Washington Crossing Historic Park
Washington Crossing Historic Park isn't just a historic site that changed the course of the Revolutionary War, it's also an important place that can be traced to the freedoms Americans enjoy today.
The 500-acre park is the site where General George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776 and marched to Trenton, New Jersey.
Established in 1917, the beautiful park preserves the history of that moment, but also hosts thousands of visitors at family-friendly events throughout the year including the Washington Crossing Brewfest in May, Harvest Day and a Fourth of July Celebration.
Restored Colonial buildings in the park, such as the Thompson-Neely House and McConkey Ferry Inn, reveal Revolutionary era living conditions.
The park also contains Bowman's Hill Tower, Revolutionary War soldiers' graves, stone memorials, picnic pavilions and historic collections.
Each Christmas Day, a crowd of thousands gather along the banks of the Delaware River in Washington Crossing Historic Park to watch the annual re-enactment of General George Washington's heroic crossing of the Delaware River in commemoration of this turning point in the American Revolution.
A reenactor dressed as General Washington kicks off the event with an inspiring speech to his men - a group of 250 to 300 reenactors dressed in Continental Army uniforms before the group huddles inside a full-size replica Durham boat and makes the journey across the river.
There are two opportunities to watch the re-enactment: The first is traditionally held the second Sunday of December and the Annual Christmas Day Crossing is held on December 25 from 12 to 3 p.m. Both days offer various activities for attendees including colonial-era games, period demonstrations and more throughout the historic village adjacent to the park.
THE ORIGINAL CROSSING
The cold December of 1776 was a desperate time for General George Washington and his troops. Exhausted from recent failures against the British Army during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army camped along the banks of the Delaware River, in what is now Washington Crossing Historic Park. To continue the fight against the British, Washington decided to attack the Hessian-occupied town of Trenton. On Christmas Night, the troops crossed the Delaware River, completing a successful surprise attack on Trenton before crossing back into Pennsylvania with ammo and prisoners of war. The victory reignited Washington's men's fire for the American Revolution.
Annual Crossing of the Delaware River.
ORIGINS OF THE CROSSING EVENT
While the annual crossing is popular today, it had rocky origins. The first few attempts at a commemoration Crossing in 1838 and then again in 1876 lead to rowdiness among the reenactors and the event was not repeated again for nearly 100 years. In 1947, a fraternity promoted a non-hazing initiation by reenacting the famous trip across the Delaware, sparking new interest in holding an annual Crossing. When National Geographic Magazine featured a story about the Crossing in 1952 complete with photos, the modern tradition was born.
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE ANNUAL CHRISTMAS CROSSING
• Brother of Philadelphia native and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, John B. Kelly Jr, was a famed Olympic rower who portrayed George Washington from 1978-1984.
• The weight of a Durham boat, used to cross the river in 1776 and now, weighs 4,600 pounds empty.
• A full size replica of a Durham boat for the 1965 crossing marked the first time in 100 years that a Durham boat was seen on the Delaware River.
• The Christmas Day Crossing in 1976 was the bicentennial of the original and brought 20,000-26,000 spectators.
• The ice was so thick on the river in 1980 that reenactors had to march across the bridge in lieu of crossing the river.