Washington Camped Here

New programs make the restored Revolutionary-era Moland House a dynamic draw

In August 1777, Gen. George Washington was marching with the Continental Army just north of Philadelphia, intending to camp along the Delaware River. Then he learned that a British fleet carrying 17,000 troops had just sailed into Delaware Bay. Unsure of what the British were planning, Washington decided to quarter his 11,000 troops around a farm owned by the Widow Moland in Hartsville, Pa., and await further intelligence.

During his 13 days headquartered at the widow's stone house, Washington held extensive meetings with the Marquis de Lafayette and met the Polish war hero Casimir Pulaski for the first time. Both would later command troops in the fledgling American army. 

Two centuries later, after a 16-year restoration of the c. 1740 Moland House, the Warwick Township Historical Society has embarked on a range of new programs to bring much-deserved attention to the site. "The main thing is to get the public interested," says the society's president, Edward Price.

Last spring, the historical society brought in a colonial lacemaker to teach at the site. This year, Moland House will open an 18th-century woodworking shop in the carriage house. Dave Healy, the shop's manager, has tracked down more than 40 antique wood planes, custom saws, and hand tools. It's "pure pleasure," he says, "to be able to show somebody else how skilled craftsmen were able to turn out incredible work."

The group has come a long way since the early 1990s, when the house sat abandoned, destined for demolition. "There were a lot of people who said, 'What you ought to do is bulldoze this place and put up a plaque,'" says the society's former president, Dave Mullen. "It was that bad."

But volunteers pushed forward with the $1.6 million restoration, relying on private donations and grants. Workers replaced the mechanical systems and roof, and they restored interior beams and fireplaces, among other projects.

Now, the challenge is to educate and entertain visitors. With plans to host Revolutionary-era cooking classes and other events, Mullen says, the society hopes to "kindle an interest in the history of the early days of our country."

Read more about Pennsylvania's Warwick Township

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.