A Gentleman’s Pursuit:
The Commodore’s Greenhouse

Morven Museum and Gardens, Princeton, Mercer County, New Jersey

From mid-February through the fall of 2018, Morven Museum and Gardens in Princeton presented an innovative exhibit on Commodore Robert F. Stockton’s state-of-the-art greenhouse that existed on the Morven property from the mid-1850s until the 1880s. Co-curated by Morven and Hunter Research staff, the basis of the exhibit was driven by archaeological discoveries and wide-ranging historical research.

Little was known about the greenhouse until a 2013 archaeological dig, conducted by our firm in conjunction with site planning for Historic Morven’s recently opened visitor center, uncovered the brick and stone foundation of the structure. Excavations over the next two summers revealed thousands of cultural artifacts, including the remains of the cast iron furnace which heated the greenhouse, and voluminous quantities of glass from the window panes that allowed in sunlight. The greenhouse denotes the refined gentleman's pastime of Commodore Stockton, reflecting his social prominence and financial standing to enjoy such an exquisite hobby. Due to New Jersey's gradual emancipation law, the Commodore no longer owned any enslaved people by the time the greenhouse was constructed. The maintenance of the structure and plants within was left to an English-trained gardener and paid farm hands.