Billop House

The Conference House

The Conference House, originally known as the Billop House, is a site of significant historical value on Staten Island. Built around 1680 by Captain Christopher Billopp, it played a crucial role during the American Revolutionary War. This historic house was the venue for an important meeting between American and British representatives who attempted to negotiate peace.

Historical Background

Captain Christopher Billopp, a Royal Navy officer, constructed the Conference House around 1680. The house was built as the center of Billopp’s 1,600-acre estate, the Manor of Bentley.

On September 11, 1776, the Conference House was the venue for a meeting between representatives of the Continental Congress and the British government. American representatives John Adams, Edward Rutledge, and Benjamin Franklin met with Admiral Lord Richard Howe. The goal was to negotiate an end to the Revolutionary War. However, the meeting did not result in a peace agreement, and hostilities continued for several years.

Architectural Significance

The Conference House is a two-story fieldstone structure, typical of colonial architecture. Built around 1680, it features high gabled end walls containing fireplaces and chimney stacks.

The house stands out for its sophisticated design for the period. It includes two large parlors that open off a central hall on the main floor and two chambers on the upper floor. These elements distinguish it from the simpler Dutch and English farmhouses that were common on Staten Island during that time.

Historic Conference House Cellar

Preservation Efforts

In the early 20th century, the Conference House faced the threat of demolition. Public interest in preserving the house grew, leading to legislative efforts to acquire and protect the property. In 1926, Harmon National Real Estate donated the Billopp House and one acre of land to the City of New York for use as a park, recreational area, and museum​​.

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The Conference House Association was established on September 21, 1925, to oversee the restoration and preservation of the house. This group, comprised of local preservationists, historians, and civic leaders, undertook the task of reconstructing the house to its historical state. The association furnished the restored rooms and opened the house as a museum. Their ongoing efforts have been crucial in maintaining the Conference House as a significant historical site​.

Cultural and Educational Programs

The Conference House offers a variety of tours, reenactments, and special events that allow visitors to engage with its rich history. Guided tours of the house and grounds are available on weekends, providing insights into its historical significance. The site also hosts reenactments of the 1776 Peace Conference, along with other historical events and seasonal celebrations​​.

Watch a short video about the Conference House

The educational programs at the Conference House are designed to inform the public about its historical and cultural relevance. These programs include school visits, workshops, and lectures, which focus on the house’s role in American history, colonial life, and the Revolutionary War. These initiatives are vital for preserving the knowledge and importance of the Conference House for future generations.

Community Involvement

There are several ways for individuals to support and get involved with the Conference House. Opportunities include making donations, becoming a member of the Conference House Association, volunteering, and participating in fundraising events. Additionally, the site offers a docent training program for those interested in guiding tours and educating visitors​​.

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Community support is crucial for the preservation of the Conference House. Contributions from the public help fund maintenance, restoration projects, and educational programs. Engaged community members also play a vital role in raising awareness about the historical significance of the site, ensuring that the Conference House remains a well-preserved landmark for future generations​.

Visitor Information

The Conference House is located at 7455 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10307. The Conference House Association office is situated at 298 Satterlee Street, Staten Island, NY 10307. For inquiries, visitors can contact the office at (718) 984-6046 during business hours from Tuesday to Friday, 10 AM to 2 PM.

Visiting Hours and Tours

The Conference House offers guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays between 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM. The house is closed for tours during the winter months, with tours resuming in April. Special events and reenactments are also held throughout the year, providing additional opportunities to explore the site’s history.

Admission Fees

General admission to the Conference House is $5. This fee helps support the maintenance and preservation of the historic site.

For more details on visiting hours, special events, and how to support the Conference House, please visit the official Conference House website.

Conclusion

The Conference House is an important historical site, known for its role in the 1776 peace conference during the American Revolutionary War. Constructed around 1680 by Captain Christopher Billopp, it exemplifies colonial architecture and has been preserved through concerted efforts by the Conference House Association and community involvement. As a designated National Historic Landmark and New York City Landmark, the house provides valuable insights into early American history and serves as a significant educational and cultural resource​​.

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Readers are encouraged to visit the Conference House to experience its historical significance firsthand. Supporting the site through donations, membership, or volunteering helps maintain its preservation for future generations.

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