Historic site comes to life for Gen. Knox’s birthday
By Mary Ann Ebner
A 35-minute drive from Main Street in Cold Spring to Forge Hill Road in Vails Gate results in an easy trip to Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site. Though tucked away in a wooded area in close proximity to suburban retail shops and the Blooming Grove Turnpike, the site represents one of the region’s historic jewels, worthy of navigational effort to follow the trail to discover the nation’s heritage.
Gen. Henry Knox, as well as Gens. Nathanael Greene and Horatio Gates, used the site’s 18th-century home of John Ellison as their military headquarters of the Continental Army during successive periods from 1779 through 1783. The site was also used by various officers of the Continental Army. Michael McGurty, State Historic Site Educational Program coordinator, said that the main house on the grounds, completed by the Ellison family in 1754, stands as one of the rare structures of the period preserved with few alterations.
“General Knox stayed here three different times during the Revolutionary period,” McGurty said. “This house was one of the longest-occupied properties throughout the war.”
The Georgian-style home was constructed as a summer estate for the Ellison family, milling and trade merchants who also operated a mill on the property. The main floor features spacious parlors and a study, while the second floor includes a landing once enclosed as a small library, a mahogany-accented master bedroom, and an elegantly appointed guest room, which was used by General Knox and members of his family.
The kitchen, intact with hearth and brick oven, is located in the basement. Tours of the home also include a look at the garret, known to have housed slave servants of the Ellison family. Take a short trail walk from the home to see remains of the family’s commercial 1741 mill, where water still ripples nearby through Silver Stream.
Knox’s Headquarters will come alive for Henry Knox’s Birthday Celebration from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 28. Costumed historians will take visitors back to the summer of 1781 in the New Windsor area, where final arrangements were made for artillery movement and military maneuvers. The site’s historians will share authentic tense moments for soldiers and civilians days before the last major engagement of the American Revolution, the Battle of Yorktown.
“We’re doing this as a first-person presentation,” McGurty said. “We have staff members and a few volunteers who turn this into quite an experience and can interact with our visitors and pull it off convincingly.”
The Henry Knox Birthday Celebration, complete with cannon reenactments, is open to the public. The site is located at 289 Forge Hill Road, Vails Gate, NY, 12584. Knox’s headquarters is open Memorial Day through Labor Day and offers guided tours at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Appointments may also be made by calling 845-561-1765, ext. 22. Admission is by donation. For more information, call 845-561-5498 or visit the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website.
Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Parking is available.
Some areas are not handicapped accessible.
Site includes a small museum.