Monday, January 30, 2012

Washington Did More Than Just Sleep Here

The American Revolution in New York City
I read that the word of the year should be “occupy,” as in “Occupy Wall Street,” the popular protest in New York City that inspired similar protests around the country and around the world. But New York City has always been a revolutionary city, a place where ideas come to percolate, a city where the only constant is the constant change.

If your child is studying the American Revolution in school, you can make that history come alive with a visit to an actual piece of revolutionary New York City. A good place to start your adventure is the same place where people gathered to debate the merits of independence: The Fraunces Tavern and Museum. All ages are welcome to walk in the footsteps of George Washington at the Fraunces Tavern and Museum located at 54 Pearl Street.

Originally a private residence built in 1719 by Etienne DeLancey (Delancey Street is named for him), the building was sold to Sam Fraunces in 1762 who established a tavern that’s still in operation. Hoist an ale (your child can get a soft drink) and toast George Washington, because upstairs, a museum space preserves the site used by Washington for his farewell address to his generals at the end of the revolution. There are other wonderful permanent and changing exhibits as well. The building is owned and managed by the Sons of the Revolution and their site is a great starting point for a lower Manhattan walking tour.

Be sure and stroll by Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street. This “new” Federal Hall was built on the site of the original building that housed the earliest continental congress, served as the nation’s first capital and saw the enactment of the Bill of Rights.

And at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway is the “new” Trinity Church, as the original was burned down during the Revolutionary War. But the churchyard cemetery is the resting place of notables of the revolution, including Alexander Hamilton.

All ages are also welcome at the Morris-Jumel Mansion (also known as the Roger and Mary Philipse Morris House). Seen at the top of this story, the house was built in 1765 and located in Washington Heights. It served as a headquarters for both sides in the American Revolution. Washington seized this mansion of tory Roger Morris because of its commanding views. General Washington used Morris-Jumel Mansion as his headquarters during the fall of 1776. You’ll truly step back in time in this house, an exquisitely restored antiques-filled beauty.

Yes, George Washington slept here. You can visit his bedchamber and study (seen at right) as well as the bedchamber of Aaron Burr, who famously dueled with and killed Alexander Hamilton. According to New York Freedom Trail research, the house must have had some special meaning to Washington. Twenty years earlier, when he had visited New York for the first time as a young militia colonel, he had fallen in love with the beautiful Polly Philipse. Instead of Washington, she married his friend and fellow soldier Roger Morris. Morris, a loyalist, and his wife fled the New York area as the revolution began. During his stay at the house, he wrote to Polly’s aunt, saying, “I beg the favor of having my compliments presented to Mrs. Morris.” No reason to display bad manners, after all!

You’ll need to make an appointment to see the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, the oldest remaining farmhouse on Manhattan Island (at left). The farmhouse was built by Dutch farmer William Dyckman sometime around 1784. The site includes an adjacent garden that includes a small reproduction smokehouse built as part of its 1916 restoration as well as a Military Hut (seen below, left). The remains of huts used as shelter by British and Hessian soldiers during the Revolutionary War were discovered and one hut was reconstructed within the park of the Dyckman Farmhouse. New York Freedom Trail relates that nearly 30,000 Germans were shipped to America and they made up about one-third of the King’s army. They were bitterly resented by the colonists, who felt their king had turned foreign enemies loose on his own people.

The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum is the other side of the story that’s told by the Morris-Jumel Mansion: this is where ordinary folks—farm people and soldiers—lived before, during, and after the revolution.

To walk these structures and sites is truly to walk in the footsteps of history. They’re quiet little pockets of the past in a noisy modern world.

1 comment:

  1. This house is so beautiful and cozy, no wonder Washington did sleep most of his time in this place. He probably did have kleine levin syndrome during his stay here because the bedroom is so inviting.