It’s really nice when an old Hudson Valley structure has a fairy tale ending. As opposed to many fine homes and structures that met with ruin by way of age, abandonment, or misguided civic improvement, the Webb Horton House in Middletown, NY, suffered none of these. Be it by intent or by twist of fate the impressive structure remains today in as good a shape as ever.
The mansion was designed and built for Webb Horton, a man from Delaware County, NY, who made big money in the tanning industry in Narrowsburg NY. The Horton family had been living on the property since the 1880s, and had slowly acquired a good deal of surrounding property. In 1902, at the age 76, Webb Horton started construction on the mansion. It was completed in 1906, reportedly at a cost of a million dollars. Quite the tidy sum for that age. Here’s where a twist of fate enters the picture. Horton died in 1908 without ever spending one night in his own mansion. His wife who inherited the estate died two years later. Shortly after in 1918 both his children had died without marrying and without leaving heirs.
Before his death, Eugene Horton (Webb Horton’s son) willed the estate to a cousin and employee, John Morrison. Morrison took care of the estate until his death in 1947. He made few changes to the property and the Horton House and its outlying structures stayed mostly in its original state.
Upon his death, Morrison’s will left the estate to Horton Hospital (named after Webb Horton) in Middletown. Morrison’s will granted his wife Catherine life tenancy on the property. Enter twist of fate #2- In the late 1940s the founders of Orange County Community College approached the widow with an offer to buy the property. She was willing to sell but did not have the legal right to sell the property since her husband’s will had already disposed of the property to Horton Hospital. The hospital however was not willing to sell at that time. They had been planning to sell the property upon the widow Morrison’s death at which time they could could get a better price for it. The local community, wanting a college presence kicked in and raised $480,000 toward the purchase of the property, donated the property to the school, and the deal was done.
Orange County Community College installed itself in the Horton House and its surrounding structures, and the first classes were held in 1950 in the garage/stable building. Since that time many modern improvements have been made to the OCCC Campus but to this day the mansion (renamed Morrison Hall), the stables, and other outbuildings are still used for educational, administrative, and custodial purposes. A few changes to the mansion have been made but the building has retained its original architectural integrity as can be seen in the more recent image.
It really is nice to see so grand a structure intact and being put to worthwhile community use. It’s quite the fairy tale ending.