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Valley Forge National Historical Park

Ranger in Continental Army uniform explaining Revolutionary War artillery
Valley Forge National Historical Park is located in Pennsylvania
Location Montgomery County and Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA
Nearest city King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°05′49″N 75°26′20″W / 40.09694°N 75.43889°W / 40.09694; -75.43889Coordinates: 40°05′49″N 75°26′20″W / 40.09694°N 75.43889°W / 40.09694; -75.43889
Area 3,466 acres (1,403 ha)
Established State Park: 1893
National Historical Park: July 4, 1976
Visitors 1,293,001 (in 2005)
Governing body National Park Service
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Added to NRHP: 1966
Designated NHL: 1961
NRHP Reference#: 66000657

Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777–1778 near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the American Revolutionary War. The National Historical Park preserves the site and interprets the history of the Valley Forge encampment. Originally Valley Forge State Park, it became a national park in 1976. The Park contains historical buildings, recreated encampment structures, memorials, museums, and recreation facilities.

The park encompasses 3,500 acres (1,400 ha) and is visited by over 1.2 million people each year. Visitors can see restored historic structures, reconstructed structures such as the iconic log huts, and monuments erected by the states from which the Continental soldiers came. Visitor facilities include a Welcome Center and museum featuring original artifacts, providing a concise introduction to the American Revolution and the Valley Forge encampment. Programs, tours, and activities are available year round. The park also provides 26 miles (42 km) of hiking and biking trails, which are connected to a robust regional trails system. Wildlife watching, fishing, and boating on the nearby Schuylkill River also are popular.

Contents

Historical encampment

Washington and Lafayette

From December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778, the main body of the Continental Army (approximately 12,000 troops) was encamped at Valley Forge. The site was chosen because it was between the Continental Congress in York, Supply Depots in Reading, and British forces in Philadelphia 18 miles (29 km) away, which fell after the Battle of Brandywine. This was a time of great suffering for the army, but it was also a time of retraining and rejuvenation. The shared hardship of the Officers and Soldiers of the Army, combined with Baron Friedrich von Steuben's professional military training program are considered key to the subsequent success of the Continental Army and marks a turning point in the American Revolution.

Park history

Valley Forge was established as the first state park of Pennsylvania in 1893 by the Valley Forge Park Commission "to preserve, improve, and maintain as a public park the site on which General George Washington's army encamped at Valley Forge." [1]. The area around Washington's Headquarters was chosen as the park site. In 1923, the VFPC was brought under the Department of Forests and Waters and later incorporated into the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1971.[1]

The park served as the location of the National Scout Jamboree in 1950, 1957, and 1964.

Valley Forge was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was listed in the initial National Register of Historic Places in 1966.[2][3] The area covered by these listings goes outside what was the Valley Forge State Park boundaries to include four historic houses where Lafayette and other officers were quartered.[3]:6

In 1976, Pennsylvania gave the park as a gift to the nation for the Bicentennial. The U. S. Congress passed a law, signed by President Gerald Ford on July 4, 1976, authorizing the addition of Valley Forge National Historical Park to the National Park System.[4]

Features and facilities

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Welcome Center

Visitors Center

The park features a newly renovated Welcome Center. The features of the center include a museum with artifacts found during excavations of the park, an interactive Muster Roll of Continental Soldiers encamped at Valley Forge, Ranger-led Gallery Programs and walks, a storytelling program, a photo gallery, a visitor information desk staffed by the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors' Bureau, and the Encampment Store for books and souvenirs. A snack bar and bike rentals are available in season. A short 18-minute film, "Valley Forge: A Winter Encampment" is shown in the park's theater next door. A 90-Minute Trolley Tour of the entire park also arrives and departs from this location.

