NFF Intern Chris McQueen traveled to Milford, Pennsylvania to explore the Grey Towers National Historic Site. This is his account of his experience.
Through my participation in the Demmer Scholars program, I was fortunate enough to visit Grey Towers National Historic Landmark in Milford, Pennsylvania. Grey Towers was the ancestral summer home of Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the United States Forest Service. The Pinchot family donated the 102-acre estate to the National Forest Service in 1963.
When we first arrived at Grey Towers we were given a guided tour of the mansion by a Forest Service employee. The tour was remarkably in-depth. Our guide gave us a visit to Gifford’s son Giffy’s “Bait Box”, a look at a near perfect reconstruction of Gifford’s bedroom and study and a comprehensive history of the mansion, including how it was designed and constructed for only $44,000, using only local products and timber felled on the Pinchot estate.
As I was exploring the second floor of the mansion something interesting caught my eye. Adjacent to the room where former Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman resided on his many trips to Grey Towers was a room that had magazines lying on a table next to a bed. These magazines were the Winter-Spring 2013 edition of the Your National Forests, the official magazine of the NFF. Your National Forests is the only publication featured on the estate. Knowing that the 16,000 annual visitors to Grey Towers have the opportunity to learn a little more about the great work of the NFF made me feel great.
Once the guided mansion tour was completed we were met by Leila Pinchot, great-granddaughter of Gifford a Research Fellow at The Pinchot Institute for Conservation. Leila took us on a hike to a waterfall located on the estate. Upon completion of our hike we were taken to the famous Finger Bowl - outdoor dining space held a raised pool surrounded by a flat ledge for eating where we were fortunate enough to take our dinner. Being a “history buff” I got chills thinking about those who dined at this unique table before me.
After dinner our experience at Grey Towers came to an end and we were carted off to a nearby YMCA camp for the night. After a long night of tossing and turning and an obnoxious symphony of snoring by my fellow scholars, we met up with Leila and traveled offsite to the Milford Experimental Forest, owned by the Pinchot family. Today the forest is being used for the reintroduction of the American chestnut.
My trip to Grey Tower’s is truly something I will not forget. Our 193-million-acre National Forest System would not have been possible without the foresight and the work of Gifford Pinchot. Being able to experience the place he held so dear was a privilege.