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June 3, 2014: Ranger Marc Brier

The Historical Evolution of Valley Forge

Valley Forge was Pennsylvania’s first state park. It was established by the legislature in 1893, with an area of approximately 250 acres. Although the Valley Forge Park Commission, a committee of ten prominent Philadelphia business men and officers of historical and patriotic associations, had been tasked with “preserving the land forever” in its “original condition as a military camp,” Valley Forge during this time also came to be knows as something else – an arboretum with dogwood trees, vast neatly clipped lawns, and recreational areas. As a park, Valley Forge is every changing and evolving. What is the meaning of the park today?

Marc Brier Photo: Stan Sarnocinski, Jr.

Some points from Ranger Brier’s talk:

  • Valley Forge is a good name, as “forge” can also mean forging a community or country
  • Myth is sometimes more powerful than scientific history
  • History is sometimes manipulated to mold the present
  • 1% of the population died during the Revolutionary War; 2% of the population died during the Civil War. King Philip’s war, however, had an even higher death rate
  • Three important, early restorations were Mount Vernon, Washington’s headquarters in Newburgh, New York, and Washington’s headquarters at Valley Forge.
  • Veterans of the Civil War began the trend of preservation when they started building monuments on their battlefields.
  • 1878 was the first commemorative gathering at Valley Forge. It was attended by several thousand people
  • A hut or two in Wayne's Woods are among the early ones reconstructed in the 1930s
  • The park is most often referred to as Valley Forge Park, not its official name (Valley Forge National Historical Park)
  • Thirteen white oak trees were planted in 1913 in the backyard of Washington’s headquarters, in commemoration of 135 years since the army left Valley Forge.
  • In the 1950s the Pennsylvania turnpike came through and greatly affected the area.
  • It is suggested that more recognition be given to those who lost their lives during the encampment