Visit: Washington’s Headquarters Museum & Ford Mansion {Morristown, New Jersey}

by Cate on October 7, 2015

Washington's Headquarters and Ford Mansion

A few weeks ago, it was National Public Lands Day, which means free admission to our nation’s national parks. I did a quick search to find out what was in the area. One is the Thomas Edison museum and estate. A beautiful property that we have visited before and definitely worth a stop if you haven’t been. Another national park in New Jersey is both Washington’s Headquarters & Ford Mansion, along with Jockey Hollow, in the Morristown area. Although I have lived in the area for a million years, I have never visited and was clearly long overdue.

It was a gorgeous day to be outside, so after Madeline finished cheering at a football game, we jumped in the car and headed on over to Washington’s Headquarters. It’s super simple to find and convenient from Route 287. There is a small (free) parking lot right near the main building, and that’s where we started our afternoon.

There are some exhibits set up in the main building (above photo), along with a small gift shop, and that’s also where you check in and sign up for the tour.  There are many guided tours throughout the day (you can find a more specific schedule here), and we were lucky enough to walk in just before the next tour started. Washington's Headquarters and Ford Mansion

Our guide, or “Ranger,” as they are called was Thomas, and he was quite awesome. He knew the history of the place backwards and forwards and was quick as a whip in answering our group’s questions. He even offered to pose for selfies at the end, which I thought was equal parts endearing and hysterical given he was likely in his late 60s and not part of the nonsensical selfie generation.

This property was important because it was the scene of the winter encampment of George Washington and his troops during 1779-1780. Mrs. Ford lived in the mansion on the property (photo below) with her children (her husband had already died in the war), when members of the army knocked on her door and asked if the General and his troops could stay there. She, of course, agreed, and with the General came all his high-ranking officials, their staff, their servants … even all their horses. It was quite an imposition, to say the least, although an honor as well, and they were camped out in her home for six months. Martha Washington even came for several months as well during the holidays!

Washington's Headquarters and Ford Mansion

As we toured the different areas of the home, it was amazing to think of all the people that lived and worked there … and to walk the same floors that George Washington himself walked. To see his “war room” (the first photo below), to see where he ate Thanksgiving dinner with Martha, and where he slept . The Marquis de Lafayette, the last surviving General of the War for Independence, even visited Ford Mansion in 1780 and stayed with Washington for a bit! Although many of the furnishings are not original, some pieces are, and I was totally in awe as we walked through the property. Washington's Headquarters and Ford Mansion

Washington's Headquarters and Ford MansionWashington's Headquarters and Ford Mansion
Although it looks big, this kitchen was bustling and both Mrs. Ford’s staff of servants, and the staff and servants that George Washington brought with him all worked out of this space to feed everyone.

Washington's Headquarters and Ford MansionWashington's Headquarters and Ford Mansion

The tour lasted about forty-five minutes, and after that, you are free to walk the grounds, or go back to the main building if you missed the gift shop and exhibits inside. From there, we hopped back in the car and went to visit Jockey Hollow, about ten minutes away, but that’s a story for another day.

If you’re in the area, or reasonable driving distance, do put Washington’s Headquarters and Ford Mansion on your list to visit. Even if it’s not a “free admission” day, it doesn’t cost much (kids 15 and under are free and adults are just $7) and it’s such a wonderful history lesson, even my kids were engaged.

There are 408 national parks in the US, but only 127 actually charge a fee. The next free admission day is on Veteran’s Day, November 11. This is a great list to find what national parks are in your area.

Washington’s Headquarters Museum and Ford Mansion
30 Washington Place
Morristown NJ 07960

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