Headquarters buildings

George Washington's Headquarters

A key attraction of the park is the restored colonial home used by George Washington as his headquarters during the encampment. Rehabilitation of the headquarters area will be completed in summer 2009, and includes the restoration of the old Valley Forge train station into an information center, new guided tours, new exhibits throughout the landscape, and the elimination of several acres of modern paving and restoration of the historic landscape. Quarters of other Continental Army generals are also in the park, including those of Huntington, Varnum, Lord Stirling, Lafayette, and Knox. Varnum's Quarters is open daily.

Reconstructed works and buildings

Recreation of a cabin in which soldiers would have lived at Valley Forge

Throughout the park there are reconstructed log cabins of the type thought to be used during the encampment, including a larger log cabin hospital. Earthworks, for the never needed defense of the encampment, are visible, including four redoubts, the ditch for the Inner Line Defenses, and a reconstructed abatis. The original redoubts and several redans on Route 23, Outer Line Drive, and Inner Line Drive were covered with sod to preserve them, but they are currently in need of further restoration. The original forges, located on Valley Creek, were burned by the British three months prior to Washington's occupation of the Park area. However, neither the Upper Forge site nor the Lower Forge site have been reconstructed. There are also several historical buildings that have not been made open to the public because of reasons such as their current state of disrepair. These include: Lord Stirling's Quarters, Knox's Quarters, and the Von Steuben Memorial. Other historical buildings include the P.C. Knox Estate and Potts' Barn.

Washington Memorial Chapel

The Washington Memorial Chapel and National Patriots Bell Tower carillon sit atop a hill at the center of the present park. The Chapel is the legacy of Rev. Dr. W. Herbert Burk. Inspired by Burk's 1903 sermon on Washington's birthday, the Chapel was built as a tribute to Washington. Burk was also instrumental in the development of the park itself, including obtaining Washington's campaign tent and banner, now on display in the Welcome Center.[5] The Chapel and attached Bell Tower are not technically part of the park, but serve the spiritual needs of the park and the community that surround it. The Bell Tower houses the DAR Patriot Rolls, listing those that served in the Revolutionary War, and the Chapel grounds host the World of Scouting Museum.[6]

Memorial markers

The National Memorial Arch

Sitting atop a hill at the intersection of the Outer Line of Defense with the Gulph Road, the National Memorial Arch dominates the southern portion of the park. It is dedicated "to the officers and private soldiers of the Continental Army December 19, 1777 - June 19, 1778." The Arch was commissioned by an act of the 61st Congress in 1910 and completed in 1917. It is inscribed with George Washington's tribute to the perseverance and endurance of his army:

Naked and Starving as they are

We cannot enough admire
the Incomparable Patience and Fidelity

of the Soldiery."

Visitors leaving the Welcome Center proceed along Outer Line Drive toward the Arch. The Drive is lined with large (~2 m high) memorial stones for each of the brigades, or "lines", that encamped there. Crossing Gulph Road at the Arch, the Drive proceeds through the Pennsylvania Columns and past the hilltop statue of Anthony Wayne on horse. More brigade stones line Port Kennedy Road.

Mount Joy Observation Tower

Mount Joy Observation Tower

Atop Mount Joy, the highest elevation in the main park area, stood a steel observation tower. After a long climb up the steps, visitors were rewarded with a panoramic view of the Schuylkill and Great Valleys. The tower was closed in the 1980s due to deterioration, liability concerns, and the surrounding trees outgrowing the platform. The tower has since been removed. The area where it stood is now only accessible by foot trail, the roads have been removed and the area is being given back to the woods.

Trails

There are 26 miles (42 km) of hiking and biking trails within the park, such as the Valley Creek Trail and the River Trail. Portions of regional trails run through the park, including the Horse Shoe Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail. Detailed trail maps can be found at kiosks at trail heads, on the park website (www.nps.gov/vafo) and at the Welcome Center.

Train station

Valley Forge Train Station

Near Washington's Headquarters is the Valley Forge Train Station, now owned by the park. The station was completed in 1911 by the Reading Railroad and was the point of entry to the park for travelers who came by rail through the 1950s from Philadelphia, 23.7 miles (38.1 km) distant.[7] The station is currently being restored and will be used as a museum and information center that offers visitors a better understanding of Washington's Headquarters and the village of Valley Forge.[8] Constructed of the same type stone as Washington's Headquarters, the building was erected on a large man-made embankment overlooking the headquarters site.

