|Location||Conference House Park, Satterlee Street, Tottenville, Staten Island, New York City, New York|
|Area||2.8 acres (1.1 ha)|
|Architectural style||Dutch Colonial|
|Part of||Ward's Point Conservation Area (#82003402)|
|NRHP reference #||66000566|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||May 23, 1966|
|Designated CP||September 29, 1982|
The Conference House (also known as "Billop House") was built before 1680 and is located near the southernmost tip of New York State on Staten Island, which became known as "Billop's Point" in the 18th century. The Staten Island Peace Conference was held here on September 11, 1776, which unsuccessfully attempted to end the American Revolutionary War. The house, a National and New York City Landmark, is the only pre-Revolutionary manor house still surviving in New York City. It is located at Conference House Park overlooking Raritan Bay. The house is also located within the Ward's Point Conservation Area, separately added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Before the American Revolution
Captain Christopher Billopp, after years of distinguished service in the Royal Navy, came to America in 1674. He was granted a land patent on 932 acres (3.7 km²) on the southernmost tip of Staten Island. Archaeological evidence, including shell middens and digs conducted by The American Museum of Natural History in 1895, have shown that the Raritan band of the Lenape camped in the area and used the location as a burial ground. The burial ground known as Burial Ridge is the largest pre-European burial ground in New York City.
As the legend goes, Capt. Billopp's seamanship secured Staten Island to New York, rather than to New Jersey: the island would belong to New York if the captain could circumnavigate it in one day – which he proceeded to do.
In 1677, the fortunes of colonial service took Capt. Billopp to New Castle on the Delaware River, where he commanded the local garrison. Upon appointment of Thomas Dongan as governor of the colony of New York, he returned to Staten Island and became active in the local government. He was further rewarded by another patent, expanding his Staten Island property to 1,600 acres (6.4 km²).
It is difficult to ascertain exactly when his manor house was built, but one surviving map shows that a building existed on the site of the Conference House before 1680. The house was passed down to his great grandson Christopher Billop, who was commissioned a colonel and led loyalist forces against the patriots in the American Revolution. After the cessation of hostilities and British withdrawal from the former colonies, the house was confiscated by the state of New York with no recompense to the Billopp family.
On September 11, 1776, Lord Howe, commander in chief of British forces in America, arranged to meet with representatives of the Continental Congress in a peace conference aimed at halting the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge rowed over from patriot-held Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The meeting lasted for three hours and ended with the Americans politely declining Howe's offer, leading to another seven years of conflict.
The Conference House is situated on the southernmost point of New York State; this point of land, jutting out into Raritan Bay, was known as "Billop's Point" during the 18th century. It was from Billop's Point that a raid on October 25, 1779, known as "Simcoe's Raid", was conducted upon patriot-held New Jersey by John Graves Simcoe, leader of the Tory unit the Queen's Rangers. In A History Of The Operations Of A Partisan Corps Called The Queen's Rangers, which he wrote after the war, he mentions:
The batteaux, and boats, which were appointed to be at Billop's-point, so as to pass the whole over by twelve o'clock at night, did not arrive till three o'clock in the morning.
Billop's point is mentioned in the journal of Major André:
Oct. 25th The Regiments at Amboy received Orders to strike their tents and send them with their baggage to the water's side. Those at Staten Island had orders to leave theirs standing, and repair by 8 o'clock in the evening to Billop's Point.
- Benjamin Franklin
- John Adams
- Edward Rutledge
- Lord Howe
- Major General Charles Grey: leader of British forces at the Paoli Massacre
- John Graves Simcoe, leader of the Queen's Rangers and the founder of Toronto.
Units Camped at Bentley Manor
- 844th Foot, later the Essex Regiment and now the Royal Anglian Regiment
- Prince Charles Regiment: Prince Charles William Ferdinand
One hundred years after the conference, the house was abandoned and vandalized. After the revolution, most of the Billopps had gone to Canada. In 1901 Assemblyman Van Name of Richmond County, New York introduced a bill for the preservation of the house. In 1926 the house was in danger of being razed. Through the efforts of a group of concerned citizens, a non-profit organization, "The Conference House Association", was formed, and the house was saved. In 1929 the Municipal Assembly of the City of New York placed the house under the association's aegis. The Conference House Park was created in 1926.
- National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Conference House". National Historic Landmark. National Park Service. 2007-09-10.
On 11 September 1776, this was the scene of a meeting between Lord Richard Howe and a committee of the Continental Congress. The British Admiral offered amnesty in exchange for withdrawal of the Declaration of Independence.
- "AIA Guide to New York City", 4th Edition, pg 931
- Charles A. Florence (June 1982). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Ward's Point Conservation Area". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2010-12-06. See also: "Accompanying 13 photos".
- Connelly, James C (October 1923). "How New York Acquired Staten Island" (PDF). Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society Vol. VIII New Series, No. 4 (October 1923). New Jersey Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-06-30.
- "Conference (Billopp) House" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 1975-11-20.
- "A Bill for the Preservation of the Historic Mansion. Continental Congress Committee There Rejected Lord Howe's Offer of Amnesty". The New York Times. April 7, 1901. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
Assemblyman Van Name of Richmond has introduced a bill in the Assembly for the preservation of the building known as the Billop House, in the County of Richmond, and to authorize the acquisition of the title thereto, and the lands adjacent, for historical purposes. The Billop House, which is a stone structure erected by Christopher Billop before the Revolution, was the scene of one of the most momentous interviews in American history.
- "City Will Preserve Old Billop House. Landmark at Tottenville, S.I., Was Scene of Peace Conference in '76. Given by Realty Co". The New York Times. April 20, 1926. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
- "National Register of Historic Places Inventory" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 1975-11-20.
"September 11th, 1776 - America's First Attempt at Peace" Authors Ernest and Gregory Schimizzi, Albany, 1976, New York State Bicentennial Commission, http://wvvh.com/images/Sept_11_1776.pdf
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