The main house at Locust Grove is a villa in the Italianate style designed in 1850 for artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse by architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Fifty years later the house was renovated and expanded for new owners William and Martha Young. Their daughter, Annette Innis Young, eventually created the foundation that preserves the Estate as a museum today.
Morse had very clear ideas about what he wanted in what was to be his summer home (he and his family spent winters in New York City, in a townhouse on 22nd Street near Fifth Avenue). For inspiration, Morse recalled the elegant villas that he had visited years earlier in the Italian countryside and he sketched towers, windows and floor plans on scraps of paper to give to his architect. Construction on the villa, sited on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Hudson River, began in 1851 and was completed the following year.
Locust Grove required a large and expensive staff to maintain, however, so after Samuel Morse’s death in 1872 his family spent little time at the estate and eventually rented it to William and Martha Young, a wealthy couple from Poughkeepsie.
Hopeful that the property would be available for sale, the Youngs began to furnish the empty house with family heirlooms in 1895. In 1901 they finally purchased the property and immediately began to expand and modernize the house as a year-round residence for their daughter, Annette, and their son, Innis. Mr. and Mrs. Young added a new, larger dining room wing, guest bedrooms, and practical conveniences like central heat, hot and cold running water, and electric lighting.
After the death of her brother Innis in 1953 Annette Young became the sole owner of the Locust Grove Estate as well as family properties in New Haven, New York City, and Ulster County. Conscious of her family’s importance in the Hudson Valley, Miss Young began donating to museums the art, land, and historic houses she inherited so that they would be protected in perpetuity. She spent twenty years at this project and, upon her death in 1975, established a foundation to ensure that Locust Grove, her home for eighty years, together with its collections and the Young family archives would be protected as a museum and nature preserve.
The Estate opened to the public in 1979 and today features the Young family’s 15,000 piece collection of furniture, paintings and decorative arts just as they were used in the early years of the 20th century.
Click on any of the small images (right) to open a photo gallery.