JERSEY CITY, NJ - While not quite as cold as Valley Forge was the winter when Gen. George Washington camped out there during the American Revolution, a chilly Presidents' Day paired with COVID-19 pandemic to keep the number of participants at Jersey City’s annual commemoration Monday.

Local legend has long claimed that George Washington, while general of the Colonial Army, met with French Major Gen. Marquis de Lafayette in 1779 under an apple tree in front of a house owned by Harman Van Wagenen, a Jersey City Farmer.

Located at 298 Academy Street, the house, renamed “The Apple Tree House”, has since served as a gathering place for commemorating Presidents' Day each year.

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Each year a wreath is laid at the spot to remember not just the heroes of the American Revolution, but also those who gave their lives in service to the country. This year the gathering included members of the George Washington Society of Jersey City, The Lincoln Association of Jersey City, the Knights of Columbus, Members of the Masonic Order, and Mayor Steven Fulop.

According to Edward C J. Meehan, president of the George Washington Society of Jersey City, while the two generals met on the farm to plan out what was to become the battle at Paulus Hook, as well as several other times throughout the war, their encampment was in the apple orchards more remote from the house, creating more distance between them and the Sip family farm where British General Charles Cornwallis was encamped.

While unable to attend the event in person, Councilman Richard Boggiano told TAPinto Jersey City he has been fighting to protect the Apple Tree House for decades. “Back in 1977 or 78, a local bank wanted to tear down the building to make a parking lot,” Boggiano recalled, adding that with the help his father and other members of the community they prevented its demolition. “I just want to make sure our history is preserved,” he said.

The annual ceremony, begun as an informal event hosted by members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission in the 1980s would go on to be hosted by the Jersey City Elks before Meehan and others took it over under the auspices of The George Washington Society of Jersey City. 

“It is important that we remember the past,” Mayor Steven Fulop said at the event. “The Apple Tree House helps us do that.”

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