On Thursday, January 12th, the New Jersey State Library will host a webinar exploring the historic Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage. The webinar will commence at noon and will continue until 1:00 pm. The Wallace House, located in Sommerville, NJ, was once the winter headquarters of our nation’s first president, George Washington. The webinar will be hosted by Paul Soltis, the State Park Service’s historian. Throughout the talk, guests will take a journey back in time as Soltis recounts the transformation from Hope Farm (now the Wallace House) to the thriving museum it is today. If you’re interested in attending this exciting talk, registration is available online: Registration – NJSL.
The Old Dutch Parsonage was constructed in 1751 by three Dutch Reformed Church congregations in the Raritan Valley. Rev. John Frelinghuysen and his family originally occupied the residence. Aside from being a family home, the place was also used to tutor young men about to enter the seminary. He would then be succeeded by Rev. James Hardenbergh, best remembered for proposing a “classical and divinity” school in the region that would become Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Aside from being the first president of Queen’s College, Hardenbergh was also a member of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey.
While the American Revolution was underway, Hardenbergh befriended George Washington and helped to ease tensions between troops and residents. Upon Hardenbergh’s departure, the home remained a Pastor’s residence until 1907, when it was sold to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The railroad company originally had the property slated for demolition, but advocates stepped in in 1947, and the property was officially turned over to the State of New Jersey.
Meanwhile, a wealth of American history lies between the walls of the Wallace House. In the winter of 1778, George Washington and his troops set up an encampment in the Watchung Mountains. While the residents were accepting of the soldiers in the region, significantly few houses were available to shelter troops. Because John Wallace owned one of the most significant properties in the area, he was asked to share the residence with Washington and his associates. Shortly after that, it became Washington’s official residence for the winter. He had to depart to handle matters in Congress, but he brought his wife, aides, and servants with him upon his return. In the Wallace House, Washington and his troops would plan successful missions that would ultimately contribute to the American victory in the Revolution.
Upon Washington’s departure, he paid John Wallace $1,00 for his troubles, and the Wallace family continued their everyday lives. After John Wallace and his wife passed away, the home was passed onto their son until it was sold to Dickson Miller in 1801. After Miller’s purchase, the house would change hands between several families until 1896, when the Revolutionary Memorial Society purchased the home and converted it into a museum. Finally, in 1947, the State of New Jersey acquired the property alongside the Old Dutch Parsonage, and the residences were officially added to the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places.
If you’re interested in learning more about this incredible spot’s history, preservation, and future, be sure to register for the upcoming webinar. Also, if you have any questions before the talk, please get in touch with the New Jersey State Library at (609) 278-2640. With 125 years of rich history under its belt, you won’t want to miss the tale of this historic homestead!