Friendship Hill National Historic Site

Location: Farmington, Pennsylvania

Webpage: National Park

General Description: Albert Gallatin was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland and immigrated to the newly formed United States in 1780 at the age of 19, stating that this new country was “the freest country in the universe.”   Along with a friend they landed in Boston with $400 and a load of tea that they failed to get a profit from. However, he speculated on 120,000 acres in Virginia and the Ohio River Valley in 1783, which did make a good profit. His dream was to carve out an estate and businesses in the western frontier, which at this time was western Virginia (now West Virginia) and Pennsylvania. Therefore he purchased 370 acres in Fayette Co, Pennsylvania in 1786 after becoming a US citizen the year before. He immediately visited his property with is surveying equipment to lay out his estate. It took him 3 years to complete the original brick house, a modest 2 story house by which time he had married the daughter of the family that owned the boarding house he was staying at. Together with his new wife, Sophia Allegre, they moved to their new home in 1789, however Sophia died a couple of months later and was buried on the property. Her death was likely one of the reasons he got into politics later in 1789 representing the western counties in the State Legislature. By frontier standards, Gallatin was well educated, holding the Swiss equivalent of a college degree, so he was well suited for a life in politics. As a delegate to the Pennsylvania convention he helped draft the first Pennsylvania Constitution.   He was elected to the new Pennsylvania Assembly from 1790-93, at the end of which he married Hannah Nicholson of New York City. In 1793 he was elected to the US Senate, but was disqualified to hold the seat due to citizenship questions a year later. While in the Senate he was influential with his local constituents in western Pennsylvania in keeping the Whiskey Rebellion from turning violent. In 1795 he, along with partners, purchases 650 acres on the Monogahela River at Georges Creek to layout and found the town of Geneva near his frontier home, which he had named Friendship Hill. The town of Geneva was moderately successful boasting a world class Glassworks and gun factory, among other businesses owned and operated by Gallatin and his partners. Also in 1795 he was elected to the US House of Representatives where he served until 1801. During this period, the US government was still attempting to deal with the enormous debt from the Revolutionary War and Andrew Gallatin was an outspoken advocate of the view that a government should operate without incurring debt. His strong views on this, along with his active support for Thomas Jefferson election as President, were the primary reasons President Jefferson offered him the office of Secretary of the Treasury.   During his 12 years as Treasury Secretary under both Jefferson and Monroe, Gallatin was able to cut the debt by more than 50% through land sales and import duties. He also devised the plan for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, fund the Lewis and Clark expedition, and begin construction of the National Road from Maryland through Pennsylvania in 1811. During the War of 1812 he promotes the issuing of Treasury Bills to finance the war instead of incurring additional debt. Finally in 1814, he served on the US negotiating team to end the War of 1812 and signs the Treaty of Ghent. In 1816, at the age of 55 he accepted the post as Minister to France, which he served until 1823 and again accepted a post as Minister to Great Britain from 1826-1827. After this life in public service he “retired” to Friendship Hill During all this time, he and his family had spent very little time at Friendship Hill, living mostly in Washington D.C. While in Paris, he directed his son Albert Rolaz Gallatin to supervise a large addition to the house, known as the Stone House, which was nearly completed when he retired. After spending only a couple of years at Friendship Hill, during which his wife, Hannah, was very unhappy being away from the big city, he sold the property in 1832. Although retired from public life, Andrew Gallatin was far from “retired”. He chaired the council to found New York University from 1830-31, was the President of National Bank of New York (later Gallatin National Bank of New York) from 1831-1839, published an influential study of American Indian tribes and their languages in 1836, was President of the New York Historical Society and founder of the American Ethnological Society in 1842. While not a Founding Father, Andrew Gallatin was one of the shapers of our new nation in many important decisions being made by the new government.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) The Visitor Center is located in the newest addition made to Friendship Hill, after the time of Andrew Gallatin. Along with a small gift shop there is a model of the house showing the many additions made over the years, both by Gallatin and subsequent owners. Another room in the original brick house is used to show two short movies, one on the life and career of Andrew Gallatin and the other on the history of Friendship Hill.

VisitorCenter

2) The tour of the house is self guided where they have a small exhibit along with a few period furnishings in each room. They most interesting room is the stone kitchen that Albert Rolaz added at the same time as the Stone House. Much of the structure was destroyed by fire in the 1900s, so the National Park Service is still in the process of final reconstructions of the house. However, in this kitchen they have left the ceiling off of the structure so you can see the exterior wall of the original brick house, the wooden frame addition Gallatin made, as well as, the final stone kitchen. All of these additions, make for some interesting layout of rooms on both floors of the house and be careful of the many short steps needed to travel from one section to another. For some reason, Albert’s construction of the Stone House did not originally connect to the original house, sitting off to the side a bit. At the time of Gallatin, a covered walkway was used, which was later filled in with rooms by subsequent owners.

3) In the back of the house is a stone gazebo that was actually added late in the 1800s by a subsequent owner for lawn parties. Since the gazebo overlooks the Monongahela River providing some excellent views of the river valley, the National Park Service has had to move the gazebo back from the bluff which was threatening to collapse.

Gazebo

4) There are a number of trails throughout the property that are available to hikers and bikers. Along one of these trails along the bluff overlooking the Monongahela River, you can visit the supposed grave of Sophia, Gallatin’s first wife. The grave is unmarked, however, he had constructed a short stone wall around the grave itself.

SophiaGrave