Fred Eckert speaks about Historic Speedwell, February 27, 2014

Carol Tiesi, club president and community committee co-chairperson with Fred Eckert. Photo by Frank Cahill

Fred Eckert was the guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany evening meeting held on Thursday, February 27. Fred pictured with Club president Carol Tiesi, spoke on the Historic Speedwell and the telegraph.  Fred is a history expert who was very informative and entertaining.  He is passionate about the rich history of New Jersey, as well as Morris County.

The Historic Speedwell is located at 333 Speedwell Avenue, Morristown. Hours of Operation during April through October are Wednesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Closed Sundays During July – October, Wednesday through Saturday. Historic Speedwell will be open Sundays throughout the season for special events. Please check our calendar of events for these specific dates. Note: Last tour begins at 3:30 p.m.  Guided tours are available of the Vail Home, Factory Building and Wheelhouse.

Experience life during the early years of the Industrial Revolution and dawn of a new era in communications. The Historic Speedwell is a 7.5-acre National Historic Landmark site preserves the restored estate of Stephen Vail, proprietor of the Speedwell Iron Works from the early to mid-1800′s. Experience life during the mid 19th century through guided tours, special events, programs, and exhibits.

The site includes the newly restored L’Hommedieu House Visitors Center. The S.S. Savannah Exhibit, which explores the creation and strife surrounding the maiden voyage of the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean the S.S. Savannah. The wooden patterns for the revolutionary engine were made at the Speedwell Ironworks under the supervision of Ironmaster, Stephen Vail. Through hands on activities and the display of original artifacts from the Savannah’s maiden voyage, the whole family will enjoy the return of S.S. Savannah exhibit.

Currently, on display in our rotating gallery is the Wedding of the Century Exhibit. Through artifacts and images from the collection the exhibit explores wedding customs and practices of the 19th century. Visitors can trace American wedding customs to the precedent set by Queen Victoria’s White Wedding in England in 1840. With special attention to fashion, this exhibition explores period wedding customs of both the urban elite and the everyday bride from 1800 to 1900. The display also includes newly exhibited Vail Family memorabilia as well as an orange blossom headpiece on loan from the Morris County Historical Society.

The most significant building at Historic Speedwell is the Factory, a National Historic Landmark where Stephen Vail’s son, Alfred, worked with Samuel F.B. Morse to perfect the telegraph. It was here on January 11, 1838 where the electromagnetic telegraph was first publicly demonstrated – making Historic Speedwell the “Birthplace of the Telegraph.” The Factory Building includes a new, hands-on exhibit about the history of the telegraph at Speedwell. A variety of interactive displays take visitors through the fascinating story of the development of the telegraph and why it all happened at Speedwell!

Attached to the Factory is the Wheelhouse. Witness the operational 24-foot overshot waterwheel, which once powered a grist mill and other activities inside the Factory.

The Vail House offers a peek into the lives of the Vail family during the 1844-64 period. Fully renovated by Stephen Vail in 1844, the home boasts original furnishings, period antiques, and portraits of Stephen and his first wife Bethiah, painted by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1837.

Additional original structures include the Granary that now houses an exhibit on early farm machines and implements, the Homestead Carriage House, which contains an exhibit dedicated to the Speedwell Iron Works, and the 1849 Carriage House, home to a variety of hands-on workshops, school programs, and special activities.