By Dawn M Chiossi
George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Major Andre… These are names people are familiar with from the pages of history books, from classes in school. They are part of the history of America when it was just starting out in its infancy.
As one of the original thirteen colonies, New Jersey has much to entice those who seek to learn more about these notable people and places.
Located at 199 Totowa Road in Wayne, visitors are invited to step backward though time through America’s Revolutionary War Days and will be thrilled to discover the exciting history of this local place, with its own story to tell.
During this turbulent time, questions and ideologies abounded for the ordinary man, questions that still echo in the Dey Mansion today: Should they remain loyal to the world they knew and were invested in, or to begin totally anew, uprooting themselves for independence?
Originally known as Bloomsburg Manor and built by Theunis Dey in the 1770’s, the Dey Mansion was the home of Theunis and Hester Day. (A prominent family, the Dey’s roots reached back to 1641) The Dey Mansion soon became more than just a residence when it became a headquarters for General George Washington during the months of July, October, and November of 1780.
In essence, this local landmark became an integral part of the Revolutionary itself: Something that locals and history enthusiasts can brag about.
During the Revolutionary War, Theunis Dey served as colonel of the Bergen County Militia. As such his position brought him contact with General George Washington, with whom he had much in common: besides their shared political ideologies, both men were nearly the same age, were land owners, and had served in civil capacities.
The Dey Mansion was chosen for the encampment of Washington’s forces because of its strategic position, and accessibility to food and the hunt.
Though Washington ventured back and forth from the headquarters, The Dey Mansion itself saw its fair share of drama: From the Battle of Bull Run, to Benedict Arnold, to other military attacks and maneuvers.
Although Washington left the Dey Mansion on November 27, 1780, people will be intrigued to learn that documents at the Library of Congress mention it specifically as a military headquarters. While in residence there, George Washington received approximately 610 communications numbering a staggering 1,275 pages.
Want to learn more? Visit the Dey Mansion today. Officials there will be thrilled to share their passion for history with anyone who comes to visit.
One such person is Jessica Bush, Director of Interpretation and Education at the Dey Mansion since 2017, describing that she has always been interested in history and how working at the Dey Mansion was a perfect fit. “I spent most of my childhood visiting historic sites with my family and I have always had a love of history. When I first came (to the Dey Mansion) I was intrigued by its history but what really got me was the feeling of stepping back in time.”
In 1970, the Dey Mansion was added to the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places. Now as a museum, the Dey Mansion is now operated and maintained by the County of Passiac. As recently as 2010, the Passaic County Board Of Chosen Freeholders began a comprehensive project to refurbish and restore the mansion. This is a great activity for parents, kids, grandparents, and everyone alike. It’s an outing that spans the generations, and creates lasting memories.
Dedicated to preserving and celebrating history, there’s so much to enjoy at the Dey Mansion, from guided tours where people can enjoy seeing artifacts and exhibits, to educational programs, events and activities.
Tours are offered on Wednesday through Sunday from the hours of 10:00 to 5:00 pm.( sorry, no tours available during 12:00 to 1:00 pm) Prices will be $5.00 for adults, children ages 6 through 16 will be $3.00. General admission can be purchased at the visitor’s center.
People will be enchanted with the history as they explore the house, exhibitions, collections and other delights as they follow in the footsteps of those who came before, and officials there are thrilled.
Group visits and tours are always welcomed, but advanced reservations are required for groups of 10 or more.
Students and teachers alike will enjoy the Dey Mansion’s School Group Programs to make history leap off of the pages of the history books and come alive.
Offered Monday through Friday (excluding holidays), from the hours of 9:30 to 2:30 pm. school programs have offerings for every grade level including “Colonial Life,” “Dey Mansion And The American Revolution,” and “Being A Historian.”
As true champions of history, programs are enthusiastically run by staff and volunteers who are eager to share their enthusiasm, sharing it with the community.
What was life like in the 18th century? What was the Dey Mansion’s role in the American Revolution? How did all of those events that came before influence Americans today? Sign up at the Dey Mansion today to find out.
“All of our programs are inquiry based and object driven,” Bush asserts. “We use objects, images, and documents to encourage students to use critical thinking skills, allowing for them to become active participants in their own learning.”
“We host an entire calendar year full of events at the mansion including lectures, living history demonstrations, concerts, movies, craft Saturdays and more,” Bush explains. “Our recent annual Dutch Christmas brought in nearly 600 visitors this past weekend,” she enthuses.
Bush states that feedback is amazing with many different types of people visiting the Dey Mansion. “We do get a lot of people who are making their way around the state visiting sites connected to the Revolutionary War and lots of locals who are visiting their families from out of town. My favorites are the people who grew up and Wayne and visited the mansion as a child, and are returning with their spouse and child who have never been here before.”
People won’t want to miss George Washington’s Birthday Celebration with re-enactors in February. The Dey Mansion is much more than just a place for an outing, it’s about connection.
“There is definitely a sense of awe when you look up at the mansion for the first time,” Bush remarks. “Engaging with our past allows for a chance to think critically about human nature and help us understand not only how we are today as individuals, but as members of society,” Bush shares.