WALPACK, NJ - On Sunday, October 20, from noon to 5 p.m., the National Park Service and the Walpack Historical Society will present Van Campen Day at the Van Campen Inn.
The day will include costumed re-enactors and colonial crafts, such as spinning, woodworking, blacksmithing, chair caning, lacemaking, and apple pressing for cider. A parade led by the Colonial Musketeers Fife & Drum Corps of Hackettstown will march north on the Old Mine Road at 12:30 p.m. to the marker memorializing John Rosenkrans, Colonel of the Sussex County Militia during the fight for independence. There, Gerald De Groat of the Sons of the American Revolution, Colonel John Rosenkrans chapter, will speak on the life of Walpack's local hero. Myra Snook, historian, will lead a hike at 1:30 p.m. to the site of Fort John and to the Shapanack and Slave cemeteries. Costumed guides will provide tours of the inn throughout the day. The inn boasts some of the finest woodwork and hardware of its period and is believed to have been built in the 1740s.
A highlight of the day will be a special presentation of a replica of the fireback which is believed to be original to the inn. A fireback is a heavy cast iron plate installed at the back of a fireplace wall. It protects the back wall from deterioration caused by intense heat. It also reflects heat into a room, continuing to radiate heat even after the fire goes out. The year of casting of the original fireback was 1746; 1746 may also be the year when part of the inn was built. The fireback is also a very decorative piece. It shows the coat of arms of the royal family of England, including the lion and the unicorn rampant. The original fireback was cast at Oxford Furnace, Warren County and is one of the oldest dated firebacks manufactured there. It was donated to the National Park Service by Bernice and Joseph Haydu in September 1972. The fireback was conserved by the National Park Service in 1987, sent to Harpers Ferry Center for stabilization. It was put in a frame at that time and cleaned and waxed.
The exact replica to be installed by National Park Service on Van Campen Day was cast by the Wollaston Foundry of Taunton, Mass. Wollaston Foundry was begun in North Quincy, MA in the 1870s, initially to produce piano plates. Today it produces industrial and commercial castings. It is one of the oldest foundries continuously running in the country. The replica fireback weighs about 360 pounds.
The National Park Service made the decision to retire the original fireback to its storage facility several years ago, due to concerns for its safety. In the approximately 250 years it was at the Van Campen Inn, the fireback witnessed visits by John Stark, hero of the battle of Bunker Hill, Benedict Arnold, traitor, and Count Casimir Pulaski and his legion of men, who spent most of the winter of 1778 at the inn. Who knows who the newly recast fireback will witness at the inn during the next 250 years?
The Van Campen Inn is located on the unpaved section of Old Mine Road, Walpack Township within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Van Campen Day is free and the public is invited.
For further information and directions, call (973) 948-4903.