Long before the POS of A became involved with Valley Forge, the Centennial and Memorial Association had wanted to furnish Washington's Headquarters with antiques. In 1887, Mrs. Holstein reiterated this desire, writing: "The intention is to furnish the main building with furniture of the Revolutionary period. As it is not at all probable, we can now collect anything belonging to Genl Washington. We will have to get it, where we can."  She was hoping for donations, and in 1888 a local paper publicly requested suitable heirlooms: "If deposited at Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge, they would be well cared for, prized, seen and admired by hundreds. While being kept by individuals, they are only seen by members of a family occasionally."  Over the years, Mrs. Holstein personally solicited contributions from her contacts, including Frederick D. Stone, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In 1892 she reminded Stone that she would be glad to have a clock he had mentioned and would appreciate the society's help with pictures and photographs. 
On December 17, 1894, nine local women assembled in Norristown to organize a Valley Forge DAR chapter, and Anna Morris Holstein became its first regent.  In 1900, the Centennial and Memorial Association granted this chapter permission to furnish Washington's bedroom at headquarters. It held a concert and raised $103.45, which formed the nucleus of a fund on which they could draw.  In their minutes, they noted, "it was the general sentiment of the members present to use only genuine old furniture if possible."  In the early months of 1901, the ladies visited antiques dealers and managed to get a bureau, chairs, and a washstand,  they had some trouble locating a suitable bedstead, and once one was found it was discovered that the bedposts were too high for the low ceilings at the Headquarters, so the piece was altered accordingly.  A separate carpet committee attempted to provide a rag rug made of scraps collected and prepared by each member of the chapter. They tried to have their carpet woven on the Martha Washington loom at Mount Vernon, but in the end they provided a carpet woven locally. 
Other DAR chapters followed the example set by Valley Forge. In 1902, the Chester County DAR asked to furnish another room on the second floor of headquarters. There were some dissenting votes on the board at the Centennial and Memorial Association, but permission was finally granted.  The Chester County ladies came up with a bedstead, two bureaus, a looking glass, and another one of those rag rugs then considered so essential to colonial interior decor.  In 1903, the Merion DAR asked to furnish an attic room that had a round window and was believed to have been George Washington's observatory. The minutes of the Centennial and Memorial Association read: "There was some objection to further occupancy of the Building, and a spirited discussion ensued, but the privilege was granted by a vote of eight in favor to five opposed."  The Merion daughters used a less formal arrangement of objects in an attempt to make the room look inhabited. In their literature they proclaimed their success, writing that they had "seen numerous visitors turn away hastily, fearing that they had intruded upon a private room."  After all three rooms were open to visitors, one tourist commented on the wealth of relics on view at headquarters, noting that the building had three furnished rooms, two done to evoke Mount Vernon and one in a country style. 
In the 1880s and 1890s, while the Centennial and Memorial Association acquired and restored Washington's Headquarters, the industrial community at Valley Forge was going through difficult times. Economic decline began in 1881 when Isaac Smith relocated his woolen mill in nearby Bridgeport. Later a paper mill folded, and in 1890 the Thropp mill complex burned down. Valley Forge's population dropped from an all-time high of 500 to about 125.  Houses were abandoned, and area residents were beginning to describe the village as an eyesore, contrasting sharply with the natural beauty of the valley. Port Kennedy's lime business failed, and the Kennedy family went bankrupt. An ironworks in the same town failed in 1893, and by 1900 Port Kennedy was also nearly abandoned.  Local problems were exacerbated between 1893 and 1897 as the nation experienced the worst economic downturn since its foundation.
Visitors from outside the immediate area commented on the valley's sad state. In 1895, the Philadelphia Press ran an article on Valley Forge entitled "A Deserted Village." Its writer spoke of crumbling mill buildings idle for more than a dozen years, with gaping holes in their windows and vines growing up their neglected walls. He observed rows of decaying tenements still sparsely occupied by a few black families.  Clifton Johnson, writing for Women's Companion in 1902, made the same observation, noting: "A melancholy air of industrial ruin hangs over the Valley."  He discovered that the few remaining residents found only occasional work at a local quarry, a brick works, and a stone-crushing operation. As a mid-winter visitor, Johnson had surprised the village hotel owner and had listened to the cook complain about how impossible it was to keep help at that time of year in such a deserted place. 
The same articles mentioned that Valley Forge came alive in the summer. It seems that the village was being transformed into a seasonal resort. Soon after POS of A allied itself with the Centennial and Memorial Association, thousands made it a tradition to take part in an annual celebration on June 19, which was becoming known as Evacuation Day. On Evacuation Day in 1887, there was music, marching, and oratory from 10:00 A.M until dusk.  By June 1890, as many as 10,000 people came. Valley Forge had become an attraction not only for patriots and POS of A campers, but also for people out to make a quick buck. The Daily Local News wrote of
the stands of sharpers which lined the roadway from the railroad station in the valley to the pavilion away up on the hillside, where the principal exercises of the day were held. "Sweat cloths," wheels of fortune, and all the paraphernalia of open air gambling was conspicuously arrayed and the swindlers in charge drove a thriving trade until driven out . . . by special officers. 
Extra effort went into planning for the exercises for Evacuation Day in 1903, which was the 125th anniversary of the day Washington marched his men out of Valley Forge.