The Passaic River Coalition is based in Willow Hall, which sits on a six-acre property located on the banks of the Whippany River in Morristown, along Speedwell Lake. Willow Hall itself is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
Willow Hall was built in 1847 as a home for George Vail. His father, Stephen Vail, was founder of Speedwell Iron Works where Samuel F.B. Morse and another son, Alfred Vail, worked on the first successful demonstration of the telegraph using the American Morse Code, which revolutionized communications.
George Vail was a self-described “blacksmith, engineer, and manufacturer”, but he was also a businessman, politician, diplomat and judge. He seems to have learned these traits from his industrious father. Stephen Vail in 1844 passed on the Speedwell Iron Works business to George. who continued his father’s tradition of hardworking and innovative industrialism.
George’s life extended far beyond his Willow Hall home in Morristown as he became a member of the New Jersey Legislature in 1843 and a U.S. Congressman in 1852. He was also a New Jersey Delegate to the World’s Fair in London, a member of the U.S. Consulate in 1858, a Judge in the Court of Errors and Appeals and a founder of the Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital.
The Passaic River Coalition purchased Willow Hall in 2008 to help prevent development of the property, using funding from the NJ Green Acres Program. Since then, we have implemented many major capital renovations to address neglected needs, such as a new slate roof and cornices, refreshing the interior, installing a new boiler, etc. The Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund has provided several historic preservation planning and capital improvement grants, matched by Passaic River Coalition funds. As with all historic buildings, the needs are never ending.
We encourage donations for general support, project-specific funding, or named contributions, addressing both ongoing costs and endowment funds.