Washington Slept Here.

During the brutal winter of 1779-1780, Continental Army soldiers made camp near Morristown, New Jersey. The soldiers endured no fewer than 28 snow storms, with one storm in January dropping over four feet of snow. Lacking cold weather attire, and at times even lacking blankets and enough food, the cold months came to be known as “the hard winter” (via American Battlefields Trust). However, with British forces in control of New York, and American forces in control of Philadelphia, Morristown, New Jersey made an ideal halfway point for General George Washington to set up camp and guide his army. He set up his offices in a mansion owned by the wealthy Ford family, and remained there until the winter’s end (via Wikipedia).

Washington traveled extensively while both a General and later a President, and he did stay in many inns and houses throughout New Jersey. It has long since been a running joke that a sign outside a house or inn proclaiming “George Washington Slept Here!” is more about raising real estate or rental values than it is about historical truth. Less than an hour from my home, however, is a place where Washington did not just sleep, but directed American war efforts that led to the founding of our nation. With an unexpected day off from work, I decided to take a drive up to explore yet another site that was critical to the establishment of our nation.

First, however, I do have a few automotive and travel updates to share:

When my Accord was serviced for the spider removal last month, I had taken it to a new dealer – one that was closer to me than where I usually take my car for work. Imagine my shock when the service advisor told me that my car needed almost $1400 worth of repairs and servicing!
View of Honda multi-point inspection report with green dots for interior/exterior, battery performance, state inspection, under hood, under vehicle, tire tread depth, abnormal wear pattern of tires, and brake condition.
Last week I was finally able to get the car to Burns Honda in Marlton, NJ for a second opinion. I have been taking my Hondas to Burns since the early 2000s, and with good reason. I showed the report from the other dealership to my service advisor. He patiently went through their report and had one of the technicians give my car a thorough inspection. The verdict? My car needed none of the work the other dealer had recommended. The cost for the second opinion? $0.
2012 Honda Accord parked by beach, with a wooden fence in the foreground.
After returning from Las Vegas, my wife and I took some time to visit Cape May, one of my favorite beach resort towns.
View of the Washington Street Mall near sunset.
Although temperatures are finally on the rise, March is still the off-season for the Jersey shore. The Washington Mall in Cape May was virtually deserted.
Exterior of Cape May Winery and Vineyard.
With temperatures in the 40s and the region under a warning for gale-force winds, my wife and I were not able to do any of the outdoor activities we had initially planned. What makes a good second choice? How about wine tasting! Cape May is home to several vineyards and wineries. Our first stop was the Cape May Winery and Vineyard.
Two glasses with CAPE MAY WINERY & VINEYARD engraved on the glass. Wine bottles are in the background on the bar top.
For $10, you can taste six of the wines produced at the winery, and also get a souvenir glass.
Exterior of Turdo Vineyard & Winery, with a white pickup truck in the driveway.
We also visited Turdo Vineyard & Winery, about a mile away. A far smaller vineyard than Cape May Winery, Turdo looks like you’re pulling up to someone’s private home.
Two wine glasses on bar top with tasting menus in the foreground.
$8 gets you a choice of 5 wines to taste (a souvenir glass is $2 extra). For a small, family-run operation, Turdo produces impressive wines. We enjoyed our tasting selection!
Coffee, orange juice, and placemat menu at Uncle Bill's.
No visit to Cape May is complete without breakfast to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House!
Beach sunset photo with path through dunes in foreground.
And no trip is complete without a beach sunset either.
Beach sunset photo.
Go ahead, make your jokes about New Jersey. We have the best sunsets. Period.

And now… to the headquarters of George Washington:

