Conference House

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Conference House
Conference-house-staten-island.jpg
Conference House is located in New York City
Conference House
Conference House is located in New York
Conference House
Conference House is located in the United States
Conference House
LocationConference House Park, Satterlee Street, Tottenville, Staten Island, New York City, New York
Coordinates40°30′10.3″N 74°15′13.6″W / 40.502861°N 74.253778°W / 40.502861; -74.253778Coordinates: 40°30′10.3″N 74°15′13.6″W / 40.502861°N 74.253778°W / 40.502861; -74.253778
Area2.8 acres (1.1 ha)
Builtcirca 1675
Architectural styleDutch Colonial
Part ofWard's Point Conservation Area (#82003402)
NRHP reference #66000566[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLMay 23, 1966[2]
Designated CPSeptember 29, 1982

Conference House (also known as Billop House[3]) is a stone house in Tottenville, Staten Island, New York City built by Captain Christopher Billopp some time before 1680. It is located in Conference House Park near Ward's Point, 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, an unsuccessful attempt to find a swift negotiated end to end the American Revolutionary War, was hosted by his heir and grandson Colonel Christopher Billop, there on September 11, 1776. The house, a National and New York City Landmark originally known as "Bentley Manor", is the only pre-Revolutionary manor house[not verified in body] 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.[1][4]

Construction[edit]

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. Known as Burial Ridge, it is the largest pre-European site in New York City.

Legend holds that sovereignty of Staten Island was determined by Capt. Billopp's skill in circling it in one day, earning it for New York rather than to New Jersey.[5]

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 Colonials in the American Revolution.

American Revolution[edit]

Peace conference[edit]

On September 11, 1776, British loyalist Colonel Christopher Billop, commander of a Tory regiment in the conflict, hosted an informal diplomatic conference aimed at finding an early end to the nascent American Revolution. Lord Howe, commander in chief of British forces in America, arranged to meet with representatives of the Continental Congress in what is kown today as the Staten Island Peace Conference. 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 the diplomatically handcuffed Howe's offer, leading to another seven years of conflict.[6]

Billop's Point[edit]

Conference House is situated on the southernmost point of New York State, at what was originally known as "Billop's Point", today's Ward's Point. It was from this site, where the mouth of Arthur Kill juts out into Raritan Bay, 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.

Confiscation[edit]

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 Billop family. However, many who suffered confiscation, particularly those who were regarded as most notorious by the rebels, later received some form of compensation from the British government.[7]

Notable visitors[edit]

Encamped during the Revolution[edit]

Conservation[edit]

After the revolution, most of the Billops had gone to Canada. One hundred years after the conference the house was used as a hotel, and a rat poison factory,[8] before subsequently being abandoned and vandalized. In 1901 Assemblyman Van Name of Richmond County, New York, introduced a bill to acquire the house and mark it for historic preservation.[9] However, the house was not immediately recognized for preservation.[citation needed]

The city finally acquired the house in 1926, at which point it was in danger of being razed.[10][11] Conference House Park was created the same year.[12] A nonprofit organization, the Conference House Association, was formed; in 1929, the Municipal Assembly of the City of New York placed the house under the association's aegis. The association subsequently restored the house in a series of small projects, which included building a new roof as well as stairs from the first floor to the basement, painting the facade, and restoring the old well. The second floor was then restored, and a floor in the attic was created. The project was completed in 1937, and the house was dedicated on May 15, 1937.[11] The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.[2][6][13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
  2. ^ a b "Conference House". National Historic Landmark. National Park Service. 2007-09-10. Archived from the original on 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 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.
  3. ^ White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000), AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.), New York: Three Rivers Press, p. 931, ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5
  4. ^ 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".
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b "Conference (Billopp) House" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 1975-11-20.
  7. ^ See Tory military leader Beverley Robinson and Frederick Philipse III, the final lord of Philipsburg Manor.
  8. ^ Kaye, Nick (May 12, 2006). "Tracing the Revolution Across Staten Island". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ a b "History -". The Conference House. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  12. ^ "Conference House Park Historic Houses : NYC Parks". www.nycgovparks.org. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  13. ^ "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

External links[edit]