The first U.S. national historical park is in New Jersey. Can you name it?
Next Tuesday, New Jersey will celebrate a landmark birthday: The Garden State is turning 350 years old. Sort of.
The land now known as New Jersey has actually been home to diverse cultures for roughly 10,000 years, including Lenape tribes, Dutch and Swedish colonists, and other explorers. English settlers seized the land from the Dutch in 1664, establishing a colony that would join 12 others more than a century later to declare its independence from Britain.
With New Jersey’s rich history, it’s not surprising the state is home to the first national historical park in the country (not the first national park, which was Yellowstone, but the first site specifically designated as a national historical park). Can you name this park, which played an important role in America’s fight for independence?
A: The National Park Service established Morristown National Historical Park in 1933—the first site of its kind. The park preserves the winter camp site where George Washington stationed his troops during the Revolutionary War in 1779-1780. During these difficult months, the Continental Army became a symbol of patriotism and sacrifice; living in drafty wooden huts, these underfed and undersupplied men survived what was then the coldest winter on record, growing through countless hardships into a disciplined military force. Under Washington’s command, these troops eventually won the country's independence from the British.
Not only is New Jersey home to the country’s oldest national historical park, it is also home to the newest. In 2011, the National Park Service officially established a park site at one of the nation’s earliest industrial centers, Paterson Great Falls. First established in the 1700s by Alexander Hamilton as a manufacturing hub powered by an enormous waterfall, the area grew over time into a diverse and bustling mill community as skilled tradespeople flocked to the area and built an influential labor movement there.
Learn more about New Jersey’s national park sites, from its million acres of Pinelands to its whopping storehouse of Thomas Edison's inventions, by exploring the national parks of the Northeast.
About the author
Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications
Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes, edits and moderates online content.