain Moses Estey was a chair maker and veteran of the Revolution. The Georgian-style house was modeled after the Ford Mansion in Morristown. The house was moved in 1968 from downtown Morristown after being threatened by demolition as part of an urban renewal project.

Historic Speedwell was organized in 1966 as a non-profit educational historic site. The site consists of eight buildings, five original to the site and three moved to the site. Speedwell is a National Historic Landmark and a Save America’s Treasure site.

The 2007 Trust grant helped fund the preparation of a historic structure report for the Vail Homestead and the preparation of a preservation plan for the Moses Estey House.

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