Monday, October 17, 2022

Grey Towers and Gifford Pinchot

Another fun (useless) fact from the weekend. Randy and I went to a Historic Site called "Grey Towers" and learned about Gifford Pinchot.

I figured it would be another stately home, and it was, but it was a lot more. The site was the home of Gifford Pinchot, one of the founders of the National Forest Service (not the National Park Service). He was a conservationist from a wealthy family and had the time and the inclination to start forestry projects in the United States. He grew up wealthy in Connecticut.

He studied at Yale, but there was not a program in his interests, so he went to Paris to study forestry. He was there for a short while before coming back to the states. He decided to build a "summer" home in the same area his family made their first fortunes, Milford Pennsylvania. The area had been completely clear cut to allow farming and he saw the damage to the land and the Delaware River in the area.

He decided to create not only a house, but repopulate the forests around the house and the area. Additionally he created a Forestry School on the property were a class from Yale came out every year to study.

This would be enough for most of us, but he continued. He worked with Teddy Rosevelt and John Muir and others. Once the National Parks were created, including Yosemite, he and his team did a survey of the rest of the public land, particularly in the west. He proposed creating a National Forest system to encourage conservation and intelligent use of the land.

The view from the house. All the trees you see (except the mountains in the background) were planted by the family on farmland that was no longer viable.

The water feature led to his child's playroom. Now a classroom and rentable facility.

Pinchot also worked (and succeeded) in explaining the way conservation would support sustainable growth to farmers, ranchers and miners. Up until then most wealth in America was from extraction of value from the land, leaving it denuded. He explained that conservation wouldn't stop growth and wealth, but it would allow the land to provide more in the long run if tended.

An odd table for outdoor dining with guests, based on one he saw in Italy.
People ate on the ledge, and passed the dishes around on floating balsa wood floaters. 

He also was the Governor of Pennsylvania twice, albeit non consecutively. IN his second term he was famous for paving the dirt roads throughout the state. And this is what he is most associated with in the state. The grounds, house site and some ancillary buildings could be visited. The house itself is only open for 3 tours on Sundays, so we missed that, but it was very cool none the less.


This was one of 30 giant European trees (Myrtles?) that he planted 100 years ago. It was interesting because he actually wrote he "wished he could see them in a 100 years" when they matured.


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