BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Cyber Monday is almost 250 years distant from Gen. George Washington's 1778-79 Middlebrook Encampment in central New Jersey, but the Somerset County Historical Society has a proprietary connection between the two.
Online registration opens on Cyber Monday for the SCHS "Dance of the Decades" a summer fund-raising event that draws its inspiration from Washington, who danced non-stop for three hours with the wife of one of his generals at the Derrick Van Veghten House (ca. 1725).
Located on the banks of the Raritan River at the end of an industrial park roadway, the two-story brick building is home to the Somerset County Historical Society.
This exclusive dance party is celebrating 100 years of music in America on Saturday, June 6th from 4:30-9:30 p.m. on the grounds surrounding the historic building. Rain date is June 13th.
SCHS volunteers are inviting all of New Jersey to come out and ‘wiggle like Washington,’ ‘jitterbug like George,' and enjoy dancing under the stars, employing dance styles from the 1920s to the 21st century '20s nearly 240 years after Washington took a break from mapping out battle strategy against the British for a few dance steps.
Volunteers at the Van Veghten House, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, are anxious to share the story.
The Van Veghten House served as the headquarters of Quartermaster General Nathanael Greene during the second Middlebrook encampment (1778–79) in the American Revolutionary War. Washington and his wife, Martha, were living nearby at the Wallace House in Somerville.
Van Veghten, described by historians as a patriot of the American Revolution, gave Greene and his wife, Catharine Littlefield Greene, the use of the house for his headquarters and the farm for an encampment of his troops.
On March 19, 1779, Greene described an event attended by Washington held at the Van Veghten House in a letter to Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth:
"A little dance at my quarters a few Evenings past. His Excellency and Mrs [Catharine] Greene danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down. Upon the whole we had a pretty little frisk."
A copy of that three-page letter, along with prints of Washington and his dance partner, hangs in the front room of the Van Weghten house where it is said the "frisk" was held.
Online visitors are asked to pledge dollar amounts for each hour they expect to dance, beginning at $15 for one hour; $20 for two hours and $25 for three hours. Couples are asked to pledge $40.
There is also a family rate for parents and children under 15 of $30, and $65 for groups/businesses up to 5 people, and $125 for groups/businesses of 10 or more.
Period costumes from any decade of the 20th century are encouraged.
Sponsors are also welcome to pledge toward the event and attend the festivities. Participants can look forward to music, dancing, local food vendors, and experiencing history in an all-new way.
“It was time that the Somerset County Historical Society reached for the stars and became the first to try something truly revolutionary,” said Rikki Lyn Hauss-McCarthy, SCHS trustee. “In order to bring together the generations and welcome different age demographics to our historic site, it was so important that we kept things refreshing and exciting.”
Visit SomersetHistoryNJ.org to sign up and register a pledge. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (908)-210-1622.