Archive for 'Colonial'

After visiting Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, I went down to see the nearby headquarters, used during the same period by General Henry Knox, Washington’s Chief of Artillery. Like Washington’s HQ, it’s also a state historic site, located in New Windsor/Vails Gate. Due to limited time and an arrival off the regular tour time, I had a quick walkthrough tour of the house, which like Washington’s Headquarters, is arranged as it would have been when the general was there, including quarters where his staff would have stayed. In addition to Knox, the house was also used earlier during the Revolutionary War by Generals Nathanael Greene and Horatio Gates. The house was built in 1754 by John Ellison, who was involved in the milling trade. The Ellison House is interesting for having two facades, one side (above) being English Georgian style, the other (below, after the jump) being Dutch colonial. › Continue reading…

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Hasbrouck House/Washington’s Headquarters (1750)

After the Battle of Yorktown, Washington spent over sixteen months (April 1, 1782 to August 19, 1783) at his headquarters in Newburgh, NY. He was even joined there by his wife Martha. The house he used had been built by Jonathan Hasbrouck in 1750 and had two enlargements before it was completed in 1770. The house was also altered inside in preparation for Washington’s arrival. The property is the earliest publicly operated historic site in the United States, having been acquired by the State of New York in 1850. I went on a tour of this house while on my way to my most recent trip to Pennsylvania. I was interested to see that the home, as a colonial Dutch farmhouse, had three “Dutch Jambless” (sideless) fireplaces. Although the major fighting of the Revolutionary War had ended with the Yorktown victory, many momentous events occurred while Washington was based in Newburgh, until the war officially ended in 1783. The Hasbrouck House has Washington’s original desk, on which he wrote several important letters and addresses. I also learned that the house in New Windsor that Washington used before Yorktown (and from which he left to meet Rochambeau at the Webb House in Wethersfield, CT) no longer exists. Also on the property is a museum (1910) and a monument called the Tower of Victory (1890). The site has great views of the Hudson River. › Continue reading…

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During my recent trip to Pennsylvania, I also stopped by the city of Bethlehem, famous for industry. Bethlehem was founded by the Moravians in 1741. The historic downtown has many Germanic-style colonial buildings erected by the Moravian Church, as well as later historic structures. The Moravians originally lived communally, in separate buildings designated for different “choirs” divided by sex and marital status. The area is still home to the Central Moravian Church and Moravian College. Some books on the subject include: Historical sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, with Some Account of the Moravian Church (1873), by John Hill Martin; A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1892 (1903), by Joseph Mortimer Levering; and Historical Notes on Music in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, from 1741 to 1871 (1873), by Rufus A. Grider › Continue reading…

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Wrights Ferry Mansion

We left Wheatland for our other stop in Lancaster County, in the town of Columbia on the Susquehanna River. Wright’s Ferry Mansion is the restored home of Susanna Wright, an English Quaker settler who never married, but bought property on what was then the frontier and became self-sufficient operating the ferry crossing. She was an intellectual who wrote poetry, taught herself Latin, and corresponded with such figures as Benjamin Franklin. She also grew silk worms and wrote a treatise on the subject. The restored house museum features Philadelphia furniture made before 1750. There’s an expensive but very complete set of two books covering the house and the collection. › Continue reading…

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Ephrata Cloister (1732)

Ephrata Cloister

Leaving the Hans Herr House, our next destination in Lancaster County was Ephrata Cloister, in what is now the town of Ephrata. Ephrata Cloister was a religious community founded in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel, who was born in Germany and eventually came to what was then a frontier wilderness in Pennsylvania. He was followed by men and women who had left the Brethren movement and embraced Beissel’s distinctive religious ideas. At the core of the community were celibate brothers and sisters, living and worshiping together, who also sang hymns (many written by Beissel himself), created fraktur (a Pennsylvania Dutch folk art) and operated a German language printing press. The community eventually died out, but many of the original buildings survive and are open as a museum run by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Visitors see an introductory film, are led on a tour of the buildings and are then able to wander on their own and explore the various structures. The story of the community is a fascinating one and, even if one is not interested in all of the religious aspect, there is great beauty in the many buildings which, like the Hans Herr house, evoke a feeling almost of the Middle Ages. The museum gift shop has an excellent selection of books, including a series of pamphlets on archaeological work being done at Ephrata Cloister (as many of the original buildings do not survive). On Google Books there’s available an old two volume history of the community written by Julius Friedrich Sachse and published in 1899: The German Sectarians of Pennsylvania: A Critical and Legendary History of the Ephrata Cloister and the DunkersVol. I (1708-1742) and vol. II (1742-1800).
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Hans Herr House (1719)

Hans Herr House

Leaving State College, our destination was Lancaster County, PA. This is the heart of what is called the Pennsylvania Dutch (really Pennsylvania German) country. I visited four historic sites in the area over two days. On our first day in the area, I visited the Hans Herr House (1719), 1849 Hans Herr Dr, Willow Street, PA. This is the oldest surviving house in Lancaster County. Built by Mennonite settlers as a home and a meeting house, it is now a museum owned by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. The house is small, but very impressive because it really has a medieval look. The house is made of stone and with its irregular placement of windows, it is quite a contrast with the types of houses I’m used to in New England. That is the great thing, for those interested in old buildings, about traveling to a region like Lancaster County, where the early settlers were not all English and had a quite different building tradition. In addition to the Hans Herr House, the property has has two later farmhouses, built by Herr descendants (one of which has the visitor center, the other is a private home), a reconstructed blacksmith shop and barn, and a barn with a large display of farm implements. Adjacent to the house, there is also an herb garden. › Continue reading…

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Graeme Park (1722)

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After visiting Hope Lodge, it was a brief trip over to Graeme Park, in Horsham in Montgomery County, PA. The blur in the picture above is not a ghost. Instead, I blurred our tour guide for the sake of privacy! This historic home was built in 1722 for William Keith, who was colonial Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania (for the then absent Penn family) from 1717 to 1726. The house, which was later named Graeme Park for Dr. Thomas Graeme, is a beautiful stone structure with striking blue trim. As for the interior, the rooms are mostly empty with just a few items of furniture, so the emphasis is on the paneling of this distinctive home. › Continue reading…

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