Stickley’s plans for Craftsman Farms were presented in a number of articles written for his The Craftsman magazine, and through these articles we can understand how the buildings evolved from his dreams into what exists today.
Gustav Stickley originally purchased two plots of land separated by what is now Route 10 running east and west through what was then Morris Plains, N. J. Just after the purchase, full of excitement, Stickley published consecutive articles in The Craftsman for three months in the fall of 1908 detailing his proposed home, workers’ cottages and a club house that would be the social center for his planned school. All buildings were designed for the southern site, where the ground slopes more gradually. However, he later decided to build on the steeper, northern property. From the first announcement of the farm and school plans in October 1908, to the publishing of an article and photos of his finished home (the Log House) three years later, in November 1911, the plans changed to that of an ideal home integrated with a working farm.
All the buildings for the Farms followed Stickley’s home-building philosophy of using materials at hand when he could, and most of them survive today. In 1914 there were four cottages listed in a survey by Joseph H. Dodson, but by the time the Farnys purchased the property in 1917 there were only three.
These three cottages do not closely resemble the 1908 illustrations published in The Craftsman, but they do incorporate a number of the features in the article, including red-tinted poured cement as flooring for the porches. All have similar large fireplaces with copper hoods that conceal the Craftsman heating fireplace system. Normally the chambers heated air, but in this case hot water was heated by the fireplace and used to heat each cottage. The two closest to the main house, probably erected in 1909 and in mirror image to each other, had two bedrooms. Stickley says in The Craftsman that he and his family lived in one of them while the Log House was being constructed. The cottage (the “White Cottage”) up the hill behind the Log House appears to have had three bedrooms.
That cottage was built of stucco, probably over masonry, a few months after the first two, some distance northwest of the log house. There is now a more recent large addition to this building. Some surveys indicate that the cottage is wood frame, but they may refer to the missing cottage.
After the cottages and log house were completed, work was begun on the other buildings. By 1913 The Craftsman featured an article with photos of the completed farm structures. Except for a large garage behind the log house, all these buildings were built west of what is now Manor Lane. The garage was big enough to hold 12 cars (according to the Dodson survey), with a workshop overhead. The upper story does not now resemble the original, as it was destroyed by fire in the 1940s and then rebuilt. It currently houses the offices of the not-for-profit organization The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms.
Walking up the hill on the original farm road one will first come upon a large home on the right. This is now a private home with an altered interior. It may have been housing for workers or a foreman’s residence—one survey labeled the structure a “bakery,” but there is no evidence to support that use. It certainly is a handsome structure and relates more to his non-rustic suburban home designs.
Just beyond the house is the horse stable. Housing Stickley’s farm horses, there were also two large apartments above the stables. The dairy “house” and the calf barn are directly across the road to the south. Just before the road joins the present Route 10, the ruins of the cow barn and silo are on the right. These buildings were destroyed by fire in the 1960s. All of
them represented the latest in technology when they
were constructed. All are in unrestored condition today and care should be taken when walking about near them. Restoration of these buildings is in future plans of the Foundation.
Sources for this article include The Craftsman magazine; The Log House at Craftsman Farms: Historic Structures Report, July 1993, by Heritage Studies (principle, Connie Grieff) and the thoughts of Mark Alan Hewitt, AIA.