Queer Places:
Dekay St & Bard Ave, Staten Island, NY 10310
Hollybrook House, Hollybrook, Maulbrack, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, P81 HN40 Ireland

Jane Morgan (1832 - April 4, 1899) was the daughter of James Morgan, of Prospect, Carrigrohane, Co. Cork. She received her first lessons in drawing in 1851 from R. R. Scanlan, head master in the Cork School of Art, and afterwards went to Dublin, where she studied modelling under J. R. Kirk. She was an earnest student of both painting and sculpture, and in 1860 won a prize with her life-size figure of "Nourmahal," in the Taylor competition in Dublin. A "Bust of a Lady" and a "Child and Bird," both in marble, by her, were in the Dublin Exhibition of 1865. Accompanied by her sister Maria she went to Rome in 1865, where, among other works, she did an ideal bust illustrative of Moore's "Rich and Rare."

In 1866 the Englishman Henry Wreford, a freelance correspondent in Italy, described the female artists in Rome collectively as “a fair constellation . . . of twelve stars of greater or lesser magnitude, who shed their soft and humanising influence on a profession which has done so much for the refinement and civilization of man.” Some of Wreford’s twelve stars, incidentally all American sculptors, are still recognizable names even today: Margaret Foley, Florence Freeman, Harriet Hosmer, Edmonia Lewis, and Emma Stebbins. Less known now are the American painter sisters Mary Elizabeth Williams and Abigail Osgood Williams, the Italian sculptor Horatia Augusta Latilla Freeman and her relative, the painter Adah Caroline Latilla, Irish painter and sculptor Jane Morgan, and English sculptor Isabel Cholmelay (her studio was at Palazzetto Sciarra). It is not entirely clear which of these women produced art of “greater magnitude” in Wreford’s mind; his discussion is rather general overall. Indeed, in his article and in others of the period, even the better-known women tend to earn more comments about their personalities, appearances, or behaviors than about their art.

After a year or twos stay she settled in America, where she practised as an artist with some success. Her sister Maria was for many years on the staff of the "New York Herald," and died in 1892 in her sixty-fourth year. Both sisters were of somewhat singular and eccentric character. Jane Morgan had more than local reputation as an artist and designed the remarkable house in which she lived in Livingston, Staten Island. A 1899's journal, the Salt Lake Herald, defined it a Queer House, and the Kansas City Time, a Queer Castle. This edifice, which is said to have cost $20,000, was two and a half stories in height, with a mansard roof, and was thoroughly fireproof, all the beams being of iron, and many of the floors being laid with marble and tiles. Situated in a clump of forest trees, there was only one door on the ground floor, and that was composed of heavy quartered oak, crossed and recrossed with Iron bars. All the windows on the ground floor were heavily barred. The two sisters, who alone occupied this dwelling, lived only on the upper floors, and gained access to the second story by means of a ladder, which was drawn up after their ascent. After her sister's death, however, Jane Morgan constructed a stairway and lived alone.

Miss Morgan decorated the walls and ceilings with carving and inlaid panelling, which took her over five years of constant labour. She died in the house of diphtheria on 4th April, 1899. Her property was left to her nephew, John T. Hodder, who sold all the pictures and woodwork in the house in Staten Island to Colonel A. Hickman Morgan. Colonel Morgan removed them to his house, Hollybrook, near Skibbereen, Co. Cork, where he had rooms specially built for the decorative panelling and woodwork.

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