In late June, Bowman’s Hill Tower reopened and guided tours of the Historic Village and Thompson-Neely House and Grist Mill resumed. Guided tours will look a little different for the foreseeable future as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. While safety comes first, it won’t come at the cost of an enriching experience.
We spoke with Katherine Becnel, the park’s volunteer coordinator, about why August is the perfect time to take an educational and safe tour at Washington Crossing Historic Park.
What makes August an ideal time to visit the park?
One of the big advantages of being a state park is that we shifted a lot of our tours outside, which helps with social distancing. That and the efforts of our staff, volunteers, and partners at DCNR allowed us to reopen before Independence Day. Meanwhile, many of the larger indoor museums in our area are still trying to figure how they can do it.
This is an ideal time to be outside anyway, with one of the county’s most scenic spots in full bloom!
What safety measures are in place for guided tours?
First of all, tickets for tours and Bowman’s Hill Tower can only be purchased online. This helps us stay at a safe capacity. The tours also are now conducted primarily outdoors. Per CDC guidelines, masks must be worn by everyone over the age of two throughout the tour. Tours are limited to 10 people, and there are only four tours offered per day, Wednesday through Sunday.
At Bowman’s Hill Tower, only 10 people are admitted per half hour.
These measures are meant to help facilitate social distancing and enable staff to regularly clean high-touch areas throughout the day.
Is there anything about the park’s history that relates to what we’re going through now?
Yes! The regiments encamped at the Thompson-Neely Farmstead included hospitals where sick and wounded soldiers convalesced. These soldiers were likely cared for within the buildings on the property, including the Thompson-Neely House.
Despite their best efforts, disease and infection often spread rapidly. We certainly have a new appreciation now for what that must have been like.
There are also the countless stories of bravery that emerged from those trying times. Then and now, when faced with dire circumstances, people stepped up.
The pandemic is only part of what’s weighing on us these days, of course.
That’s right. And Washington Crossing Historic Park is a great place to uncover some of the lesser-known stories of the Revolution. Six months prior to the crossing, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which states, “All men are created equal.” We’re still trying to realize that today.
But this much is clear: the crossing would not have happened without Colonel John Glover and his integrated unit, which came to be known as the “Marbleheaders.” It’s because of these free people of color, as well as the other Marbleheaders, that Washington and 2,400 men were able to cross the river at all.