MORRISTOWN, NJ - Just about anything a person could want to know about the Schuyler-Hamilton House in Morristown resides in the head of Patricia Sanftner. With her knack for storytelling, her grasp of detail and her hearty laugh, she can bring alive a romantic tale and an era that is more than 200 years old.
In 1780 at the four-bedroom house on Olyphant Place, one of America’s Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, courted Betsy Schuyler, eventually winning her as his wife. “They had an understanding by March and by April he had received the blessing of her father,” said Sanftner, seated in the dining room of the Georgian frame house.
Sanftner, as her mother did before, leads tours of the Schuyler-Hamilton House, providing insight into the times and the personalities related to the house. “I love Morristown history,” she said. “We have so many wonderful things here.”
In her quest to promote Morristown’s story, she has a staunch ally in the Morris County Tourism Bureau. The Bureau sponsors historical walking tours that have been greatly expanded this year. And the very first tour is “Love Story,” featuring the Schuyler-Hamilton house and led by Sanftner. She will also preside at two tours of the wonderful churches in Morristown.
The tour series continues with four additional offerings including: The Many Monuments of Morristown Tour, The Seeing Eye’s Training Ground, The CCC and the Creation of Morristown National Historical Park and The Trial of the 19th Century: Antoine LeBlanc.
The Morris County Tourism Bureau has been doing the tours for 18 years and they have become one of the Bureau’s most popular programs. It has scheduled 20 tours for this year, more than ever before.
But the Bureau’s mission is to promote much more than just history. Its purview extends to the culture, recreation, lodging and restaurants and the travel infrastructure that defines Morris County. It helps oversee a tourism industry that brought $2 billion into Morris County in 2014.
“We are focused on promoting the county to heritage cultural tourists, business travelers and local residents who want to know what there is to see and do,” said Leslie Bensley, executive director of the Morris County Tourism Bureau. “They benefit from our years of knowledge and experience in being one of the most highly regarded destination marketing organizations in the state.”
The Bureau’s office at 6 Court Street in Morristown is filled with brochures and maps that help visitors explore the sights of Morris County. Its staff is always at the ready with directions and advice on hotels and restaurants.
That’s the face of the Bureau. But much goes on behind the scenes at the Bureau to make Morris County more navigable, more hospitable and more interesting.
The Tourism Bureau, for instance, partners with the Morristown National Historical Park to present Revolutionary Times, a weekend celebrating our country’s Independence Day. Because the official holiday falls on a Friday (July 3), the event has been expanded to four days, running from Thursday through Sunday. It will include a patriotic picnic at Washington’s Headquarters, complete with music by the Old Barracks Fife and Drum Corps, on Friday. And, as always, there will be a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Morristown Presbyterian Church on Saturday, July 4th.
One of the weekend’s highlights will be the cocktail reception (tickets are $50.00 per person and support the marketing efforts for the weekend program) at the Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in the Vail Mansion in Morristown on Thursday evening. The National Park will unveil a rare artifact from its archives, one that has not been seen in many years and bears a direct relation to the Jockey Hollow section of the park.
“It’s a wonderful way to connect the physical landmark with a restaurant that chose, out of all the names possible, to use the name Jockey Hollow to celebrate and exalt the importance of that landmark,” Bensley said. “We are fortunate that owner Chris Cannon is passionate not only about food, but history as well.”
What exactly the artifact is will remain a mystery until the night of the cocktail gathering. Afterwards, it is expected to be on display at Washington’s Headquarters Museum during July.
What isn’t a mystery are all the opportunities Morris County offers. Travelers and explorers can find a wealth of information at the Tourism Bureau’s website: morristourism.org. In June the bureau will launch a new website, making it even more user-friendly and more responsive on multiple platforms. Also updated is the photography, which now dominates the site and makes it more inspirational. “It is incumbent upon us to make sure that we provide the information to people in the fashion they want to receive it,” Bensley said. The search engine will be highly refined and, as Bensley says, the site will have “all the new bells and whistles.”
As well as staking a bigger claim to the Internet, the Tourism Bureau will soon have a greater physical presence around the county. Pedestrian kiosks will be sprouting up to help guide visitors and residents alike in their travels. You can see one now on Washington Street just around the corner from the Bureau’s office.
“The kiosks provide a visual and geographical system for showing you how to go and see the places in Morris County that matter,” Bensley said. The Bureau’s partners in the current phase of the program which will see 19 new pedestrian kiosks installed are the Morris County Park Commission, F.M. Kirby Foundation, New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism and the New Jersey Historic Trust.
The kiosks will provide information about each particular site, helping to orient the visitor. They will also lead the way to other sites of interest within the town where they are placed. Finally they will offer an overview of Morris County tourist points.
All of these projects are a sign of how the Morris County Tourism Bureau has grown since it was founded 18 years ago with a budget of $10,000. Bensley has presided over that growth since the Bureau’s inception. “We’re this little organization that’s doing a lot that touches everybody in the county,” Bensley said. “We help reinforce the quality of life in Morris County by celebrating this wonderful history and culture that we have.”