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Grey Towers has four periods of history: James Pinchot initial construction, Gifford and Cornelia’s ownership, the Forest Service’s ownership, and modern efforts with historic preservation.
In 1875, James W. Pinchot moved from New York City to his hometown of Milford, Pennsylvania after he retired. Upon returning to Milford, Pinchot purchased approximately 3,000 acres of land, which overlooked Delaware. Once he purchased the land, Pinchot began designing what would become Grey Towers. In 1884, Pinchot worked alongside a family friend named Hunt to help design a French chateau, which was influenced by Marquis de Lafayette’s LaGrange and Pinchot’s French origins. In addition to Hunt, Pinchot hired Edwards-Ficken to slightly alter the design, which would ultimately change the overall foundation as well as a few decorative additions.
The overall cost of Grey Towers was around $19,000 for construction and $24,000 for interior design elements, such as furniture. After realizing and regretting how forest-product industries, such as his own, cause environmental damage, Pinchot created the United State’s first forestry program for graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry. From 1901 to 1926, Grey Towers was used as the Yale School of Forestry’s primary location for fieldwork.
In 1908, James Pinchot passed away. In August 1914, Gifford split the Grey Towers estate with his brother Amos. Together, Gifford and his wife Cornelia Bryce used Grey Towers as a summer vacation home. Since Gifford and Cornelia wanted to develop their political careers and entertain guests more often, they decided to make renovations to the original home. Some of the renovations included creating a larger sitting room and merging the library into the living room.
Cornelia also valued gardening. In order to bring more attention to the gardens, Cornelia hired Chester Holmes Aldrich. Aldrich made many additions to the estate, such as adding a swimming pool, raising the structure, and adding architectural elements to the gardens. Then, sometime during the early 1930s Cornelia hired William Lawrence Bottomley. Bottomley designed and created the Finger Bowl, which is a raised dining area located outdoors, which is made out of a pool’s structure.
When Cornelia passed away in 1960, her son Gifford Bryce Pinchot honored his family’s wishes and gave the Forest Service the estate. Originally, the Forest Service decided to use Grey Towers as a conference center with storage space and offices. On September 24, 1963, President John F. Kennedy dedicated the Pinchot Institute to directing Grey Towers. 1963 was also important for Grey Towers because the Secretary of the Interior officially recognized the estate as a National Historic Landmark.
On August 11, 2001, Grey Towers reopened to the public. This also happened to be on the same day of Gifford Pinchot’s birthday. Recently, Grey Towers has continued to be renovated and maintained in order to keep its historical significance and functionality.
The main attraction at Grey Towers is the estate itself. Visitors are encouraged to tour the interior and exterior of Grey Towers.
Visitors have the opportunity of touring Grey Towers via a specialized guided tour. One of the largest benefits of a guided tour is that it details the exact history of the Pinchot family, as well as their influence and role on Grey Towers. The story also details how Grey Towers played a key role in the Pinchot family’s social and political lives and ideals. Mansion and ground tours are held Thursdays through Mondays, 11 am to 4 pm, from May 27th to October 31st.
Visitors can also participate in a special three-floor tour, which takes place only on the weekends at 4 pm. Also, groups of ten or more can take private specialized group tours. It’s important to note that guided tours require special fees. For more information about the guided tours available at Grey Towers, visit the Towers’ official website, or contact them during their hours of operation.
Grey Towers hosts a variety of public and private special events throughout the year. In order to obtain an updated list of public special events, check out the Towers’ online special events calendar.
Grey Towers Heritage 8K Run/Walk is an 8k run/walk that supports the GTHA mission of providing service to the Forest Service, which in turn helps promote education, historic preservation, and promotion. The Grey Towers Heritage 8K Run/Walk usually takes place in May and is a two hour event in the morning with registration open one hour prior to the event start time.
151 Grey Towers Drive, Milford, Pennsylvania, 18337, Phone: 570-296-9630