The Governor was in Hopewell Township today announcing an unprecedented $25,000,000 investment in New Jersey historic sites via funding from the federal American Rescue Plan.
At the Visitors’ Center at Washington Crossing State Park, Murphy was joined by State luminaries including Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, NJ Secretary of State Tahesha Way, Speaker of the NJ Assembly Craig Coughlin, Hopewell native Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, and Hopewell Township Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning. Murphy underscored the importance of the state of New Jersey and particularly Mercer County during the Revolutionary War: of the ten historic sites that will split the $25,000,000 grant, four are in Mercer County: the Washington Crossing State Park, Princeton Battlefield, and Trenton’s Old Barracks and Battle Monument. The other six are Monmouth Battlefield, the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, Haddonfield’s Indian King Tavern Museum, Somerville’s Wallace House, Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth and Rockingham in Kingston.
The Governor was introduced by Hopewell Township Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning, who described the struggles General Washington’s troops had crossing the Delaware on Christmas 1776 then marching to Trenton to defeat the Hessian soldiers and turn the tide of the war. She proclaimed: “We have all faced extraordinarily difficult challenges over the past several years. But let this site be a reminder to all of us that, as Americans, and as new Jerseyans, we are up for any challenge!”
Murphy explained that the impetus for making historic sites a priority to the State budget is the the 250th anniversary – called the Semiquincentennial – of the Country’s founding coming up in 2026. “Every good party needs planning and the 250th will be be a big party,” he said. Murphy also mentioned that in 2026, the US will be hosting the World Cup and he expects New Jersey to host seven or eight games.
Speakers Murphy, Way, Coughlin, Watson Coleman, and Carrie Fellow, Executive Director of Crossroads of the American Revolution all noted that New Jersey is frequently overlooked in Revolutionary War history, even though it was the scene of more action during the then than any other state. Murphy noted that “history is all around us,” and said there are probably more “George Washington slept here” signs in New Jersey than anywhere north of Mount Vernon. Coughlin noted that the winter in Morristown was much harsher for the Colonial troops than the winter in Valley Forge. Watson-Coleman said that she will fight to make sure New Jersey has the opportunity to tell its story and that it is ready to receive and educate visitors in 2026.
The reasons to preserve history are many. Each speaker talked about the benefits to understanding the past in order to face the future. Coughlin talked about the financial benefit of heritage tourism to the state and Way described the rich stories of the diverse people who fought for and supported the effort to make America independent. Murphy talked about the inspirational value in telling the stories of New Jersey’s colonists all over the state and remembering the people who came before us. He quoted President John Adams’ letter to his wife Abigail in April 1777, where he worried about whether their efforts would be in vain: “Posterity!” wrote Adams, “You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
In preserving New Jersey’s history, Murphy repeatedly stressed that this $25 million investment is not a one-off. He said that a plan is in the works to ensure New Jersey’s historic sites are funded into the future so resources are maintained and necessary staff employed.
Murphy also strongly encouraged everyone to attend the Washington Crossing Park Association (WCPA)’s first annual Encampment planned for December 11. The encampment will meet Pennsylvania park re-enactors after their dress rehearsal for the Christmas Day crossing, leading them and visitors into the Park from the riverbank to campsites where members of Trenton’s First Rhode Island of Foot and other re-enactment troops will tell their stories around campfires and other family-friendly activities will engage visitors with colonial history. Click here to learn more.
Annette Earling, Executive Director of the WCPA, which is the friends group to the state park, said she is thrilled the park now will be able to make some long-needed renovations. “This support will be transformative to one of our region’s most vital green and historic spaces! We look forward to helping tell the stories of the local men and women who made Washingtons Crossing so important, and to help its diverse visitors learn how the things that happened here are relevant to their lives today.”
You can find the Governor’s press release about the event here.
Also, please see this great analysis by Dana DiFillipo on why this is so important. Click here.
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