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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Colonials and Patriots
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark CONFERENCE HOUSE (Billopp House)
New York

Location: The foot of Hylan Boulevard, Tottenville, Staten Island.

A British naval officer, Capt. Christopher Billopp, built this two-story, stone house sometime before 1688, and in September 1776 a "peace" conference was held here between Admiral Lord Howe and an American delegation consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. Even though it came after the British victory on Long Island, the conference ended without agreement because the patriots insisted on independence and Howe required the withdrawal of the Declaration of Independence. The city of New York acquired the house in 1926 and 3 years later placed it in custody of the Conference House Association under whose auspices it has been restored and furnished in the Revolutionary period.

NHL Designation: 05/23/66

New York

Location: West bank of Hudson River, Schuylerville, Saratoga County.

General John Burgoyne's army was stopped by Horatio Gates' American Army at Bemis Heights and retreated northward, to be brought to bay at the settlement of Saratoga, now called Schuylerville. Convinced that his position was hopeless, he surrendered the 6,300 men remaining under his command, who laid down their weapons on the Field of Grounded Arms on October 17, 1777. Most of the original field, 50 to 60 acres on the river plain, has survived as open ground, partly owned privately and the remainder by the Village of Schuylerville for bathing and other recreational purposes.

National Historic Landmark FORT CROWN POINT (Amherst)
New York

Location: N.Y. 8, east of intersection with N.Y. 9N and 22, at west end of Champlain Bridge, Essex County.

French, British, Americans—all in turn have claimed this strategic point, which juts into Lake Champlain. The French built Fort St. Frederic at Crown Point in 1731 as a base for attacks on the northern British colonies. Gen. Sir Jeffrey Amherst forced them to evacuate the ruined fort in 1759. The new British fort, called Crown Point or Amherst, was located nearby. It was destroyed by fire in 1773 and played a minor role during the War for Independence as an outpost of Fort Ticonderoga, about 12 miles to the south. The stabilized ruins of barracks and earthworks are preserved at Crown Point in an unusual manner. The outlines of the post can be traced easily, and 18th-century colonial warfare is illustrated graphically by the ruins and their setting. Crown Point State Reservation includes the ruins of the French fort, also. Fort St. Frederic has been declared eligible for the Registry of National Historic Landmarks in connection with French exploration and settlement. Fort Crown Point will be evaluated further in the study on architecture, as a superior example of 18th-century military engineering.

NHL Designation: 11/24/68

National Historic Landmark FORT JOHNSON
New York

Location: N.Y. 5, in village of Fort Johnson, 3 miles west of Amsterdam, Montgomery County.

Sir William Johnson, Crown Superintendent of Indian Affairs, made Fort Johnson his home and headquarters for more than 10 years, before moving to Johnson Hall. (See pp. 128-130, 213.) It is a two-story square stone mansion with hipped roof, completed in 1749. The interior woodwork is largely original, and furnishings include a number of pieces which belonged to Sir William. His son, John, occupied Fort Johnson when he moved to Johnson Hall, and as a loyalist lost the property during the War for Independence. Fort Johnson is now a museum maintained by the Montgomery Historical Society.

NHL Designation: 11/28/72

(Fort Oswego)

New York

Location: Oswego, right bank of the Oswego River where it flows into Lake Ontario.

Fort Ontario was a key post in the colonial struggle between England and France, in the American Revolution, and in the War of 1812. It was established in 1755 and deactivated in 1945. Because it threatened the French fur trade, Marquis de Montcalm destroyed the original fort in 1756; it was rebuilt by the British and burned by American troops in 1778; rebuilt again by the British and not surrendered by them until 1796; used as an American supply depot in the War of 1812, to be destroyed by the British in a raid in 1814. The final rebuilding was accomplished between 1839 and 1842, and the buildings remodeled between 1863 and 1872; however, while serving over the years as a military installation, prisoner-of-war camp, and emergency housing unit, many buildings were erected and removed. Fort Ontario is now a State-owned historic site, with a museum on the second floor of the enlisted men's barracks constructed in 1839-42.

Fort Oswego was established in 1726-27 by the British at a site across the Oswego River from the later Fort Ontario, about a quarter mile distant, and was the first direct English encroachment into the lakes region claimed by the French. It was headquarters for English fur agents, competing with the French among the Iroquois. The site is marked by a stone monument surrounded by an iron fence in a commercial and industrial zone.

New York

Location: Lake George Village, U.S. 9 near Lake George Battleground Park.

Sir William Johnson (see p. 212) established Fort William Henry 2 days after his September 1755 victory on the shore of Lake George over the French and their Indian allies. The site was a valuable military prize, controlling the portage between Lake George and the Hudson River. The French were repulsed easily in March 1757, but succeeded that summer in recapturing the fort after a 6-day assault led by Marquis de Montcalm with nearly 8,000 regular troops, Canadians, and Indians. Montcalm's terms were generous, but his Indian allies could not be controlled. They fell on the occupants of the fort and murdered many. The fort itself was burned and leveled. Recent archeological investigation has uncovered a wealth of 18th-century objects. The New York State Education Department has assisted the Fort William Henry Corp., formed in 1953, in reconstructing the fort. Along with nearby Lake George Battleground, it constitutes an interesting exemplification of 18th-century wilderness warfare.

New York

Location: 54 Pearl Street, Manhattan, New York City.

