By Dawn M Chiossi
Ever since the popularity of Broadway’s Hamilton exploded on the scene, people from all over are fascinated by George Washington, history, and the history of America itself. People are curious, intrigued, and excited to learn more. They are interested, asking questions, and realize that history is made up of humans, and not the dry, dusty facts of the history books.
This is great news from Wayne’s Dey Mansion as they are hosting their annual George Washington’s Birthday Celebration on February 23rd from the hours of 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Located at 199 Totowa Road in Wayne, a visit to the Dey Mansion is more than a visit to a museum, is a way to make history come alive and jump off of the pages of history books for all.
During George Washington’s Birthday Celebration, visitors are invited to enter the world of colonial times and celebrate the birthday of this historical figure and learn more about the man himself.
There’s not a more fitting place than the Dey Mansion to do so. Originally known as Bloomsburg Manor and built in the 1700’s, Dey Mansion had the distinction of serving as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War in July, October and November of 1780.
This salute to America’s first president is a great way to shake off February’s chill and winter doldrums. Going way beyond the modern attitude that birthdays only involve cake and presents, visitors are invited to celebrate Washington’s birthday in the same spirit as the early 19th century Americans had. They were so inspired by Washington, considering him this young nation’s first hero. In honor of Washington’s birthday, American’s held balls (complete with cake and dancing) offered toasts, and much more.
Even though the event is still in its planning stages, officials at the Dey Mansion are already anticipating this great one-day event. According to Dey Mansion’s Jessica Bush, Assistant Director, the celebration will feature re-enactors, 18th century crafters, dancing music, demonstrations, the NJ Militia, a special birthday salute to our first President and much more.
“The Washington Birthday Celebration is one of the longest standing events held at the Dey Mansion,” Bush enthuses, and she shares that it has been a standard program since the museum opened its door to the public in the 1930’s. Visitors to the Dey Mansion seem to love it.
She mentions that the event has traditionally been extremely popular. In fact, she discloses that in 2016 alone, they had approximately 600 people attend. This year they anticipate that they may exceed that number.
While she doesn’t have a favorite activity regarding the celebration in particular, she says,
“The staff of the Dey Mansion truly enjoys these types of events when our site really brings our history to life when we can fill the day with living history interpreters and the sites and sounds of the 18th century.”
Indeed, there’s something intriguing about learning history this way. It is active rather than passive. It gives everyone a chance not only to observe but engage and think. The Dey Mansion excels at this. According to Bush, who has always had a love of history, “When I first came to the site I was intrigued by its history, but what really got me was the feeling of stepping back in time. Beyond its important role in the American Revolution, the Dey Mansion also gives us the opportunity to explore life in Colonial New Jersey,” she enthuses.
Bush herself has been working at the Dey Mansion since 2017, states that this event is one of the Dey Mansion big events and something that everyone looks forward to. For people of all ages, families, those who are studying Revolutionary War sites, tours, groups, enthusiasts, all are welcome.
According to Bush, there is something unique and special about the Dey Mansion that sends the imagination whirling. “There is definitely a sense of awe when you look at the mansion for the first time and notice how unique the architecture is,” she shares. “It stands out so vividly among the other homes of this time period which lends to the curiosity about who the Dey family was and why Washington chose this home for his headquarters.”
Along with George Washington’s Birthday Celebration, the Dey Mansion is thrilled to share the myriad of events, activities, and exhibitions with the public. “We are currently developing new exhibitions, and in doing so we open ourselves to include programing and lectures on expanded topics related to the Revolutionary War,” Bush discloses excitedly.