Map of New Jersey with red pin in Washington's Headquarters Museum in Morristown, west of New York City.
A 45-minute drive from New York City, Morristown is home to Washington’s Headquarters Museum.
View of highway from behind dashboard of Honda Accord.
I had an unexpected day off from work recently, and took advantage of a beautiful day to head northward, toward Morristown.
2012 Honda Accord in front of Ford Mansion.
Arrived! Located less than a mile from Exit 36 of I-287, the Washington Headquarters Museum is easy to find.
Exterior of Ford Mansion.
Ford Mansion, which served as Washington’s headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780. Although the house is free to visit, the tours are timed. Signs directed me to the nearby museum to get a ticket.
Exterior of Washington Headquarters Museum.
The Washington Headquarters Museum, completed in 1937. The building’s architect, John Russell Pope, more famously designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C.
Interior of museum, with an exhibit on cannons and rifles from the Revolutionary War.
With nearly 45 minutes until the next tour, I passed the time perusing several of the exhibits in the museum. Although small, the museum has a thorough display of life in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
Medical tools and medicines from the 1770s.
As I have said before, I would not want to have been injured in battle during the Revolutionary War. These are the tools of surgery for a doctor in the Continental Army.
Glass case with dress attire of George and Martha Washington.
Among the collection are these formal outfits, once worn by George and Martha Washington.
Collection of household goods including a grandfather clock, a high-backed bench, and a mirror.
The museum also had several displays of household goods from the 1770s. The high-backed bench is called a settle. It was intended to be used in front of a fireplace. The high back would protect the occupant from drafts and retain the warmth of the fire.
Oration pamphlet of John Hancock on a purple backdrop.
The museum also houses the collection of Lloyd Smith, a New Jersey man who collected 12,000 books and 200,000 manuscripts during his lifetime. On display were several items from his collection from the 18th century. This pamphlet, written by John Hancock in 1770, expresses his outrage at the Boston Massacre.
Bound sermon, open to middle of book, on purple backdrop.
There was also a collection of sermons from the time of the Revolution. As the son of a Presbyterian minister, I found myself imaging my Dad’s sermons bound and published, just like this. Someday.
Recreation of 18th century barracks with information placards on walls.
The basement also houses a recreation of a Revolutionary War encampment, describing the everyday lives of soldiers in the war.
Exterior of Ford Mansion, a two-story mansion in white, with black roof and shutters.
After 45 minutes of waiting, my tour of the Ford Mansion began. The mansion was built in 1774 by Jacob Ford Jr., who died of pneumonia in 1777 while serving in the Continental Army.
Field office of George Washington, with maps and orders on the tables. A fireplace is on the right of the image. And two windows are on the left.
This first-floor room served as the staff office for the Army, where Washington and his officers wrote letters, planned attacks, and signed orders. One interesting fact I learned from the park ranger who gave the tour: during the Revolutionary War, American soldiers could not simply take over a house to use. Instead, they would need to ask permission from the owners and pay rent. If the owner refused, the soldiers would need to find a different house to use.
Interior of first-floor bedroom, with a table with card games, a four-poster bed, a desk, and two chairs.
When George Washington stayed at Ford Mansion, he brought with him his wife, five aides, and eighteen servants. The Ford family crammed into two downstairs bedrooms. Theodosia Ford, Jacob’s widow, and her daughter stayed in this room.
Kitchen and dining area of Ford mansion.
While the Ford family gave up most of their house to Washington and his officers, they retained one important room – the kitchen. Washington’s meals were prepared outside the house and brought to him.
Servants quarters, with a bed, several bunks and a spinning wheel.
Washington’s servants had little space, and no expectation of privacy. Five servants stayed in this upstairs bedroom.
Interior of Washington's bedroom, with four-poster bed, chairs, table, and a large dresser.
Washington slept here! This was the bedroom used by George Washington and his wife Martha. Another fun fact – George was over six feet tall. The bed, which looks small, slept both he and his wife comfortably.
Washington's office, with three desks, three chairs, and two dins.
This small room on the first floor was Washington’s private study, where he would work for hours to manage the affairs of his army.
Tables with orders and maps. A window is in the background.
I am still amazed at how many places from the nation’s history are within driving distance when you live in the northeast. Standing in the house, I felt a definite connection with the past.
Car odometer with 126374 TRIP A 70.5
At the end of another fun trip, the Accord continues to roll along without complaint. Onward to 130,000 miles!

Ford Mansion and Washington’s Headquarters, overseen by the National Park Service, are located on 30 Washington Place in Morristown. Hours vary slightly depending upon the season, but during the winter and spring, the Visitor Center and Mansion are open from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm (the Park Service recommends calling ahead for tour times before you visit). The museum is free to visit, although a small gift shop in the Visitor Center has all kinds of Revolutionary War memorabilia. If you enjoy learning more about the history of this nation, I would highly recommend a visit!

Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.


5 thoughts on “Washington Slept Here.

  1. What an awesome slice of history! $10 wine tasting is a bargain (I want to live in the Turdo “house”!). And that’s pretty awesome to get to talk the very same steps and hallways that George Washington did. 5 servants staying in one room – now that’s crowded!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is something very cool about the close connection you can have with historical figures and events out here- I think schools can/should do more exploration of places like this with students- it really can help make the stuff more real.

      Thanks for reading!


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