Architecture · Conservation · Monuments and Memorials · Restoration

Through George Washington’s Eyes

Old souvenir postcard of Christ Church's interior
Old souvenir postcard of Christ Church’s interior

When we were in Philadelphia several years ago, we visited Christ Church, an historic building where George Washington worshipped. We were able to sit in Washington’s pew, and as I sat there my gaze was directed to the clerestory windows near the roof line. As I looked through one of the windows, it occurred to me that I was seeing what George Washington saw! No doubt the windows had been painted over the years, but they hadn’t changed, and the view outside the window certainly hadn’t changed. 

This realization was a mind-blowing experience for me. I tried to think of other places where this kind of experience would be available. One I immediately thought of was Jasper Cropsey’s front porch. Cropsey was one of the landscape artists of the Hudson River school.  Ever Rest, his home, has been preserved in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, where many of his paintings of the Hudson River are on display, and you can sit on his front porch and observe what he saw that inspired the pictures of the Hudson River that are on display inside.

There are, of course, many restored historic buildings where an attempt has been made to recreate the original, but the restorers’ hand inevitably introduces a false note. For instance, great pains are taken to preserve the additions they have made (plastic runners over the carpet, no sitting on the chairs) so one misses the normal wear and tear that is common in a home.

So keep your eyes open, be alert for any opportunity that presents itself, and take advantage of it. You will be glad you did! And let me know about it!

3 thoughts on “Through George Washington’s Eyes

  1. I had a similar experience many years ago when I went to York, England, and toured the York Minster.There have been churches on that site dating to the 6th century, but construction on the minster began in the 13th and continued for 200 years. It’s built in the Gothic style, with an enormous nave, 500 feet long and nearly 100 feet high. We arrived late in the afternoon and decided to stay for Evensong. Sitting in that pew, listening to the boys’ choir, I looked up at those majestic stained glass windows and the massive oak trusses supporting that roof and felt a communion with so many nameless souls who had sat through the very same service night after night for centuries. I felt as if I had been given a window into the medieval soul and all the forces that came to bear upon it.

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  2. I have had this experience too. When I was writing the musical about JLChamberlain and in Maine researching, I sat in his pew at First Parrish Church in Brunswick, Maine. I looked through his eyes at the place where he met his wife and got married and was choir master. I looked at the same ceiling, felt the same wood, looked through the same windows. It was indeed mind blowing.

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