by Erin Feith, Research Assistant
December 7, 2021
Once located along the route known as Washington’s Trail for the Founding Father who traveled it and even considered a gathering place for patriotic figures, the Beverwyck estate holds its own place in Morris County’s Revolutionary history. However, leading up to that point, the story of Beverwyck and its owners illustrates the ever-changing atmosphere of colonial America on the verge of revolution.
Around 1750, William Kelly purchased the land that would become Beverwyck, with plans to develop it into a country gentleman’s estate. From 1759 to 1771, Kelly turned the 2,000 acre tract into the “Red Barracks” plantation, named for the red huts occupied by slaves. However, before he could fulfill his plans of retiring there, Kelly’s occupation and suspected Loyalist leanings landed him in scalding hot tea water. Perhaps seeing the revolutionary writing on the wall, William Kelly moved to London and sold his Parsippany-Troy Hills plantation to Lucas van Beverhoudt in 1772. A little over a year after the ink dried on the Lease and Release, Kelly was being burned in effigy and the estate’s next chapter was beginning.
Residing in St. Thomas, Lucas van Beverhoudt did not immediately relocate to Beverwyck. Instead, his agent, Abraham Lott Jr. managed the estate during his absence. A patriot, Lott fled to the property for safety upon the capture of New York by the British. From 1776 to 1778, Lott helped turn Beverwyck into a revolutionary rest stop, befriending and hosting General Nathanael Greene and Catharine Littlefield Greene. Indeed, when tasked with finding a location near Morristown for the army’s 1779 winter encampment, General Greene preferred a site near Beverwyck and proposed it, along with Jockey Hollow, to Washington. Although not chosen, Beverwyck continued to play a part in the unfolding revolutionary history.
Six years after buying the property, Lucas van Beverhoudt and his family moved to the estate and constructed their residence. For entertainment, the van Beverhoudts hosted balls in their home. Replete with the finest wine and hours of dancing, the balls also often boasted a distinguished guest list, including Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de Lafayette and General Washington. As such, Beverwyck gained its own popularity during the army’s time around Morristown. However, the departure of Washington’s troops also led to a decline in van Beverhoudt’s interest in his home and, by 1794, he sought to sell Beverwyck. Though its Revolutionary chapter came to a close, Beverwyck still had a long and notable history ahead.