The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms (located in Morris Plains) celebrates the rich history of 19th century entrepreneur Gustav Stickley. Through his innovative design techniques, Stickley was able to build a renowned business right in the Garden State. While Craftsman Farms is situated in Morris Plains, it is actually owned by the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills.
Stickley is known as the first “lifestyle entrepreneur” of the 20th century. His companies could offer everything one would need to design, build and furnish a home. He became a prominent piece of the American Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Man Behind Craftsman Farms
Stickley’s career began alongside two of his brothers in 1883, when the trio founded Stickley Brothers & Company. The company didn’t last more than five years, however, and Stickley soon partnered with Elgin Simonds, a furniture salesman. The two established Stickley & Simonds in Binghamton, New York shortly thereafter. Several years later, Stickley separated from his business partner and formed his own company.
By the turn of the century, Stickley was creating Arts and Crafts works with his experimental “New Furniture” line. The basis for his designs came from a theme of simplicity. Even so, he constructed his furniture using fine quality materials and detailed carpentry.
Afterward, in the fall of 1902, Stickley began publishing the architectural design magazine, The Craftsman. The magazine focused on showcasing influential designs of the Arts and Crafts movement. The magazine was paramount in creating the popular American Craftsman style.
In 1907, Stickley began to acquire property in Morris County. His intent was to create a boarding school for boys. This property, which became known as Craftsman Farms, was officially founded in 1908. By design, the property was made to be self-sufficient; it incorporated vegetable gardens, orchards, dairy cows and chickens.
Three years later, Stickley constructed his famous Log House on Craftsman Farms. But don’t confuse it with traditional log cabins, the Log House is an icon of the Arts and Craft movement. It is one of the only homes of its kind; the Log House features Stickley’s own products and decorative arts that he acquired during trips abroad. Today, the Log House highlights many of the objects original to the house; it also boasts other Stickley family belongings from a century ago.
Jersey Through History: Inside Stickley Museum
The Log House encompasses six separate exhibit areas. The front porch, living room, dining room, upstairs hall, girls’ bedroom and master bedroom all showcase the Stickley legacy. They feature a number of innovative Stickley creations, from chairs and tables to fireplaces.
Stickley and his family resided at Craftsman Farms for less than a decade. By 1915, Americans’ tastes in style and interior design shifted away from Stickley’s creations. He filed for bankruptcy and then ceased publication of The Crafstman the following year. Major George and Sylvia Wurlitzer Farny purchased the property in the bankruptcy sale in 1917. They and their descendants occupied the property for another 72 years. Meanwhile, Stickley moved back to Syracuse, where he lived until his death in 1942.
The 30-acre Craftsman Farms, including Stickley Museum, is protected and preserved by The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, Inc. Formerly known as The Craftsman Farms Foundation, Inc, and now “SMCF” for short, they are a 501 (c)(3) organization. Craftsman Farms is also a National Historic Landmark, recognizing the pioneering industry Stickley became a front-runner in.
The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is open all year round every Thursday through Sunday. Visitors can participate in any of the four daily tours each day. Guests can traverse the historical destination and even explore the separate cottages on the grounds. Craftsman Farms encompasses a wealth of history and culture; the quaint grounds are gorgeous, offering a variety of natural accents. Who knows if Stickley’s designs will ever make a comeback; either way, it’s fun to appreciate this historic look at American architecture.
Want to continue your journey through New Jersey’s most historic sites? You can now visit Jersey Through History: The Complete Series.
All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