Thousands of visitors come each year to the Park to learn about General Washington and the Crossing of the Delaware River, see the 19th century village of Taylorsville and enjoy hearing about early life in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. However, the Park's formation and 20th century history can be just as enlightening to those who study modern culture.
The following timeline gives a basic overview of the area in the last century — give or take a few decades — and the movements and ideals that created what visitors see and enjoy at the site today.
|Dec. 9, 1876|
"Trenton is preparing for a Centennial celebration of the crossing of the Delaware and the renowned Battle of Trenton on Christmas morning, 1776. It is proposed to have the Centennial army march to Washington's Crossing on the night of the 25th. And march down to Trenton next morning. They should come over and occupy the old camps, extending from Newtown to Brownsburg, and then cross over in Durham boats." (From the "Newtown Enterprise")
A monument was erected at the Delaware River, near the modern Visitor Center today, by the Bucks County Historical Society. It reads, "Near this spot Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Night 1776 the eve of the Battle of Trenton"
William Stryker published The Battle of Trenton and Princeton. This work is still considered a classic telling of the story with transcriptions of original documents pertaining to the engagement.
The movement for a park memorializing Washington's 1776 crossing of the Delaware River began at a meeting of members of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Bucks County Historical Society.
The Senate and House of Representatives of Pennsylvania were urged to pass legislation to "inaugurate the project of making Washington's crossing the great Mecca of America." Although the bill passed both houses, the project was not approved until 1917 when Pennsylvania Governor Brumbaugh signed a legislative act to create a park and appropriated $25,000 for it.
The Patriotic Order Sons of American of Pennsylvania erected a granite monument of George Washington looking across the River toward New Jersey, "To commemorate the crossing of the Delaware River at this spot by General George Washington and the Continental Troops, Christmas Night, 1776, and the splendid victory at Trenton."
|July 25, 1917|
The Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed, "An Act to authorize the acquisition...of lands for a park and the erection of a monument commemorative of Washington crossing the Delaware and for the appointment of a commission to acquire said lands and erect such monument and making an appropriation for the purpose of acquiring additional lands and property in the manner provided for in said act" and for making necessary improvements to said park and the buildings erected herein.
|October 23, 1917|
Governor Brumbaugh appointed a commission to carry out the provisions of the bill which created Washington Crossing State Park.
The Washington Crossing Park Commission began to purchase land and houses in Taylorsville. During that year, the Commission acquired seven houses and sixty acres of land. The Taylorsville Post Office had its name changed to the Washington Crossing Post Office The Park at that time was administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Forest and Waters.
Bathing/swimming in the Delaware River was a popular activity. A bathing beach and bathhouse, with summertime concessions, were opened on the Park grounds.
The current open space/recreation area known as the "Valley of Concentration" was developed.
A sesquicentennial celebration of 150 years of American Independence spawns new interest in the Park. In preparation for the celebration, Washington Crossing State Park published the Itinerary of a Trip from Philadelphia to Washington Crossing, by Dr. Henry D. Paxson. The booklet appealed to the new "car culture" tourists and attendance reached record numbers. Washington Crossing State Park was declared by newspapers as a, "Mecca for patriotic visitors from near and far." Various camps of the Patriotic Orders Sons of America and other patriotic groups made "pilgrimages" to Washington Crossing State Park for services and picnics.
The Thompson Neely house and gristmill were added to the Park property.
Construction on Bowman's Hill Tower began in September 1929 and was completed in June of 1931. Throughout 1932 approximately 28,300 seedlings were planted on and around Bowman's Hill as part of a major reforestation effort.
|May 7, 1934|
The Bowman's Hill State Wildflower Preserve was created. The development of the Preserve was to be a gift from the Council for Preservation of Natural Beauty in Pennsylvania to Washington Crossing State Park.
|Late 1930's through 1942|
The Great Depression brings workers at the Park
Land acquisition and Park improvement projects were initially postponed due to the Great Depression and lack of funds. However, some of these needs were addressed by various federal and state relief programs such as the Works Progress Administration (federally funded relief program) and Department of Public Assistance (state funded relief program).
