Grey Towers, National Historic Site – Pennsylvania, 8-22-15
Grey Towers National Historic Site is a historic home and property in Milford, Pennsylvania which is operated by the USDA Forest Service. At first glance you might be confused as to why the Forest Service is operating a historic site such as this but once you understand the history of the family which built it everything begins to make more sense.
Grey Towers was built by James Pinchot in 1886. Pinchot was a successful business man and philanthropist which was born and raised in Milford Pennsylvania. The summer home on the property was built to utilize local materials and reflect the French heritage of the Pinchot family. It was on this property that James Pinchot, disturbed by the destructive logging practices that were common for this time, began to encourage his son Gifford Pinchot to consider a career in forestry.
Gifford Pinchot went to Yale in 1885 and then later studied at the Ecole Nationale Forestiere in Nancy, France. Excited by what he had learned and seen in Europe he returned to the United States determined to confront the forest devastation then sweeping the country, head on. With his knew found knowledge and the support of his friends and family, Pinchot worked to raise awareness of scientific forestry and the idea of natural resource conservation which at this time did not really exist in any meaningful way.
He became head of the Division of Forestry in 1898 and in 1905 he was named Chief Forester of the newly created United States Forest Service by his good friend President Theodore Roosevelt. His passion and leadership were a huge boon to the new organization and during his tenure national forests more than tripled in size to more than 170 million acres.
In 1963, Gifford Bryce Pinchot, the son of Gifford and Cornelia Pinchot, donated Grey Towers and 102 acres to the USDA Forest Service which today administers the site as an active conservation center.
I have to admit that before visiting I had no idea whatsoever what Grey Towers was or where it was located. While we were visiting the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area we saw it marked on the map and decided we should go see what the site was all about.
The site is located close to other attractions near the Delaware Water Gap so it is certainly worth making a short side trip for. The property is open to to the public and once you arrive you are welcome to explore the grounds at your leisure. There are several open greens and gardens which are all very nice to visit. We only spent a short time walking around the property but enjoyed what we saw very much.
The biggest and most obvious feature of the property is the beautiful home from 1886. The Forest Service offers daily tours of the home throughout the day. There is a small fee to enter the home as part of a tour, but on this particular day we didn’t stay to do it since we didn’t have much time to work with but since we are local we can always come back. The tour covers the 1st and 2nd floor of the home but if you take the last tour of the day we were told that they include the 3rd floor on that tour as well. From what we could see through the windows the home looks quite beautiful and worth a visit.
The Grey Towers property is fairly small but if you are in the area I would say it is certainly worth a visit. It would make a nice casual family outing if you are looking for a break from your outdoor pursuits.