BUCKS COUNTY >> An $8.7 million capital improvement project is officially underway at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Upper Makefield and Solebury townships.
And when it’s complete, more than a dozen buildings and structures in and around the village will be restored with new windows, doors, roofs, plumbing and electrical systems, masonry work and interior and exterior renovations.
In addition, a new water system will be installed to service the village. And parking lot and road improvements will be made at Bowman’s Tower and in the Valley of Concentration.
On Friday, May 14 Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined State Senator Steve Santarsiero, State Rep. Wendi Thomas, park director Marisa Sprowles and Friends of Washington Crossing President John Godzieba to officially break ground on the project, which has been in the works for decades.
“We are pleased to get this project underway to help protect the cultural and historical significance of some of the buildings at Washington Crossing and continue the site’s historic legacy for the public’s education and enrichment,” said Dunn.
For decades, said State Senator Steve Santarsiero, the park has been neglected and its historic buildings left to decay.
“This is a gateway to Pennsylvania. For you to come here and the first thing you see are buildings that are literally falling apart is not right. And it stands in stark contrast with the way historic properties are supposed to be kept.
“This is important,” he continued, “because we need to pass along to the next generation this site, not with buildings that are crumbling with demolition by neglect, but with historically accurate representations of the structures that existed here on that night in 1776 so that future generations can appreciate what this was all about.”
The funding will be used to rehabilitate 17 historic buildings and other structures throughout the village and the park, including the McConkey’s Ferry Inn, the Hibbs House, the Frye House, the Taylorsville General Store and the Thompson-Neely House.
“All these buildings will essentially be getting a facelift,” said Sprowles. “Not only will it make them more structurally sound, we will be able to utilize them for more park programming, potentially using them for more visitor center and gift shop situations. And we will get to see these buildings how they were originally seen, giving visitors a much more immersive picture of American history and a better experience.”
John Godzieba, the president of the Friends of Washington Crossing, said it was in October 2002 when the original legislation was signed for the project.
“It certainly has been a long time in coming,” he said. “And had it not been for the dogged determination of our advocates - Steve Santarsiero, State Rep. Wendi Thomas, the board members of the Friends and the DCNR to get this moving - this would still have been a dead project. Now I’m very hopeful that with the start of this project, we will be able to offer a brand new vision for visitors to this park, increased visitor programs and a fantastic look to this park that’s been a long time coming.”
The project, which has faced several delays since originally being funded nearly a decade ago, became the focus of coordinated efforts between Sen. Santarsiero, State Rep. Wendi Thomas and the Friends of Washington Crossing.
“I think it was two years ago today that we sat on the porch (of the Mahlon Taylor House) just across the street and had tea and discussed why this project has not been done before now and how we were unified in our efforts that this historic site receive the attention that it deserves,” said Thomas.
Since then, Sen. Santarsiero and Rep. Thomas have worked with both the state Department of General Services (DGS) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to get the project back on track.
“I want to especially thank DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn for working with us to find the additional funds needed to finally make this project a reality,” said Santarsiero.
“Washington Crossing Historic Park is one of the most significant historic sites in our state and its situation along the Delaware River makes it a gem in our state park system,” said Santarsiero. “The restoration of these buildings will help the Friends of Washington Crossing Park continue their incredible work highlighting the story of the crossing and lifting up the park as a tourist destination.”
“This will prove to be a transformative investment for the Washington Crossing Historic Park” added Godzieba, who portrays George Washington during events at the Park. “The timing of this project is fortuitous since it is only six years until the country celebrates its Sestercentennial – 250 years from independence in 1776.”
“What people don’t realize is 2026 is going to be here before we know it,” said Thomas. “And having projects that commemorate 250 years here will be critically important and a real opportunity to be a spotlight for the entire world as they watch our country celebrate ... This is the perfect project that will work toward that goal to bring everyone here to share our beautiful and deep history that we have here in Washington Crossing.”
Contracts for the project were awarded earlier this year to Jones Masonry Restoration Corp., Chadwick Service Company, QPI Electrical, Wu & Associates, Inc., and Murphy, Quigley Company, Inc. Work began in February and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The project will include work on the following buildings:
- McConkey’s Ferry Inn: new roof, window and door restoration, masonry, HVAC, exterior;
- Mahlon Taylor residence: new roof, window and door restoration, interior, exterior;
- Amos Taylor residence: new roof, window and door restoration, electric, exterior;
- Frederick Taylor House: window and door restoration, plumbing, exterior;
- Elmer Buckman residence: new roof, window and door restoration, electric, exterior;
- Eliza Taylor residence: new roof, window and door restoration, interior, exterior;
- Hibbs House: new roof; window and door restoration, masonry, plumbing, interior, exterior;
- Frye House: new roof, window and door restoration, interior, exterior;
- Andrassy House: new roof, window and door restoration, interior, exterior;
- Taylorsville General Store: new roof, window and door restoration, interior, exterior;
- Oliver Taylor residence: new roof, window and door restoration, exterior;
- Thompson Neely House: new roof, window and door restoration, masonry, HVAC, exterior;
- Thompson Neely Restroom: plumbing, electric, interior;
- Blacksmith Shop: new roof, exterior;
- General Washington Pavilion: new roof, masonry repairs;
- General Washington Bathhouse: new plumbing; and
- Bowman’s Hill Tower: parking lot and road improvements.
“Washington Crossing Historic Park holds a special place in our community and history, particularly their yearly re-enactments of the turning point in the Revolutionary War when General Washington led his troops across the Delaware River into Trenton, achieving a resounding victory over the Hessians,” Sen. Santarsiero said. “Last year, due to COVID-19, the reenactment was virtual, but remained a quintessential part of the holiday season in Bucks County.”
“This certainly signals the start of a long-awaited and strongly supported transformation at Washington Crossing Historic Park, one that reflects the work of so many toward a shared, common goal,” said Dunn.
Washington Crossing became Pennsylvania’s 121st state park in February 2016 when it was transferred to DCNR from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Opportunities for recreation at Washington Crossing include river access for fishing; walking trails; and pavilions for picnicking. The park and the Friends of Washington Crossing provide historical and environmental education programs, as well as hosting special events and re-enactments.
Attendance at Washington Crossing Historic Park was almost 900,000 visits in 2020, an increase of more than 56 percent, as many people took to the outdoors during the pandemic for well-being and activity.
To learn more about Washington Crossing Historic Park, visit its website.