Near the Welcome Center is another station at Port Kennedy, on the same line. Also owned by the park, the station, both platforms and the former parking area are in a state of disrepair.[9] Should the long-planned Schuylkill Valley Metro project come to fruition, this station could again connect the park to center city Philadelphia, Pottstown, and Reading with public transportation.

Modern problems

As a park in an increasingly urbanized area, Valley Forge faces problems including traffic, urban sprawl, and an overpopulation of white tail deer.

Valley Forge Park Road (PA Route 23), a heavily-traveled two lane commuter road, passes through the park and carries about six million vehicles per year of mostly commuter traffic. Efforts to divert the traffic have thus far been unsuccessful, owing to existing traffic volume on alternate routes. A consortium of local governments and state and federal agencies are working on approaches to traffic congestion throughout the area, particularly improvements to US 422.

In 2001, a privately-held 62-acre (25 ha) tract of land within the authorized park boundaries was offered for sale. When the Park Service was unable to purchase it, it was sold to Toll Brothers, a real estate development company, for $2.5 million. It took a grass roots campaign to get the Federal Government to purchase the land from developer two years later, for $7.5 million.[10] In 2007, another developer - the American Revolution Center - purchased 78 acres (32 ha) of land within the park boundary with plans to construct a conference center, hotel, retail, campground and museum on the site.[11] The National Parks Conservation Association and local citizens have sued Lower Providence Township over the zoning change that enabled this proposal.

An overpopulation of white tail deer has resulted in "changes in the species composition, abundance, and distribution of native plant communities and associated wildlife" in the park. In 2008 the National Park Service released a draft deer management plan and environmental impact statement for public review (open for public comment until 2/17/09). The intent of the plan is to "support long-term protection, preservation, and restoration of native vegetation and other natural resources within the park."[12] Hunting is expressly prohibited by the legislation that created the park, and action by Congress would be required before it could be sanctioned.[13]

The park also includes the site of the Ehret Magnesia Company, a former manufacturer of asbestos-insulated pipes. Pre-existing dolostone quarries were subsequently backfilled with asbestos-containing slurry waste materials. Those areas of the park are closed to visitors and an effort is underway at permanent remediation.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ a b "Records of the VALLEY FORGE PARK COMMISSION". http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/Bah/dam/rg/rg46.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-27.  
  2. ^ "Valley Forge". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=485&ResourceType=District. Retrieved 2010-01-13.  
  3. ^ a b Richard Greenwood (November 5, 1974). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Valley Forge State Park / Valley Forge". National Park Service. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/66000657.pdf.   and Accompanying six photos, from 1972 and undated
  4. ^ Valley Forge National Historical Park - Washington Memorial Chapel (U.S. National Park Service)
  5. ^ "CHAPTER FIVE: The Churches at Valley Forge". Valley Forge National Historic Park. http://www.nps.gov/archive/vafo/treese/treese5.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-30.  
  6. ^ World of Scouting Museum
  7. ^ Official Guide of the Railways. New York: National Railway Publication Co., February, 1956.
  8. ^ Petersen, Nancy (January 3, 2007). "A new view of Valley Forge". The Philadelphia Inquirer. http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/16370539.htm.  
  9. ^ Train Station
  10. ^ "Toll Bros: History, Land. . . and Battles". http://www.phillyimc.org/or/2006/07/26760.shtml. Retrieved 2006-10-27.  
  11. ^ http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/pa/20080215_Keep_Valley_Forge_sacred.html
  12. ^ "White-tailed Deer Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, Valley Forge National Historical Park, King of Prussia, PA". http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-IMPACT/2006/September/Day-07/i14783.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-01.  
  13. ^ "Valley Forge park sets deer hearing". http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/sports/outdoors/15522148.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-27.  

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