Chapter Four: The Park Commission Triumphs (continued)

The money appropriated for Valley Forge during Samuel W. Pennypacker's administration finally enabled the park to construct roads. Back in 1896, the park commission had complained that visitors were damaging the grounds by wearing their own paths among the historic earthworks, because of the lack of roads, and that "with the best of motives they work an irreparable injury." [61] By 1904, the park commission reported that they had completed a road along the entrenchments on Mount Joy, enabling visitors to view and appreciate them without climbing all over them. [62] A newspaper article described the path, now called "Inner Line Drive," that wound uphill from the Valley Forge train station affording beautiful views of the Schuylkill far below. [63] In 1906, the park completed a winding boulevard, now called "Outer Line Drive," connecting Port Kennedy via the outer line defenses to Fort Washington and Inner Line Drive. [64] By 1908, park guards were reporting problems with automobiles hurtling through the park at speeds far in excess of the posted limit of 10 miles an hour. [65]

The new roads seemed to encourage park officials to view a second trolley venture with more enthusiasm. All commissioners seemed happy with a project proposed by the new Phoenixville, Valley Forge & Strafford Electric Railway Company, which was raising $65,000 to connect these three towns by trolley. [66] In 1909, the company was busy buying rights-of-way before beginning work on tracks that would stretch along the outer line, crossing Gulph Road, Baptist Road, and Inner Line Drive and continuing along Valley Creek to Washington's Headquarters. Valley Forge never did get trolley service, however. By 1921, the park commission was afraid the trolley would prevent restoration of the creek area to its eighteenth-century appearance. The trolley company refused to move the tracks from the east side of Valley Creek, so the park superintendent was instructed to remove them. [67]

1908 map of Valley Forge
Fig. 8. This 1908 map of Valley Forge Park is from the 1910 park commission report.

Valley Forge National Historical Park


In 1909, Valley Forge was graced with a new observation tower on the summit of Mount Joy. At the turn of the century, such towers were springing up at many amusement parks and scenic spots. The park commission had observed: "All battlefields and historical parks have one or more-all but Valley Forge." [68] Money that had been appropriated for the park during Pennypacker's administration finally enabled the park to commission Variety Iron Works to build a tower typical of those engendered by the turn-of-the-century tourist boom. It had a concrete foundation and a corrugated iron roof. It was 75 feet high and 25 feet square at the base. Visitors who climbed to the top found plaques directing their attention to various points of interest visible from that elevation. The tower was demolished in 1988. [69]

By the time the tower appeared, there was actually something to see in the fields of Valley Forge. The era of monuments had begun with a vengeance, and Valley Forge seemed eager to catch up with Gettysburg, where so many monuments had already been set up that the battlefield looked like a Victorian cemetery. Between 1906 and 1908, the park paid for a series of simple markers to identify the locations of the camps of each colonial brigade in the Continental Army. In 1909, the Montgomery County Historical Society contributed a new granite boulder on the site of the old, damaged marker commemorating Sullivan's Bridge. [70]

The park had long been hoping that each of the thirteen original colonies would erect monuments to the troops from their respective states, but the first state to do so had not really been one of the thirteen original colonies. Research by a visitor named Nathan Gould determined that soldiers who hailed from what was Maine had served with the Massachusetts companies at Valley Forge. [71] In 1906, the park commission informed Maine's legislature that the park would welcome their proposed marker. [72] A Maine commission purchased an appropriate boulder, which was unveiled on October 17, 1907, with the governor of Maine attending the ceremonies. [73]

Because the Maine marker was relatively small and simple, its unveiling preceded the huge monument that Pennsylvania was constructing. In 1905, Governor Pennypacker had signed an appropriation for $30,000 for an enormous statue of General Anthony Wayne, which he and the park commission hoped would raise the competitive ire of other states and bring more monuments to Valley Forge. [74] The governor also involved himself with the state commission that was inspecting designs for the proposed monument. The commission unanimously decided on a design by Henry K. Bush-Brown and signed a contract with this sculptor after visiting his studio in Newburgh, New York. Bush-Brown's plaster model was cast in bronze in Philadelphia and, according to members of the monument commission, "pronounced to be one of the world's best Equestrian statues by those who through experience and education in Equestrian statues are competent judges." [75]

