Built in the early 1770s for Jacob Ford, Jr. (an iron manufacturer) and his family – the Ford Mansion in Morristown, NJ stands out among the other buildings in the area. This large Georgian-style home undoubtedly boasts a rich history and is one of the main attractions at Morristown National Historical Park. Read on to learn more about this one-of-a-kind historic landmark in New Jersey, and how George Washington made this house a home for a period of time.
While the 18th-century home built by Jacob Ford, Jr. was constructed in 1774, the landmark is owned today by the National Park Service as a part of the Morristown National Historical Park. But the history of this Morristown spot runs deep.
Familiar with the state of New Jersey, Jacob Jr. and his father owned an iron forge in Whippany. One of the main reasons that Ford built the mansion in Morristown, is because of the commute (just south of the Whippany River). Even in the 18th century, New Jersey commutes were top of mind!
Ford died in January 1777, but before his death, Ford and his fellow soldiers captured a bronze field cannon from the British Army on January 3, 1777, at the victory in Princeton, New Jersey. According to Morristown National Historical Park, “with artillery and arms in short supply, the victory at Princeton not only boosted the morale of the Continental Army, but it bolstered their scant arsenal of weapons.” Jacob Ford Jr. is noted for his bravery in tours of the Ford Mansion offered by the National Park Service. The cannon that was captured at the Battle of Princeton is on display at the museum at the Ford Mansion.
After Ford’s death, his widow, Theodosia, gained ownership of the mansion. According to Pfister, “she was forced to accept a leadership role in the family. After her husband and father-in-law’s death, Mrs. Ford held the family together and kept the farm and family business a profitable endeavor.”
In December 1779, Theodosia allowed George Washington to use her home as his headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780. Washington arrived at Ford Mansion in December 1779. According to Pfister, the mansion was one of the biggest houses in town at that time. The location was ideal for Washington because of the distance to America’s capital at the time – Philadelphia – and the British Army capital was in New York City. It allowed Washington to keep a close eye on the British, while also sending letters to the capital.
After Washington’s and his family had a six-month stay in Morristown, NJ – the Ford family continued to live in the house until the 1870s when it was sold at auction.
The Ford Mansion Today
When visitors tour the Ford Mansion today, the space is replicated to portray how it was furnished during Washington’s stay. To appreciate the history and elegance of the space, you can visit the Museum at 30 Washington Place, Morristown for free.
Tours happen year-round, are 45 minutes long, and reservations are required to take one. Reservations can be made for Ford Mansion tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
The house is shown only by guided tours which begin in the museum building. More information can be found on the National Park Service website.