Friday, October 30, 2009

Washington Dined Here

Until its destruction by fire on November 16, 1857, the County Hotel stood at the corner of High Street and Park Place in Newton, NJ, facing the Courthouse Yard, otherwise known as the Green. Politicians frequented this popular resort, sipping their toddy while mulling over headlines and rumors, arguing the leading issues of their time. General Washington was entertained at this hotel on the night of July 26, 1782, on his way from Philadelphia to Newburgh, NY. In 1919, a local correspondent recalled as "a boy, he frequently heard the older residents when seated about a comfortable fire in one of the Spring Street stores, smoking their pipes and discussing the topics of those early days, tell of a second visit of Washington to Newton, when they said he was entertained overnight at the home of the late William T. Anderson, on Park Place, and where for many years the name of Washington was engraved on a panel above an open fireplace. This house is still standing, and is occupied by Mrs. Cox, on Main Street, having been removed to its present site when the Park Block was built."

According to an account published in the New Jersey Herald in 1871: “The building on the upper side of the [County] Park, [opposite the Court House in Newton, NJ] now the residence of Capt. Thomas Anderson, has two wings on its eastern and western extremities. The central part of this house is of modern date [circa 1785], but the two wings formed the residence of the Thomas Anderson above spoken of, prior to and during the Revolutionary war. They stood together, the part nearest the M. E. Church, was used as the dwelling place of Mr. Anderson, while the lower story of the other part was occupied by him as an office. The upper part he converted into a storeroom for the storage of the commissary goods, which Sussex furnished for the support of the American army. In this house General Washington stopped while on his way from Easton to Newburgh, and dined with Mr. Anderson. An old lady upwards of eighty years of age, now residing in Newton, informs us that she was told when very young, by good authority, that on this visit a number of the prominent families of our town wished to do the great chieftain all the honor possible in these primitive days, and so set before him all the silver ware at their disposal, together with the choicest eatables to be then obtained. But to their surprise Washington rebuked them for the display, remarking that it was inappropriate at a time when soldiers in the field were suffering for the necessaries of life.“

According to General Washington’s expense account, he stayed at Sussex Court-House (Newton, NJ) on November 28, 1780, while en route to the cantonment at New Windsor. It is also thought that he quartered for the night in Newton on July 26, 1782, after dining at Hope en route to Newburgh. On the occasion of his first visit, the Commander-in-Chief stayed at the old County Hotel, which burned in 1857. It occupied the site of the former County Hall of Records at the corner of High Street and Park Place, now being restored under private ownership. Washington dined down the block at the residence of Thomas Anderson.

Thomas Anderson died on May 27, 1805, aged 62 years, and is buried in the Old Newton Burial Ground. The homestead was occupied by his son, Major William T. Anderson (1777-1850), an attorney prominent in town and county affairs. On February 18, 1895, the Anderson property at the corner of Main Street and Park Place was sold to Newton merchants Huston,VanBlarcom & Ackerson to make way for Newton's largest and most prestigious commercial building, the Park Block. The old Thomas Anderson House, however, where Washington dined with the town's leading patriot, was not to fall victim to progress. Instead, contractors O'Donnell & McManiman employed a team of twenty horses in April 1896 to drag the old landmark from Park Place to the southwest corner of the lot facing Main Street, where it was to be refurbished and modernized. On March 29, 1898, John Huston, Andrew Van Blarcom and William D. Ackerson sold the renovated house to Dr. Emerson B. Potter for $5,000. The property came into possession of its present owners on May 3, 1965, when Martin R. Snook and his wife, Anna, sold the Anderson House to the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Christ Church.

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