Members of the WPA and the DPA worked at a Park nursery taking care of and transplanting stock throughout the Park and the Wildflower Preserve. Washington Crossing State Park nursery stock was also distributed to other State Parks up and down the east coast. Trail mapping, numerous plantings and recreational development projects abounded during this time, altering the landscape while it put many citizens back to work. The Delaware River retaining wall was among these projects.
All WPA projects were cancelled by the end of 1941 due to World War II.
|World War II|
During the winter of 1942 Washington Crossing State Park and Bowman's Hill Tower were used as a camouflage analysis and testing ground by the Philadelphia Council of Civilian Defense.
During the onset of WWII the "old and condemned" Taylorsville Post Office was renovated by site employees, using lumber from felled Park trees. The building was then turned over to the local Red Cross chapter and became formally known as "The Red Cross House" from 1943 until the end of November 1946.
There was a sharp decrease in attendance at the Park due to gas and tire rationing during the war years.
During the War the Bathhouse was no longer used as a concession area due to the periods of rationing spawned by the war. Instead, it was offered to the 3rd Naval District, Naval Aircraft Delivery Unit, Mercer Field, Trenton, New Jersey, for swimming and small boat instruction. The bathing area was also open to several nearby army camps, including Fort Dix. The Delaware River was used for training maneuvers as well as for the enjoyment of both healthy and convalescing soldiers and sailors.
|Summer of 1948|
Restoration architect, Edwin Brumbaugh, begins to restore the Thompson Neely House in the Upper Park and the historic buildings in the Lower Park.
|April 6, 1949|
The original act that created Washington Crossing State Park was amended to include the "beautification" of the Park and specifically the "wild flower preserve on the land known as Bowman's Hill."
|December 25, 1952|
The first annual reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware River, sponsored by Washington Crossing State Park, was conducted. Crossing reenactments have continued each year since that date. Jack Kelly, Grace Kelly's brother, and St. John Terrell were among those who have portrayed General George Washington.
|May 8, 1954|
The Soldier's Graves area of the Park and memorial flagstaff were officially dedicated. The flagstaff includes native stone from the 13 original colonies.
A keystone shaped Memorial Building (Visitor Center auditorium) was constructed to house an original painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emmanuel Leutze. The painting was returned to its owner, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the mid-1970's.
Washington Crossing State Park was transferred to the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission from the State Bureau of Forests and Waters.
In preparation for the nation's Bi-Centennial seven historic buildings, the grist mill and the bridge over Pidcock Creek are restored.
The Memorial Building undergoes renovation and expansion work in preparation for the expected increase in visitors celebrating the nation's heritage. A modern boat barn was constructed to house the Park's replica Durham boats.
A Limestone Statue of Washington Crossing the Delaware, located next to the modern Washington Crossing Inn, was donated to the "people of the United States" by the Indiana Limestone Industry and the Bedford (Indiana) Bicentennial Committee.
Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, Inc. began to manage the Wildflower Preserve. (The site became a placed property, operated by the Corporation without land ownership, in 1987.)
An elevator was installed in Bowman's Hill Tower. The winding stone stairs are no longer used by the general public to reach the top of the Tower, though it remains a memory for many individuals returning to the site today.
The Olympic Torch crossed the Delaware River with General Washington in a Durham Boat as part of the nationwide ceremonies.
The 225th anniversary of Washington Crossing the Delaware included an early morning crossing of the River, a march to Trenton and a reenactment of the Battles of Trenton and later Princeton.
|Summer of 2005|
The Reality TV show, The Amazing Race, filmed a segment of their show in the Park which included rowing across the Delaware River in modern boats.
A modern resurgence of interest in the history of Washington's crossing brought notable authors to the Park including David McCullough, David Hackett Fisher and the Vice President's wife Lynn Cheney.