“Let’s go around the room and share a fun fact about ourselves”.
Ah, the dreaded ice breaker. I’ve learned to avoid the awkward scramble to come up with an answer by keeping a tried and true response locked and loaded: “Growing up, I went to a Revolutionary War summer camp.”
For three summers at the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, NJ, my sister and I wore tri cornered hats, and marched in the courtyard, carrying muskets. We sewed our own linen haversacks, baked bread in a wood stove, and were traumatized by descriptions of 18th century medical practices on and off the battle field. At the time, I begrudged those summer days for keeping me out of the pool and away from my friends, but they were a catalyst for my love of history.
Growing up in Bucks County, opportunities to be immersed in history were everywhere. Here, the history of our country is woven into the fabric of our society. So much so, that we are often immune to it. Now that I am raising my own children in Bucks County, I decided it was high time I expose my own children to the rich history surrounding them.
Getting kids involved in historical tours is a challenge. The concept of walking around in the cold and looking at old buildings, was a hard sell. Leading up to our adventure, we reviewed the major players, and talked a lot about George Washington.
We went so far as to make a giant dollar bill, to carry with us from place to place. It was a fun way to get the kids a little more involved, and gave them a mission as opposed to wandering aimlessly throughout the sites.
Our first stop was The Moland House in Warminster. It served as Washington’s Headquarters from July 31st 1777 to August 23rd 1777. During that time, a frustrated Washington and 11,000 troops camped and waited for information on the location of the British. Throughout those days, Washington was visited by many notable figures, including Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette.
The winter hours for touring the house are truncated, but we enjoyed a winter picnic on the provided picnic tables, before heading out along the one-mile nature trail. We cannot wait to return in the spring for a more in-depth tour, and cooking demonstrations!
Next it was back towards the river, and Washington Crossing State Park. I drive through Washington Crossing several times a week, yet it had been years since I toured the visitors center and surrounding buildings.
The Visitors Center and museum was the perfect way to get the kids excited for touring the park. We opted for the self-guided tour, to accommodate the shorter attention spans of my companions. The museum exhibit was the perfect size and even had a station for children to explore and try their hands at being reenactors.
The park itself is straightforward, and easy to navigate. Again, many of the more interactive parts of the park were closed for the winter, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much there still was to see and do. The kids loved seeing the boathouse, home to the boats used to reenact the crossing of the Delaware every Christmas. Seeing them up close, we talked a lot about how challenging it would have been to get them into the water, in the dark, in the snow. After nearly two hours, we made our way home, excited and exhausted from a lovely afternoon along the river.
My husband and I ended our weekend with George Washington at The Washington Crossing Inn. There is a special ambiance that comes with being in a place that existed for centuries before you.
The oldest part of the restaurant was built in the 1800s by the Taylor Family. It looks out onto the building that once housed the McConkey Ferry Inn. It was there that George Washington is thought to have dined before he led his troops across the river for the Battle of Trenton. While we had far less lofty goals for our evening, we enjoyed a delicious meal under a watchful portrait of The General himself. It was a great time to reflect on the weekend.
It has been decades since I hung up my tri cornered hat and musket, but my desire to learn from the past is very much still around. Historical landmarks serve as reminders of the past, and beacons of the spirit of independence. I consider it a great blessing to introduce these concepts to my children. I hope you will join me by exploring the historical treasures of Buck’s County which can be found in our own backyard.