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History of E.B. Morgan House

Built in 1858, Restored in 2005

One of Aurora’s most distinctive landmarks is the former home of Edwin Barber Morgan and succeeding generations of the Morgan-Zabriskie family. The Morgans built this house in 1858 for $50,000—a staggering sum for that era.

E.B. Morgan (1806-1881) was born in Aurora and from an early age showed considerable business acumen, working at his father’s store in the bustling village. On the dock that stood behind the Aurora Inn, Morgan met his lifelong friend and business partner, Henry Wells. Having generated capital from the lake trade, Morgan built the Aurora Inn in 1833 and was an early investor in Henry Wells’s American Express Company and Wells Fargo & Company.

Morgan was one of the first three investors in a fledgling New York City newspaper—the New York Times. Within a few years, he purchased the controlling shares of the paper to support it in its efforts to expose the corruption of the notorious Tweed Ring, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of “Boss Tweed.”

Surrounded by family in his beloved home, Morgan’s later years were increasingly devoted to supporting local philanthropic causes in the areas of education, culture, and human welfare. He had a deep love for the people of Aurora, and every year on the Fourth of July, the Morgans held a spectacular fireworks display on their lawn for all.

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 they gave it as a gift to Wells College. Until 1974, it served as a residence hall for students studying French—the only language that was allowed to be spoken inside. The home became known as “French House” and was later used as a college guest house.

The Aurora Foundation, a partnership between Wells College and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, completed an extensive renovation of the house and reopened it in 2005. Today, E.B. Morgan House welcomes guests as a part of the Inns of Aurora and continues to shine as a jewel in this historic village.

More to Explore

Called Deawendote, or the “village of constant dawn,” by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Aurora was established by Anglo-Americans in 1795 following the Revolutionary War and is today a National Historic District. Many of the buildings in this village—from grand mansions to quaint cottages—now make up the Inns of Aurora, a resort founded with the philanthropic vision to restore this special place and welcome visitors for generations to come.