As an architect, I find a successful project is an enduring source of pride. I feel a connection to some projects long after completion, and I like to check in on them. Earlier this week I visited one of my favorites, the Visitor Center at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Bucks County.
On this spring morning the birds were singing, and the sun illuminated the mall of flags at the expanded north entrance. The grass was greening, and the cherry trees—which were still newly planted at last spring’s ribbon cutting—were in bloom.
Washington Crossing Historic Park was founded in 1917 to preserve the site from which General Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River in 1776 and marched to a successful surprise attack against British-allied Hessian troops quartered in Trenton—a move generally credited with changing the course of the Revolutionary War.
BWA architecture + planning was honored to work with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission and PA’s Department of General Services on the renovation and expansion of the park’s visitor center, which had been closed for some years due to serious disrepair.
BWA expanded and reconfigured the existing structure, a 1959 keystone-shaped building with 1976 additions. Our design opened up and modernized the interior to provide visual drama and sweeping views of the river, but kept it warm and welcoming with plenty of exposed wood. Capitalizing on the basic character of the building, we maintained the exposed locally-quarried stone walls, several of which are now interior surfaces in gathering and event spaces.
The visitor center now boasts a new museum, new conference space, a museum shop, a refurbished auditorium, and a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled storage area to protect the park’s Colonial artifacts. The new north entry, with its orientation to the Delaware and Washington’s point of embarkation, strengthens the connections between the visitor center, the river, and the historic village of Taylorsville. (Carter van Dyke Associates’ excellent landscape design for the site further enhances these relationships.)
The project was particularly rewarding in that in called upon some of BWA’s key strengths and interests: historic preservation, contextual design, and building consensus among a diverse group of stakeholders.