Wednesday, December 12, 2012

History Comes Alive At The Conference House On Staten Island

Earlier this semester, Professor Victor Miller took members of his Verrazano Core 100: U.S. Issues, Ideas, and Institutions section on a field trip to the Conference House.  Below, some of the students in the Verrazano Class of 2016 share their reflections on that experience.

Beating drums echoed through The Conference House in Tottenville in mid-September as Professor Miller’s Verrazano freshman Core 100 class lined up to enjoy the festivities. Ben Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge started off the anticipated debate rowing in from the coast of New Jersey. Once off the boat the men were greeted by Admiral Richard Howe and proceeded to reenact peaceful negotiations that took place on September 11, 1776. As history proves, no peace was accomplished. 

Along with the debate there were other activities to view. The smell of burning wood filled the air as actors portrayed craftworkers making candles, clothes and other various household items. Under one tent, a lady of 1700’s attire demonstrated the process of making tin items such as, tea pots, water basins, and other silverware.  Another workshop available for viewing was a tailor who explained the process of making the clothing as well as the history of it. In the 1700’s the people only had one outfit until they grew out of it, and then it was passed on to other family members. In the summer the people wore sleeveless jackets and then sewed on sleeves for the colder weather.

The reenactment of the Conference House Debate allowed students to have a hands-on learning experience as well as personal enjoyment. This opportunity provided us with knowledge about our own community and how history had taken place in our own backyards. 

- Victoria Sax and Madison Lock

Thanks to my COR 100 professor, Professor Miller, at the College of Staten Island, I had the opportunity to attend a class trip to the Conference House of Staten Island. This class trip greatly bettered my knowledge of the peace conference that attempted to end the Revolutionary War. On this trip there were many things to do and see, such as taste food, hear music, and see dancing that took place during the time of the war. My favorite part of the trip was when they had Rutledge, Howe, Adams, and Franklin re-enact the peace conference. Seeing it with my own eyes helped me better understand the attitudes and the propositions that occurred during the conference. A tour inside the Conference House took place as well, where Prof. Miller readily answered all of my questions that I had about the place. This trip was a great learning experience as well as a fun one.

- Brian Cregg

In September I went on the trip to the conference house. This trip provided a hands-on experience to go along with what we were learning in class. In class we had a conference house debate in which each student was given a part. Visiting the actual conference house brought all of this information together for me. Watching people reenact the conference was not only entertaining but also educational. We were able to talk to the actors and ask them questions. In particular, we talked to some of the actors about the Howe brothers. I hope to go on more trips such as this one.

- Brittany Koerber 

This semester I had the privilege of joining my fellow classmates as well as my professor at the Conference House located at the very end of Hylan Boulevard.  This was a day dedicated to honoring the meeting that Admiral Howe put together to meet with representatives from the northern (John Adams), middle (Benjamin Franklin), and southern (Edward Rutledge) colonies.  This was a learning experience in itself.  Reading exactly what happened that day two hundred and thirty six years ago is one thing.  However, seeing the history acted out before me just made it all come alive.  The whole ambience gave me the feeling that truly was there that day hundreds of years ago.  

Shortly after arriving at the Conference House we saw the reenactment of the the very meeting that Admiral Howe had with the representatives.  This was the highlight of the whole day.  Then we the chance to tour the actual building these historical figures once occupied.  To think I could be standing in the very spot where this meeting took place was such a great pleasure.  The rickety floorboards and colonial furniture showed the true age of the Conference House.  Overall the Conference House trip was such a great experience, and I hope to go again sometime in the future.  I had an awesome time, and I feel honored that I stepped foot on one of the greatest pieces of U.S. history.

- Larry DiAntonio  

Photos taken by Victoria Sax, Madison Lock, and Rachel Torres 

To learn more about the Conference House, please visit 

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