- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

HARTSVILLE, Pa. The centuries were not kind to Moland House, a stone farmhouse George Washington used as his headquarters for a brief but significant period in the summer of 1777.
Though listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Georgian-style house was close to being demolished by the mid-1990s, an abandoned eyesore often targeted by vandals.
There appeared to be little hope of saving it. But a dedicated group of volunteers is determined to do just that.
After six years, $650,000 and countless volunteer hours, Moland House is well on its way to becoming a museum showpiece a restored gem reflecting its important place in history.
"It is significant that the building still exists, because so many of the others [that Washington used] haven't survived," said Frank E. Grizzard Jr., a University of Virginia scholar who has edited several volumes of Washington's papers.
Moland House became Washington's headquarters Aug. 10-23, 1777, a few weeks before the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. It was here that the Marquis de Lafayette joined the American Revolution and Washington received Casimir Pulaski, who became the father of the American cavalry.
The house, circa 1750, is about 20 miles north of Philadelphia, site of the third-longest encampment of Washington's army in Pennsylvania.
Its physical deterioration was staggering to those who knew its history.
"The house was broken open, all the windows were knocked out, vandals had set fires, and the weeds were eight or ten feet high," said Warren Williams, the 80-year-old president of the Warwick Township Historical Society.
The house had also seen significant renovations and additions in the 1800s and 1940s and did not resemble the structure used by Washington.
The volunteers' first big break came in 1996, when a developer who planned to demolish Moland House instead gave it to Warwick Township. The township entered into a 15-year management agreement with the historical society, which began raising money to restore the house to the way it looked in Washington's day.
There is little doubt that Washington stayed in the house of Catherine Moland, widow of a prominent lawyer and British loyalist named John Moland. Washington himself indicated in his account book that he paid Mrs. Moland more than 5 pounds for use of the house, and another pound to the "woman for cleaning the kitchen."
The house was the finest in the area, situated near a creek and surrounded by sympathetic settlers. It had a kitchen and two other first-floor rooms that Washington used as an office and reception area, and two bedrooms on the second floor.
Lafayette, a wealthy 19-year-old Frenchman who became a major general in the American army, arrived Aug. 19, 1777. He called his initial discussion with Washington "the great conversation," and he became a trusted aide to the commander in chief.
On Aug. 21, Washington convened a war council of top generals and plotted his next move against British Gen. William Howe. On Aug. 23, Washington and his troops broke camp and prepared to defend Philadelphia against Howe's invaders, who were marching from the south.
Moland House's place in American history is what attracted Mary DeNadai, the architect in charge of the restoration.
"We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to touch the space that reflected an incredible amount of history," said Miss DeNadai, a partner in John Milner Associates, a firm specializing in historic preservation. "I'm always in awe when I go there."
Moland House, also known as Headquarters Farm, is no longer in danger, though the interior remains a shell and the historical society is about $400,000 short of its fund-raising goal.
The exterior renovation is largely finished. Workers replaced several windows, reinforced the original rafters, restored the chimney and installed a new roof of yellow-pine shingles. The weeds were cleared and trees planted. An amateur archaeology group has excavated the original cellar entrance and a modern porch will be torn down.
Inside the house, workers removed the 1940s wood paneling to reveal thick stone walls and remnants of the original plaster. They also discovered an original stone sink complete with a small opening in the wall so water could drain to the outside as well as a hearth with room for eight cooking fires.
The house still lacks plumbing, electrical and fire-protection systems, and the walls need to be plastered. (The architect plans to incorporate the original plaster pieces.) The 1940s wood floor will be replaced with hand-hewn antique pine.
The portion of the house where Washington had his headquarters will ultimately be furnished with period pieces, most likely replicas. Newer sections of the house will receive modern renovations and will be used as an office and meeting space for the historical society.
The public should get its first look at Moland House in 2003 or 2004.


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