The Conference House (also known as the "Billopp House") is a historic house on the South Shore of Staten Island, in the beloved neighborhood of Tottenville. It was built in the 16th century and is famous for holding the Staten Island Peace Conference on September 11, 1776.
Captain Christopher Billopp came to America in 1674 after years of service in the Royal Navy. He was given a land patent on almost one thousand acres on the southernmost tip of Staten Island. Archaeological evidence shows that the Raritan band of the Lenape camped in the area and used the location of a burial ground, now known as Burial Ridge.
According to legend, Captain Billopp's seamanship secured Staten Island to New York, rather than to New Jersey - a bet was placed stating that the island would belong to New York if the captain could circumnavigate Staten Island in one day, which he succeeded to do.
In 1677, Captain Billopp commanded the local garrison in New Castle, and soon returned to Staten Island where he was further rewarded with another 600 acres of land.
While it is unknown exactly when the house was built, one surviving map shows the building existed on the site of the Conference House before 1680. The house was passed down to his great grandson Christopher Billopp, who was commissioned a colonel and led loyalist forces against the patriots in the American Revolution. After the British withdrew, the house was confiscated by the State of New York.
On September 11, 1776 the commander in chief of British forces in America, Lord Howe, met with the representatives of the Continental Congress in a peace conference aimed at stopping the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin. John Adams, and Edward Rutledge came over from the patriot-held Perth Amboy, New Jersey, leading to a three-hour meeting that ended with the Americans declining Howe's offer, leading to another 7 years of conflict.
Around 1876, the house was abandoned and vandalized. After the revolution, the Billopps fled to Canada, leaving it without any care.
After the Revolutionary War
The house lies on the part of Staten Island known as Billopp's point. In 1901, a bill was passed for the preservation of the House. In 1926, the house was at the danger of being razed, but a group of citizens formed "The Conference House Association", a non-profit that was dedicated to preserving the house. In 1929, the house was finally put under the care of the Municipal Assembly of the City of New York, with the surrounding park being created a few years prior in 1926. The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
The Conference House in 2018
Currently, the house is ran as a museum and gives tours to visitors as well as having exhibits. Currently, the house holds the "Coming to America" exhibit, showing visitors a history of the American immigrant experience from the colonial days to the present, presented through personal artifacts, historic maps, and others. Another exhibit it holds is "Claiming the Vote: Her Story", which gives a look into women in History and the struggle for women's right to vote. It is displayed through the eyes of a fictional character called Emily Rose, and shows the struggles women faced to gain voting rights in this country.
There are guided tours of the house from Friday - Sunday, 1PM-4PM from the first weekend in April to mid-December. The house is easy to access by buses, with the S59 and the S78 buses stopping one block away. The Staten Island Railway also has its last stop 15 minutes walking from the house.
If you are looking for a place to live on the Island to be able to experience the parks and wildlife on Staten Island, we at Tom Crimmins Realty would be happy to help you find your dream home. Contact us at 718-370-3200 or you can visit our website at www.tomcrimminsrealty.com