Once the private residence of Colonel Edwin Barber Morgan, co-founder of the New York Times and American Express, E.B. Morgan House combines luxurious modern aesthetics with the unparalleled beauty of an historic stone mansion.
E.B. Morgan House offers seven stylish guestrooms—each with private marble baths—exquisite living spaces, gracious porches, and an exceptional collection of original modern art. Guests are invited to enjoy E.B. Morgan House as they would a home, with the sumptuous comforts of the library, parlor, dining room, and pantry.
With the rental of all seven guestrooms at E.B. Morgan House, guests may plan private dinners and events at the home. View our private rental packages and contact Sara at 315.364.8828 for pricing and availability.
History of E.B. Morgan House
One of Aurora’s most notable and distinctive landmarks is the former home of Edwin Barber Morgan, his wife Charlotte Wood Morgan, their children, and succeeding generations of the Morgan-Zabriskie family, located at 431 Main Street. The residence was designed by Joseph C. Wells of New York City (no relation to Henry Wells) in the Italianate style and constructed for the Morgans in 1857-58 by Samuel D. Mandell, the son of a famed local architect. The Morgans built the house for $50,000, a staggering sum in that era.
E.B. Morgan (1806-1881) was born in Aurora and attended the local Cayuga Lake Academy. At an early age he showed considerable business acumen, working at his father’s store in the heart of the village that was, during his youth, a bustling port. On the commercial dock that once stood behind the Aurora Inn, Morgan first met his lifelong friend and partner in both business and philanthropy, Henry Wells (1805-1878).
Having generated capital from the lake trade, Morgan built the Aurora Inn in 1833 and was an early investor in Henry Wells’ American Express Company and Wells, Fargo & Company, which included the stagecoach line that has become a national symbol of the pioneer spirit.
Both Morgan and Wells were friends and business partners with a prominent citizen of nearby Ithaca – Ezra Cornell (1807-1874), a self-taught mechanic and inventor who became the largest stockholder of the Western Union Telegraph Company and founded Cornell University. Morgan and Cornell invested in the Cayuga Lake Railroad Company in the 1870s. The train line ran across the Morgan property between the mansion and lake. Many homeowners would find this a detriment; Morgan saw it as an opportunity to monitor his investment. Reportedly, he stood with a watch and checked the train’s punctuality when it passed through his yard.
Morgan invested in a fledgling New York City newspaper. Within a few years, he held controlling shares of the New York Times. He supported the paper in its efforts to expose the corruption of the notorious Tweed Ring, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of “Boss Tweed.”
Surrounded by friends and family in his beloved home on Cayuga Lake, Morgan’s later years were increasingly devoted to supporting local philanthropic causes in the area of education, culture, and human welfare. He had a deep love for the people of Aurora and every year on the Fourth of July holidays, the Morgans treated the villagers to a spectacular fireworks display on their lawn.
Morgan was a dedicated supporter of Henry Wells’ dream to establish a liberal arts college for women in Aurora – Wells College – that first opened as a seminary in 1868. He gave generously to the college, including $100,000 to establish its endowment. He was a Wells trustee and provided leadership in all aspects of college administration.
Following E.B. Morgan’s death, the mansion became the home of his daughter, Louise, and her husband Nicholas Lansing Zabriskie. It remained a Morgan-Zabriskie family residence until 1961 when it was given as a gift to Wells College by John L. and Lesley Zabriskie.
It served as a residence hall for students studying foreign languages - only French was allowed to be spoken inside. E.B. Morgan’s former home was so conducive to the mastery of French that it remained in use for that purpose until the 1973-74 academic year. During that time it became known as French House in the village, a designation still used by local residents today.
French House was renovated in 1979 and has served as a college guest house for the last quarter century. The recent improvements made by the Aurora Foundation through the generosity of Pleasant Thiele Rowland, Wells Class of 1962, have restored the Morgan-Zabriskie home to its former grandeur amidst the timeless beauty of the Cayuga Lake environment. Thoroughly modernized, it remains a jewel in the crown of Aurora.