Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

Lynn T. Morgan and The Idle Hour Artist Colony

Nestled within the Idle Hour neighborhood of Oakdale, is the Artist Colony. (1)  Navigating through the area can be a bit of a challenge for an outsider, but finding the Artist Colony is fairly straightforward.  To get there you merely have to go down Idle Hour Boulevard until you come to a looming brick clock tower (formerly a water tower). This is landmark announcing you have reached the Artist colony.  
The old-world charm of the clock tower, with its arched entrance and outer brick buildings, gives one the feeling of being transported from suburban Long Island into an English village. Ironically the charming and now exclusive buildings, were built by William K. Vanderbilt to house his farm livestock.  When William K. Vanderbilt died in the early 1920s, his son Harold sold the property to a developer, who in 1926 resold it to Lucy Sawyer Pritchard Thompson. (2) She was the wealthy widow of the vice president of Texas Shipping and Texas oil companies, later known as Texaco.  Her interest in the arts led to her visionary goal of transforming the old Vanderbilt farm into an artist’s utopia for variety of artists. Included in the community plan was a theatre, exhibition hall, schools (art, theatre, and dance), and a general clubhouse. It was advertised as being a creative environment without financial exploit. In her promotional real estate brochure Mrs. Thompson stated, “The Idlehour Artists Colony is not being exploited for profit by real estate promoters but is exclusively handled by artists and writers who comprise the Board of Administration.” (3)
The artists drawn to the colony included Harry Allen Weston, Carl Nordell, Ernest Albert, George Elmer Browne, Edwin Forrest Murdock, Myron Van Brunt, John Costigan, and Lynn T. Morgan.  To learn more about the community, we spoke with Rhoda McManus and Sally Kachel, both long-time Idlehour residents and retired teachers with a passion for local history. They have given tours and written about the Artist Colony. Both Sally and Rhoda personally knew some of the artists and they shared with us some of their memories of them. Sally has collected some art and memorabilia relating to the artists. In particular, she created a collection of Christmas cards and postcards sent by her friend Lynn T. Morgan, one of the original Artist Colony residents who resided there for decades until his death in 1977.  Mr. Morgan lived in the former Vanderbilt piggery, which he called “magic shadows.” One of his paintings of his home, he gave to Sally, which has become one of her prized possessions. To experience more about Lynn T. Morgan and his paintings, come watch our video of our conversation we had with Sally and Rhoda.  We have also done some research into Morgan’s life, which we would like to share with you.  


Lynn T. Morgan


Lynn T. Morgan was born Franklin Thomas Morgan in April 24, 1889 in Richmond, Indiana. (4) Through his maternal lineage he was descended from Matthias Lemon, who was a colonel in the War of 1812. According to family lore, at the age of sixteen, Matthias also served in the Revolutionary War, taking the place of a brother who died during the war. (5)
Lynn’s parents, Franklin T. Morgan and Miranda M. Lemon were married on July 12, 1886 in Bedford, Indiana. (6)  On December 12, 1892, Charles Lemon Morgan, Lynn’s brother, was born in Richmond.  (7) The brothers seemed to have a close relationships, living together or nearby for most of their lives. Charles was also involved in art and in 1920 became a director of exhibitions for Ehrich Art Galleries in New York City.
Lynn started painting when he was nine years old and felt destined to become an artist. (8) There is no indication that either of his parents were interested or involved in the arts. However, Richmond, Indiana, where he was born and spent his childhood, did have a fairly well known creative community. It attracted artists, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, who become known as the Richmond Group.  There was even an art museum (Richmond Art Museum) established there in 1898.
By 1910, the Morgan family was living in Indianapolis, where Lynn was a scholarship student at the Herron School Art Institute. (9) His teachers included William J. Forsyth and Clifton A. Wheeler, both impressionists who were members of a circle of Indiana artists that became known as the Hoosier Group. The school was named after John Herron, an Englishman who came to Indianapolis in 1883, and made his fortune in real estate.  In his will, he bequeathed $200,000 to the Art Association of Indianapolis which built a museum and new art school (Herron School Art Institute) in 1906. (10)  In 1914, Lynn was working as a commercial artist and living with his mother and brother at 2065 Central Avenue, Indianapolis.  (11)
By 1917, Lynn Morgan had relocated to New York and was living at 147 West 71st Street in Manhattan.  He was employed by Lejaren Hiller, Sr. an American illustrator and photographer who had a studio at 135 West 44th Street. (12)  Even though he lived in New York, he retained ties to Indiana. The May 1, 1922 issue of the Richmond Palladium, reported that Lynn had won the Mary T. R. Foulke prize in 1917 and 1922.   
Lynn became successful blending his painting and photography skills and interests, and he would establish one of the first color processing studios in Manhattan. (13) His art career was put on hold when the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Lynn served in the U.S. Army from May 24, 1918 until January 6, 1919. (14)
After the war, he was living in Jackson Heights, Queens with his brother and mother. (15)  Lynn and his brother remained bachelors until after their mother died in 1940. (16) Lynn was married July 24, 1942, at the age of 53, to Carol Gow-Smith in Broward, Florida. (17) She was the widow of Francis Gow-Smith, an explorer noted for his Brazilian jungle expeditions.  Carol and her former husband owned and had lived in the former Vanderbilt piggery building of the Artist Colony in Oakdale.  After their marriage, Lynn and Carol would also live there and lovingly call their home “Magic Shadows.”
During his lifetime in Oakdale, Lynn painted and recorded almost every home and landmark of the neighborhood, along with scenes of characteristic local foliage. He also created for the Adelphi Historical Society, later the Vanderbilt Society, Christmas cards which were sold for fundraising.  In 1964, the funds from the sale of his Christmas cards were used to purchase, restore, and relocate the Vanderbilt Well from Montauk Highway to the Adelphi Suffolk College, later to become Dowling College. (18)
In 1969.  Lynn began to lose his eye sight. (19) At first, he was unable to distinguish colors, but it progressed to him becoming totally blind. This was tragic for a man who had devoted almost his entire life to the visual arts.  Fortunately, a series of four operations would restore some of his sight, which allowed him to continue what he loved doing best, namely painting the Artist Colony buildings and landscapes.  In January 1973, his wife, Carol, who for a while had health problems, died. (20)  Financial issues caused by the Morgan’s medical bills, forced Lynn in 1974 to sell some of his paintings at Bob White’s art supply store in Sayville.  Many of the paintings were of the Oakdale Art Colony. On June 11, 1977, Lynn T. Morgan died. (21) His ashes were scattered around “Magic Shadows” the place that was his home and inspiration for many years.

