E.B. Morgan House - History of E.B. Morgan and His House

History of E.B. Morgan and His House

Morgan had the house constructed beginning in 1857 at a cost of $50,000 (a staggering sum for the 19th century.) He commissioned it from New York City architect Joseph C. Wells for his wife, Charlotte Wood Morgan, and their children. (Wells also designed the Presbyterian Church in Aurora.)

Morgan was born in Aurora in 1806, and maintained a home there his entire life. From a young age, Morgan showed considerable business savvy. As a child he worked alongside his father at the family store. Once an adult, E.B. Morgan made money as an entrepreneur in the trade industry on Cayuga Lake. With the capital he earned, he built the Aurora Inn in 1833. It served people involved with the busy shipping on the lake.

Morgan became lifelong friends and business partner with Henry Wells. E.B. Morgan became an early investor in several of Wells' business ventures, including his American Express Company and the Wells Fargo Company. Morgan was also an investor in many local enterprises, and a founding investor in the New York Times.

The prominent Ithaca resident Ezra Cornell was another of E.B. Morgan's business partners. In the 1870s they invested in the Cayuga Lake Railroad Company. The train ran along Cayuga Lake behind both the Inn and E.B. Morgan's private home. Morgan was thrilled with the train and saw its location as allowing him to monitor his investment. He was said to stand with a watch in hand to check the train's punctuality as it passed through his yard.

Following Morgan's death, his daughter and her husband Nicholas Zabriskie took over the E.B. Morgan House. The mansion continued as a Morgan-Zabriskie family home until it was donated to Wells College in 1961. Wells College used the home as dormitories for students' studying French; only French was allowed to be spoken there. While being used as a French-immersion dormitory, the E.B. Morgan House was called "French House", a name which many locals continue to use today.

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