Year After Year, Visitors Indulge in the Spirit of the Displays

Photo credit: Sam Emam

Morven Museum & Garden is once again hosting its cherished holiday tradition, Festival of Trees, on view through January 7, 2024. Visitors come from near and far to view the creative and whimsical displays adorning the museum’s elegant galleries, mantels, and porches artfully decorated by local businesses, garden clubs, and non-profit organizations. This year’s themes and decorative accents celebrate history, pop culture, sustainability, superheroes, and even Barbie! All of these displays are designed to put attendees in the spirit of the season.

Festival of Trees has been an annual event at Morven since 2005. Decorators apply each year with a proposed theme for their tree or mantel. Visitors are then encouraged to vote for their favorite decorative display. While there is no official prize for the winning organizations, the process provides a playful competition that encourages the decorators to bring their patrons and supporters to Morven to foster a community celebrating seasonal joy.

From Elizabeth Allan, Morven’s Interim Director & Curator, “year after year, we are delighted to welcome visitors for our busiest and most festive time. Having been at Morven since 2010, it is always a joyous occasion to reconnect with old friends and make new ones along the way. Competition is tight so we hope visitors will be sure to get their vote in before this year’s Festival of Trees closes on January 7.”


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In conjunction with Morven’s Festival of Trees is the Winter Garden Party, an outdoor fundraising event that launches the season of giving. Attendees gather onsite in the historic gardens, enjoying hearty hors d’oeuvres, spirited beverages, and fireside chats with old friends and new. Inside the museum, guests tour the galleries in awe of the inspired decor while this year, live holiday music was performed on Morven’s historic Steinway & Sons grand piano. Some guests even broke out in song in an impromptu moment of caroling! Liza Morehouse, Morven’s Board Chair, encapsulated the feel of the night beautifully by saying “it really felt like a big outdoor living room and was so inviting!”  This time of year is filled with so much joy, and Morven values the opportunity to share these special moments with visitors.

Photo credit: Sam Emam

Incorporated as a museum in 2004, Morven was built in the 1750’s as the home of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Annis Boudinot Stockton, one of America’s first female poets. Four more generations of Stocktons resided at Morven (which means “big hill” in Gaelic) through the early 20th century, the first two of which owned enslaved men, women, and children. In line with Morven Museum & Garden’s mission of sharing authentic stories, an ongoing research project is underway, committed to tracing the lineage of those who were enslaved on the property. Slavery at Morven, which can be viewed as an online exhibition, provides visitors with a better understanding of how our world evolved to where we are today.

After the Stocktons, the home was leased to General Robert Wood Johnson, Chairman of Johnson & Johnson, from 1928 to 1944. He was followed by five New Jersey governors when Morven served as the state’s first Governor’s Mansion from 1945 to 1981. The detailed 200-plus year history of the home and the people who lived there can be found in the museum’s permanent first floor exhibition, Historic Morven: A Window Into America’s Past.

On view alongside Historic Morven and the 2023 Festival of Trees is Striking Beauty: New Jersey Tall Case Clocks, 1730–1830. The first exhibition of its kind, Striking Beauty features over 50 tall case clocks, representing almost as many different clockmakers, from both private and public collections. These freestanding pendulum clocks are as functional as they are beautiful with faces made of intricate brass work or painted designs of objects like ships, suns and moons. Internally, their complicated workings are mechanical masterpieces. Some even chime with contemporaneous melodies. On view through February 18, 2024, the five-gallery exhibition can be explored to see the most comprehensive look ever given to the ingenious work of New Jersey clockmakers.

Photo credit: Sam Emam

As Morven enters its twentieth anniversary season as a museum in 2024, Curators Elizabeth Allan and Jesse Gordon Simons have written the new book Images of America: Morven via Arcadia Publishing. “The first publication about our National Historical Landmark since 2004, it gave us an opportunity to share new images of Morven. Many are new to our collection and provide wonderful glimpses into everyday life at Morven into the twentieth century,” says Allan. “Gathering photographs and stories for this book has also been a moment to reflect on the path that took Morven through restoration in the 1980s and 90s, and recognize the work of those who have come before us,” adds Simons.

Images of America: Morven can be purchased through Morven’s website, or at Morven’s celebrated Museum Shop. This highly adored store also features an array of unique selections of books, cards, Morven merchandise, jewelry, decor, and more. It’s the perfect place to visit after viewing Festival of Trees to get some last minute holiday shopping accomplished.

All in all, it is an exciting time to come to Morven and celebrate the holidays, New Jersey history, and our shared community. Morven Museum & Garden is located at 55 Stockton Street, Princeton, NJ and is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The gardens are free to wander daily from dawn to dusk. For more information, please visit, or contact 619-924-8144 or

If you haven’t yet experienced the tradition of Festival of Trees and the rest Morven offers, why not start this year? We look forward to seeing you there.