This is the oldest building in Manhattan, built in 1719 and acquired some years before the War for Independence by William Fraunces, whose tavern became and still is a popular meeting place. The restaurant on the building's first floor carries on a tradition of 200 years. It was the scene on December 4, 1783, of Washington's farewell to the officers of the Continental Army. It was restored in 1907 by the Sons of the American Revolution and serves as their headquarters. Exhibits, relics, paintings, and furnishings of the period preserve the flavor of Revolutionary times. It will be considered in more detail in the study of architecture.

New York

Location: South Bank of Mohawk River near Little Falls, on N.Y. 58, Herkimer County.

This dwelling was the home of Nicholas Herkimer, hero of the Battle of Oriskany. (See pp. 131-132.) A comfortable, two-story, brick house, it reflects his solid prosperity as farmer and trader. Herkimer died 10 days after the battle from the effects of a wound and is buried in a cemetery adjacent to the General Herkimer Monument, on land that was once part of his estate. The house is owned by the State of New York and administered by the State Education Department. It contains a number of furnishings that belonged to him.

National Historic Landmark KNOX HEADQUARTERS
New York

Location: 4 miles southeast of Newburgh, on N.Y. 94, Orange County.

General Henry Knox, distinguished officer and trusted friend of George Washington, made this house his headquarters on several occasions during the War for Independence. In addition to them, Generals Horatio Gates and Nathanael Greene were seen here. The earliest part of the building was constructed in 1734 as the hunting lodge of John Ellison; more was added in 1754; and the 2-story-and-attic stone structure was built in 1782 by William Bull. The house is well furnished with period furniture, and equipped with original woodwork, open fireplaces, and paneling which still serve as models for craftsmen. The grounds now include only 50 acres, chiefly woodland. Knox Headquarters is owned by the State of New York and administered by the State Education Department.

NHL Designation: 11/28/72

National Historic Landmark NEWTOWN BATTLEFIELD
New York

Location: 6 miles south of Elmira, Chemung County, on N.Y. 17.

Generals John Sullivan and James Clinton marched through Iroquois country in the summer of 1779, laying waste everything in their path. The only open combat came as the expedition moved along the Chemung River and approached the Indian village of Newtown. Over 1,500 loyalists and Iroquois led by Sir John Johnson and Joseph Brant attempted to ambush the Americans but were routed in a sharp battle on August 29. The defeat at Newtown and the widespread destruction caused by the expedition struck a heavy blow at the Iroquois' waning prestige. The Finger Lakes State Park Commission controls a 300-acre park which includes part of the battle site, on high ground overlooking the Chemung River. Traces are preserved here of the earth fortifications thrown up as the Americans approached. A monument was erected in 1912 to commemorate the battle.

NHL Designation: 11/28/72

(Temple Hill)

New York

Location: Temple Hill Road between Vail's Gate and Newburgh, town of New Windsor, Orange County.

Six to eight thousand Continental Army veterans encamped here during 1782-83, while negotiations were completed which ended the War for Independence. Temple Hill, with its log "temple," built by the troops for a meeting place was a central feature, where Washington quelled an attempt by the discontented troops to coerce Congress into settling on the issue of overdue pay. A fieldstone pyramid marks the approximate site of the log structure. The National Temple Association, Inc., owns two tracts totaling 67 acres and has laid plans to reconstruct the temple and other features of 1782-83. A hut, moved to the site some years ago, is identified as an officers' quarters from the period. Washington maintained headquarters in Newburgh at the Hasbrouck House (see pp. 137-138) while his army camped here.

National Historic Landmark SCHUYLER MANSION
New York

Location: Clinton and Catherine Streets, Albany.

Philip Schuyler, later a major general, member of the Second Continental Congress, and U.S. Senator, one of New York's foremost land owners, built this Georgian mansion in 1762. He was in command of the American Army that fought the delaying action down the Hudson Valley in the summer of 1777, against Burgoyne's invasion. Schuyler's Albany home, once the center of a large estate, was acquired by the State in 1911, restored by 1950, and is administered by the State Education Department. It contains many of Schuyler's personal objects a furnishings. It will be considered in more detail in the study of architecture.

NHL Designation: 12/24/67

New York

Location: Clinton Avenue and North Front Street, Kingston, Ulster County.

This stone building dates from 1676 and served as the meeting place for the first session of the New York State Senate, elected under the constitution of April 1777. A British Fleet approached during this session, in September, forcing the delegates to flee to Hurley while the British burned Kingston, leaving only the shell of the Senate House. Rebuilt, it served as a private home until 1888, when the State acquired it as a historic property. It is administered by the State Education Department and furnished with belongings of early settlers of the region. A nearby museum, built in 1927, displays among other items a collection of paintings by the Kingston-born artist, John Vanderlyn.

National Historic Landmark THOMAS PAINE COTTAGE
New York

Location: Corner of North and Paine Avenues, New Rochelle.

Thomas Paine, pamphleteer of the War for Independence, lived at several periods in the last years of his stormy life in this two-story frame cottage, built about 1800. He returned to America in 1802 after 15 years in England and revolutionary France. From 1803 to 1806 he lived intermittently at his home in New Rochelle, on the 300-acre farm given him by the State of New York. He moved to New York City in 1806, where he died 3 years later. This New Rochelle house, moved from its original location nearby, serves today as a museum and headquarters of the Huguenot and Historical Association of New Rochelle.

NHL Designation: 11/28/72

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005