Liberty Hall museum opens in Garden State


UNION, N.J. -- The pre-Revolutionary War mansion that was home to New Jersey's first elected governor, William Livingston, and seven generations of the state's politically prominent Kean family, was set to open May 6 as a museum.

Liberty Hall, built in 1772 with 14 rooms, grew during two centuries to more than 60 rooms, according to Stewart B. Kean, president of the museum's board of trustees and part of the last generation of the family to grow up there. He is a cousin of former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, who served from 1982 to 1990.

The 25-acre estate lies in the center of this older suburb.

It is also a half-hour's drive (about 20 miles) from Washington's Headquarters in Morristown, the mansion at which the general and his wife spent two winters during the Revolutionary War, and Jockey Hollow, the site of the colonial troops' winter encampment. Both are open to the public, and visitors could cover all three sites in one day.

For directions to Washington's Headquarters and Jockey Hollow, call the Morris County Heritage Commission at (973) 829-8117.

A National Historic Site, Liberty Hall has hosted many famous Americans.

George and Martha Washington slept there. Alexander Hamilton; the Marquis de Lafayette, and Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Gerald Ford and George Bush all made the guest list.

The museum's mission is to chronicle the period from 1772 to 1995, when Stewart Kean's mother, Mary Alice, died, leaving behind a request that the home be turned into a museum.

Each room has been fitted to represent a generation, according to Kean.

As with many historic sites, Liberty Hall is said to have a ghost. The rumors date from 1780, when British soldiers, having killed a parson's wife, Hannah Caldwell, invaded the house.

The Kean women huddled upstairs. When one of them, holding a candle, appeared on the landing, the redcoats believed they were witnessing a specter of the slain woman and fled, according to a tour guide.

Liberty Hall is open for tours Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $5; $4 for seniors, and $3 for students. Children ages 5 and younger are admitted free of charge.

Liberty Hall
Phone: (908) 527-0400

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