George Washington, the nation’s first president, left his mark on New Jersey. Before winning the Revolutionary War, he led troops across the state’s terrain and overcame some grave challenges. There is no question that his experiences in New Jersey shaped and influenced the birth of the nation.
Since President’s Day is in part a celebration of Washington’s birthday and his contributions, why not trace the footprints of the first president across New Jersey? Washington’s presence can still be felt at these five historic locations.
Morristown National Historical Park
Location: 30 Washington Place, Morristown
Details: Morristown was the epicenter of Washington’s time in New Jersey. He was drawn to the area because of its strategic location between Philadelphia and New York. Today, visitors to the Morristown National Historical Park can commemorate the site of the December 1779 to June 1780 encampment at Jockey Hollow, during which time the Continental Army soldiers experienced the coldest winter on record. There is a museum and library dedicated to the history of the encampments and Washington. And outdoor lovers can enjoy bird watching, hiking, biking or horseback riding. While the park is only open intermittently during the winter, the museum and nearby Ford Mansion will be open on February 20 for President’s Day.
More info: www.nps.gov/morr/index.htm or call 973-539-2016 x210
Location: 30 Washington Place, Morristown
Details: Part of the Morristown National Historical Park, Ford Mansion has the same address but it is separate from the outdoor encampment. Built in the Georgian style in the early 1770s, Ford Mansion was the home of Jacob Ford Jr., his wife Theodosia, and their four children. Jacob passed away while soldiers from Delaware were staying in the home. Later Theodosia allowed Washington, his family, servants, dignitaries and others to stay with her and the children. Today, visitors can join a guided tour to see what the house looked like back in Washington’s day. Tours are offered on President’s Day at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm.
More info: www.nps.gov/morr/learn/ford-mansion-washingtons-headquarters.htm or call 973-539-2016 x210
Fort Lee Historic Park
Location: Hudson Terrace, south of the George Washington Bridge, Fort Lee
Details: Fort Lee Historic Park sits atop a cliff with fabulous views of the George Washington Bridge. Part of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, it’s the perfect place for a magnificent selfie. The site includes a visitor center and reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment. Schools can make reservations for the “living history” program, which has schoolchildren acting as soldiers in the Continental Army and actors leading them in battle and duties relevant to Revolutionary times. Visitors are welcome to stop by the park and check out the “fort” from which George Washington and his troops retreated in 1776 to avoid a surprise invasion from the British and Hessian forces that were coming from Lower Closter Landing. A reenactment of the retreat takes place every year in November but the grounds are open all year long.
More info: www.njpalisades.org/fortlee.html or call 201-461-1776
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Location: Last exit off Route 80 in western New Jersey
Details: Known as the Old Mine Road, this stretch of street follows the Delaware River, which is rich with historical significance. It dates back to well before the Revolutionary War. Still, the area is linked to George Washington because he and his soldiers frequently traveled the road. And lest we forget that Washington and his troops crossed this river when it was icy and cold on December 25 to 26 in 1776 to execute a surprise attack on a Hessian army of about 1,400 soldiers in Trenton. Visitors can enjoy fishing, camping and hiking New Jersey’s span of the Appalachian Trail. Celebrate President’s Day at Washington Crossing Historic Park with a birthday party for George on Sunday, February 19.
More info: www.nps.gov/dewa/index.htm or call 570-426-2452
Rockingham Historic Site
Location: 84 Laurel Avenue, Franklin Township
Details: This was George Washington’s last home during the Revolutionary War. It is here, on October 31, 1783, that he learned the final version of the Treaty of Paris had been signed and the colonies were free of Great Britain. He also wrote the “Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States” from here. Rockingham is preserved and interpreted as the temporary residence of George and Martha Washington. The site supports a fine collection of 18th-century furnishings and military reproductions, a Colonial kitchen garden and a children’s museum. Guided tours of Rockingham Historic Site are available Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations are required for George Washington’s 285th Birthday Tours on February 25 from 12:00 to 4:00 pm.
More info: www.rockingham.net/index.html or call 609-683-7132