The Morrill Homestead

Architecture: Gothic Revival style (A. J. Downing & A. J. Davis promoters of The Gothic style.) 

The Homestead was completed in the spring of 1851. The first color of the Homestead was a taupe (tan) with maroon sash.  The four original out buildings were the Ice House, the Carriage Barn (now the restrooms), the Horse Barn (the reconstructed Education Building), and summer gazebo (now gone) were a reddish brown paint scheme.   The fence was a purplish color.  This color scheme meets Downing’s suggested colors and would have given the house its intended stone look.  When the library, front entry with dining room bay window and china closets, and the second floor over the woodshed were added in 1859 the house was painted the present shade of pink.  The interior wallpapers were removed around 1969 after the state took ownership and new plaster walls were installed because the old plaster had not been properly maintained.  Unfortunately no wall paper samples were kept.  The only original wall paper remaining is a small section that can be seen in the back upstairs hallway and behind the large cupboard in the servant’s sitting room.

The woven carpets are all original to the house and were apparently purchased from The Wanamaker Store in New York or Philadelphia. All primary rooms in the Homestead were originally carpeted with wall-to-wall carpets.  The carpets are probably of English origin.  The Parlor carpet is the earliest and dates from 1849-1850; it is a “Brussels” carpet, with a heavy pile and an open loop, and was installed when the house was constructed.  The other carpets are called “Wilton” carpets and date from the 1870s.  These do not have the high pile and are a closed loop.  Both style carpets were woven in narrow, long strips and sewn together to create wall-to-wall carpets. 

Tour the Homestead

Various Barns and Outbuildings

The buildings shown on Morrill’s original landscape plan are the Homestead, the Carriage Barn (now the restrooms), and the original Horse Barn (the reconstructed Education Center). Also evidenced is a Summer Gazebo which is no longer standing.  This was located in a circle of buckthorn and cedars behind (south of) the Carriage Barn.  All that remains today of this structure is the overgrown circle of buckthorn and cedars and four corner stones for the structure.  There are no known photographs of this gazebo.

The Shuffle Board Court, to the south of the house overlooking the gardens, was constructed for Justin Morrill.  Shuffleboard was a much smaller game in the 19th century than what is played today.  The original shuffleboard was about 12 inches wide and 6 feet long and is in storage above the restrooms. 
In 1901 son James made a major addition to the complex.  He constructed a large Carriage Barn where today we have our interpretive exhibit.  He then relocated the original Horse Barn and attached it to the rear of the new carriage barn.  The Education Center is an exterior reconstruction of this horse barn.

It would appear the Cow Barn dates from Justin’s time (1888) but the shed roof addition in front may have been added by his son James. The Sheep Barn dates from Justin’s ownership. The Farm Shop may have been constructed for Justin. The Corn Crib dates from Justin’s ownership.

The Ice House is an original structure but was moved from the site in 1938 when the Morrill family sold the property to Mark Harvey.  Harvey sold the Ice House to the owners of the Colburn property next door to the north and a small farm outbuilding to the owners of the house currently owned by Gwenda Smith.  That farm building was located to the south of the Cow Barn and is now located behind the Smith house.  The Ice House was moved back onto its original foundation and restored in 1989.

Justin Morrill had a Hot House or greenhouse for growing plants.  The concrete foundation that remains is from a larger hot house that was constructed by James around 1901.

The Education Center is an exterior reconstruction of Morrill’s original Horse Barn which was moved by James Morrill to the rear of the large Carriage Barn he had built in 1901.  The Education Center building is located where the original Horse Barn was located.  The location was determined by scaling the original landscape plan and through archaeology.  The building was constructed in 2007 and is for meetings and programs. It is not a part of the regular tour.  On the first floor and upstairs in the building is a portion of Morrill’s original library.  In Louise Swan’s 1919 will she donated money to the Town of Strafford to construct the current Harris Library-Morrill Memorial building to the north of the Homestead.  She also gave them Morrill’s book collection to be a non-circulating collection.   The Library Trustees selected some books from the Homestead for the town library and left others in the Homestead for Elmer Morrill.  It is unknown how they selected which books to take and which to leave.  In working with the Library Trustees and Probate Court, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation was able to have the books transferred to the new Education Center.  The books still belong to the town library and access to them is gained through the town librarian.

The Morrill Mausoleum is located in the town cemetery behind the 1799 Town House.  Buried in it are Justin, his wife Ruth, their two sons, Justin and James, and his sister-in-law Louise Swan. It is constructed from Barre, Vermont granite and was completed in time for the burial of Ruth.