This monument was dedicated around Evacuation Day in 1908. Some 3,000 people came in carriages and autos, including Former Governor Pennypacker. After the hulking statue was officially unveiled by Bush-Brown's daughter, Pennypacker delivered a lengthy speech on the life of Anthony Wayne. The monument, he suggested, was appropriately placed. "By no chance, therefore," he intoned, "does it happen that his statue is set upon the center of the outer line at Valley Forge. It is where he [General Wayne] stood in the cold and the drear of that gloomy and memorable Winter." [76] Governor Pennypacker always remained proud of the Wayne statue. In 1909 he wrote a friend, "I am much pleased that you like the appearance of the camp ground at Valley Forge and the Monument of General Wayne." [77]

The summer following the dedication of the Wayne statue saw the beginning of the Pennsylvania Columns. Henry Bush-Brown was again chosen as the artist, but by this time Samuel Pennypacker was no longer in office and the completion of the columns was delayed for several years for lack of funds. In 1909, Park Superintendent A. H. Bowen wrote another park commissioner that Bush-Brown said he was working on "eagles" to mount atop the columns. [78] This was a problem because there was no money to pay for these embellishments until 1910, when the commission urged an appropriation to pay both for the eagles and for the bas-reliefs depicting Pennsylvania officers needed to complete the project. [79]

Once the columns were finally completed, Park Superintendent S. S. Hartranft complained that Bush-Brown had left the site before the second eagle had been fastened to its column. Moreover, the work had not been done according to specs. Instead of being attached to the column with a long metal rod, the eagle had been attached with short bolts and was leaning noticeably. [80] Though this problem was reportedly rectified, one eagle remains slightly crooked to this day. Hartranft also mentioned that one of the park foremen had expressed the opinion that the columns' foundations were inadequate. He noted that he had heard it rumored that Bush-Brown had been given this commission because he had lost money on General Wayne. What was the real story with these monuments? Hartranft wondered. The superintendent concluded: "The sudden appearance of these mushroom columns in the park without the due knowledge of all of the Commission seemed some like a dream." [81]

While the Pennsylvania columns waited for their eagles, the ladies at the Valley Forge chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a second monument to the unknown dead at Valley Forge. Their monument was located at the other site where, according to tradition, many Revolutionary soldiers were buried: the slope near the outer line defenses on the south side of the park. At the dedication of their monument in 1911, a clergyman in his invocation mentioned the many heroes who lay buried in the area reached by the sound of his voice. In unveiling the monument, the regent of this chapter dedicated it to "Those dead heroes who perished so long ago for American liberty—not in the glory of battle with drums beating and banners flying, but from disease and privation, in the desolation of a winter camp." [82]

Between 1911 and 1914, three states followed the example of Pennsylvania in commemorating the service of their Continental soldiers, though none of their monuments was quite as lavish as General Wayne on his horse. The Massachusetts monument unveiled in 1911 was a sort of curved stone bench pierced by a shaft. It seemed to invite the visitor to pause and admire the view. The simple Delaware marker unveiled in 1914 was cut from Brandywine granite. The same year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania unveiled yet another monument—this one honoring Major General John Armstrong, who had commanded the Pennsylvania militia. The Camden Elks Lodge initiated the drive for a New Jersey monument. New Jersey's governor, Woodrow Wilson, adopted the project and appointed a commission. By the time the monument was unveiled in 1913, Wilson had been elected President of the United States and could not attend the ceremonies. Spectators were not deprived of a White House aura, however, since Wilson sent his daughter Eleanor to represent him. The president of Wilson's monument commission explained: "With remarkable foresight, the President provided himself with several charming daughters in order to avoid disappointment on occasions similar to this." [83] Miss Wilson apparently captivated the press, and words appeared in print complimenting her "unassuming girlish manners and her ever-present bright smile," not to mention her pretty white shirtwaist and skirt and her blue hat trimmed with roses. Miss Wilson dutifully pulled the cord to reveal the statue of a soldier mounted on a column. She was presented with a huge bouquet of American Beauty roses. [84]

Fig 9. The 1911 dedication ceremony for monument commissioned by the Valley Forge DAR. The location was then thought to be an unmarked burial ground for Revolutionary soldiers.
Fig 9. The 1911 dedication ceremony for monument commissioned by the Valley Forge DAR. The location was then thought to be an unmarked burial ground for Revolutionary soldiers.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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