It has taken more than seven years, but Historic Morven Inc. finally has the go-ahead to add an interpretive center and expand the gardens on its 4.5-acre site. The museum received unanimous approval last Thursday from the New Jersey Historic Sites Council to go ahead with the plan.
“The board and staff at Morven are thrilled,” said Clare Smith, the museum’s director, this week. “It has been a long road to reach this point, but incorporating the views of so many stakeholders renders an end result that is appropriate and fitting for Morven — a beautiful, in-scale building that will be a ‘jewel in the garden.’ It will allow Morven to vastly expand its educational offerings to the community.”
Morven first appeared before the Council in 2005. Sent back to the drawing board, the museum revised its scheme for expansion, which had originally suggested a new building in front of the historic mansion on Stockton Street. GWWO Inc. Architects of Baltimore came up with the new plan, which places the addition to the right of the house, with its rear facing Borough Hall.
The interpretive center will include a gathering space, lobby, gift shop, and small kitchen, with offices underground. The main house, which was built before the American Revolution by Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, will be used for displaying the permanent collection and changing exhibitions, as well as for tours and small receptions.
During the building process, there will be archaeological monitoring to ensure that any artifacts found are properly handled.
The property also includes a pool house, which dates from the residence of Robert Wood Johnson in the 1940’s and has already been renovated as part of a $5.8 million restoration of Morven that began in 2004. Other restored buildings on the property include the 1890‘s carriage house, now a garden support building; and the old ice house from 1850, which is currently the gift shop but will become a classroom once the gift shop moves to the new interpretive center.