A Visit to George Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown
As with my visit to the birthplace of George Washington which occurred earlier on the same road trip, I spontaneously decided to visit his headquarters in Morristown National Historic Park in New Jersey on my way to New York — but I had already been to his headquarters some years ago and thought I would quickly visit again.
A Visit to George Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown
After parking the car in the small parking lot, the building many visitors usually see first is the museum for George Washington’s headquarters, which is a Colonial Revival structure built in the 1930s that was designed by John Russell Pope and inspired by the Mount Vernon home of George Washington in Virginia. The noted architect also designed the Jefferson Memorial in the District of Columbia.
The museum features a number of historic collections and exhibits displaying furniture, weapons, documents and other objects from the 1700s. The building also houses a research library, the park collections and administrative offices. Some of the rooms were closed during my visit.
The museum was dedicated in 1935.
Ford Mansion was where George Washington used as his headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780 when he was a general of the the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
This large Georgian style home was constructed in the early 1770s and was owned by Jacob Ford, Jr., who also served as a colonel in the Morris County Militia during the Revolutionary War. Ford died in January 1777 while 35 soldiers from Delaware were briefly quartered in the house.
Men in costume from the colonial period await visitors to greet them; open the door for them; and give them information.
Admittedly, there was not much to do on the day which I arrived, as visitors were few and far between.
When I entered Ford Mansion, I was greeted by George Washington himself. Really. I mean that. What? That was a man who was only impersonating George Washington?!? Aw. That burst my bubble. No wonder I did not take a photograph of him. He was ebullient and nice, just the same.
Other aides were there to assist visitors as well and provide them information.
As I did last time, I simply toured the mansion myself — but if I had any questions, an aide was always nearby to cheerfully answer them.
Well, here I am, babbling on; and you have already started on the tour of the mansion. Fine. Be that way.
Each room was loaded with furniture and artifacts to give an idea of how the interior of the Ford Mansion might have appeared back in the 1700s.
Many people stayed in this mansion while George Washington was here: Theodosia Ford — who was the widow of Jacob Ford, Jr. — and her four children moved into two rooms of the house…
…while George Washington, his wife Martha, five aides-de-camp, 18 servants, an unspecified number of visiting dignitaries, and sometimes guards occupied the remainder of Ford Mansion.
After George Washington stayed in the home for six months, the Ford family continued to live in the mansion until the 1870s, when it was sold at auction.
Ford Mansion was purchased by four prominent New Jersey men, who subsequently created the Washington Association of New Jersey in order to preserve the house and display it to the public.
Ford Mansion is one of the earliest house museums in the United States.
This closer view of the table used as a desk is arguably my favorite photograph of inside Ford Mansion.
Members of the Washington Association — which still exists today across Washington Place from Ford Mansion — donated the house and their extensive collections to the National Park Service of the United States in 1933.
The house is supposed to be shown only by guided tours which begin in the museum building; but I had no problem whatsoever touring both stories of the building on my own.
Rooms cannot be accessed, as they are roped off at their doorway entrances in order to protect the contents of the rooms from the public.
Statue and Plaques
On Morris Avenue — across the street from Ford Mansion — is a statue of George Washington mounted on a horse.
On the historic marker are the words “Washington made his winder headquarters at the Arnold Tavern, January 6, 1777, now a part of All Souls Hospital. December, 1779, he established quarters at the Ford Mansion, now maintained as a museum.”
Yes — George Washington is looking right at you.
Born on Friday, February 22, 1732, George Washington would have been 286 years old today.
Under the leadership and command of George Washington, the Continental Army emerged as a cohesive and disciplined fighting force.
The white building behind the statue is the First Church of Christ, Scientist Morristown. It is not part of the site.
In fact, plenty of private homes and apartments are across the street from the statue and Ford Mansion, within view.
This engraving commemorates the headquarters of George Washington from January 1777 through May 1777 and from December 1779 through June of 1780.
This plaque from 1932 commemorates the encampment of the Continental Army in Morristown from 1777 through 1781.
The corner of Morris Avenue and Washington Place at which Ford Mansion is located in Morristown features the first time I have seen the Clearview Highway typeface in New Jersey on street signs or road signs. I intend to comment more on what I consider a horrid typeface in future articles here at The Gate — but I digress.
The site of George Washington’s headquarters in Morristown is conveniently located off of Exit 36 of Interstate 287 approximately 30 miles west of New York; and Interstate 80 and Interstate 280 are only several miles to the north and east.
George Washington’s Headquarters
30 Washington Place
Morristown, New Jersey 07960
973-539-2016 extension 210
As with the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, the best part is that there is no admission fee; and parking is free of charge. Pack a picnic lunch when you have the opportunity to visit and simply enjoy your day while taking in the history and scenery, as the site has nicely landscaped grounds — but if a picnic lunch is not for you, restaurants and shopping are located nearby.
With the exception of several holidays, the site is open seven days per week from 8:00 in the morning until sunset all year round.
All photographs ©2017 by Brian Cohen.