Declaration (Graff) House, Pennsylvania

This reconstructed house was originally built in 1775 by Philadelphia bricklayer Jacob Graff, Jr. During the summer of 1776 Thomas Jefferson, a 33-year-old delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress, rented two second-floor rooms and drafted the Declaration of Independence there. The first floor contains exhibits and a short film on the drafting of the Declaration. On the second floor, the bedroom and parlor that Jefferson occupied have been recreated and contain period furnishings. Also included are reproductions of Jefferson’s swivel chair and the lap desk he used when he wrote the Declaration. Declaration House, as it is now known, is part of Independence National Park in Philadelphia.

Located on the southwest corner of 7th and Market Streets, Philadelphia.

Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia

Independence National Historical Park, located in downtown (‘Center City’) Philadelphia, features two icons of American history. Independence Hall was originally the State House of the Pennsylvania colony. The Continental Congress first met there in 1774, and adopted the Declaration of Independence there in 1776. Later, the Confederation Congress and the Constitutional Convention also met in Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell, which was originally the official bell of the Pennsylvania State House, is housed in a special display center just down the street from Independence Hall.

Location Information and directions

Fort Necessity National Battlefield

George Washington was not a great soldier.  His great contributions were always more political than military.  Washington’s undistinguished military career began at this small fort in western Pennsylvania.  On July 3, 1754, 22-year old Colonel George Washington was forced to surrender the fort and the colonial troops under his command to French forces from nearby Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburg). The surrender, although probably inevitable, was certainly hastened by the fact that Washington had built the stockade in a very poor location, close to covering forests and exposed to fire from nearby heights.  This action was the opening battle of the French and Indian War, the struggle between Great Britain and France for control of North America.  Washington went on to advise British General Braddock prior to his disastrous defeat near Fort Duquesne, and to a Revolutionary War career in which his only major victory, at Yorktown, was due more to his French allies than to his own troops, who were a minority of the forces besieging British General Cornwallis.

Click here for a map showing the location of Fort Necessity.

Fort Ligonier

The Fort is a full-scale, on-site reconstruction of the 1758-1766 original, situated on a commanding hilltop in the Laurel Highlands. Numerous living history events and other activities are held throughout the season, which runs from April 1 to October 31. The annual Fort Ligonier Days each October are a whale of a good party, but not the best occasion for historical touring of the site. The fort reconstruction is quite convincing. The Visitor Center has a fine set of exhibits and a remarkably good bookstore (much better than in some larger and more prominent sites).

Location Information:
Fort Ligonier
216 S Market St, Ligonier, PA 15658
web site

Click here for a map of Fort Ligonier and surrounding area.


Gettysburg National Military Park

The small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the site of what is still the largest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. While the battlefield is unfortunately marred on some sides by encroaching development, more than enough is preserved for a visitor to understand the terrain and the geography of the battle. The Visitor Center has fine exhibits and a good bookstore.  Catch the electronic map presentation on the battle to orient yourself before touring the site. (The map is very low tech by current standards, but was something of a marvel to this kid in the ’60s.  It’s still surprisingly effective as an instructional device.)  By all means take the well-marked auto tour, and use the towers to get the perspective that the combatants could not have had.  But try to get off the roads, traipse the fields that Pickett crossed, climb the side of Little Round Top, and walk along the remains of the trenches on Culp’s Hill.  There are excellent guides who will drive, bike, or hike the battlefields with you.  For a special treat, take one of several riding tours offered by private guides to get a general’s eye view of the battlefield.  Also take a walk across the road from the Visitor Center to the Gettysburg National Cemetery and the site of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address in the Evergreen Cemetery beyond (ask the park rangers for the location).