 

  1. A brochure and map produced by Lucy Thompson stated the name as Idlehour Artists Colony. It would later be more often referred to as the Idle Hour Artist Colony.
  2. Idle Hour Artist Colony Memorabilia Collection. (Miller Place, New York: Laurel Publications, 1992).
  3. J.B. Suffolk. The Idlehour Artists Colony, Oakdale, Long Island, New York. Advertising brochure. Connetquot Public Library verticle file.
  4. "World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918 for Franklin Thomas Morgan Jr." in www.FamilySearch.org (accessed 03 November 2016). Original source: United States. Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918, National Archives.
  5. Matthais Lemon file, rev. rej. # 6277 Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Fold3 [database on-line].
  6. Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VKJH-R5V : 21 January 2016), Frank T Morgan and Miranda M Lemon, 12 Jul 1886; citing Lawrence, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,317,628.
  7. "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K6N1-RFF : 12 December 2014), Charles Lemon Morgan, 1917-1918; citing New York City no 124, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,766,148.
  8. “One of Colony’s Original Artists: Oakdale Man Captures Scenes of Changing Artist Colony Life.” Suffolk County News, December 20, 1973. Accessed November 11, 2016. Fultonhistory.com
  9. "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MKPT-3FH : 29 October 2015), Household of Franklin T Morgan, Indianapolis Ward 7, Marion, Indiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 125, sheet 2A, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,374,381. Falk, P. H. (1999; Who was Who in American Art, 1564-1975: 400 years of artists in America (Vol. II). Madison, CT: Sound View Press. Pg. 2330; “Former Bedford Boy has Position with Famous Art Gallery in East.” The Bedford Daily Mail, February 5, 1920. Accessed November 15, 2016. Newspaperarchive.com.
  10. 100 Years of Herron. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2016, from http://www.indiana.edu/~rcapub/v25n1/herron.shtml
  11. Polk's Indianapolis (Marion County, Ind.) city directory, 1914.  Retrieved November 4, 2016, from Internet Archive (https://archive.org).
  12. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2005.
  13. “One of Colony’s Original Artists: Oakdale Man Captures Scenes of Changing Artist Colony Life.” Suffolk County News, December 20, 1973. Accessed November 11, 2016. Fultonhistory.com
  14. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  15. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. 1940; Census Place: New York, Queens, New York; Roll: T627_2732; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 41-617A. "
  16. “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W2H-HKL : 20 March 2015), Mary M Morgan, 28 Nov 1940; citing Death, New York City, Queens, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,156,343.
  17. "Florida Marriages, 1830-1993", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V65P-KM2 : 25 June 2015), Lynn T Morgan and Carol Gow-Smith, 1942.
  18. “Seek Vanderbilt Well: Christmas Card Sale to Aid Adelphi Historical Society.” Suffolk County News, October 8, 1964, digital image, NYS Historic Newspapers (database on-line).
  19.  “One of Colony’s Original Artists: Oakdale Man Captures Scenes of Changing Artist Colony Life.” Suffolk County News, December 20, 1973. Accessed November 11, 2016. Fultonhistory.com.
  20. "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JKL1-5Z9 : 20 May 2014), Carol Morgan, Jan 1973; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database.
  21. “Lynn T. Morgan Artist, Dies.” Suffolk County News, June 23, 1977, Accessed November 11, 2016, Fultonhistory.com.

Lynn T. Morgan Interview