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In 1877, a group of local citizens established the Valley Forge Centennial and Memorial Association. The Association planned to host a festive celebration on June 19, 1878 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Continental Army’s march out from Valley Forge. While the Association organized the event, it also pursued its greater objective of purchasing the house that had served as General George Washington’s Headquarters during the encampment.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania legislature sought to establish Valley Forge as Pennsylvania’s first state park. It succeeded in 1893 and began buying up the farmland surrounding Washington’s Headquarters where soldiers had built their huts, redoubt, and entrenchments. From 1900 to 1910, the Valley Forge Park Commission built roadways tracing the inner and outer lines of defense where huts and fortifications had stood during the encampment. Trees were planted creating allées, or tree-lined drives leading visitors along the ridgelines of Valley Forge. From these roads, visitors could see the monuments erected throughout the park by states and citizen groups, such as the Daughters of the Revolution, commemorating the soldiers encamped at Valley Forge. Both the allées and monuments were reminiscent of the commemorative design of other military parks, such as Gettysburg.

While creating this bucolic park the state also made efforts to obtain the crown jewel of the encampment, Washington’s Headquarters. After a long struggle the Commission took possession of Washington’s Headquarters away from the Valley Forge Centennial and Memorial Association.

As the century progressed, Valley Forge attracted increasing numbers of visitors. Many came to see it as a significant historic site marking a critical moment in the American pursuit of freedom. Others came to enjoy it as a public recreational space. Meanwhile, the state of Pennsylvania struggled with the expensive work of maintaining Valley Forge and its natural and cultural resources. Concerned local citizens and organizations advocated for the future protection of Valley Forge State Park by adding it to the National Park System.

On July 4, 1976 as the nation celebrated the Bicentennial of the American Revolution, President Gerald Ford arrived to sign the bill naming Valley Forge as a National Historical Park. Under the auspices of the National Park Service, Valley Forge has pursued its mission to preserve and interpret the resources and history associated with the encampment. In its daily work and long-term planning, Valley Forge National Historical Park continues to rely on citizen participation and advocacy.


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