A Brief History of the Hermitage
In 1767, the house was purchased by Ann Bartow DeVisme who moved to Ho-Ho-Kus from Manhattan with five children. One of Ann’s daughters, Theodosia Bartow, and her husband James Marcus Prevost, occupied another house on the property, downhill from the present structure, nearer to the mill ponds.
During the Revolutionary War, while Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Prevost was fighting for the British in Georgia and South Carolina, the women and children were left alone in Ho-Ho-Kus. During this period, Bergen County was in the center of the conflict, with troops from both sides passing through the area with regularity.
In July of 1778, word reached Theodosia that George Washington and his troops would be passing through Ho-Ho-Kus on their way from the recent battle at Monmouth Courthouse to White Plains in Westchester County. When the General and his entourage stopped at a local house, Theodosia sent an invitation to Washington for him and his men to come and stay at The Hermitage. She said that the accommodations were the “most commodious in the area”. Washington accepted her offer and for four days, from July 10th to the 14th, he and his officers were entertained at this site.
Among the visitors to the house during the Revolution were James Monroe, William Paterson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, Lord Sterling, Peggy Shippen Arnold and Aaron Burr. Burr, who had been stationed just north of here at an area known as The Clove, became a frequent visitor to the site. Following the war, and the ensuing death of Lieutenant Colonel Prevost, Burr and Theodosia’s friendship led to a courtship that resulted in their marriage at The Hermitage in July of 1782. Following Ann DeVisme’s death and Burr’s brief ownership of the property, the house passed through three owners before being sold in 1807 to Elijah Rosegrant and his wife Cornelia Suffern. Thus began a tenancy in the house by one family that was to last for 163 years until the last surviving member of the family willed the property to the State of New Jersey upon her death in 1970.
In 1847, Elijah Rosencrantz, Jr. commissioned the well-known architect William Ranlett to construct a romantic Victorian residence which would incorporate the historic Colonial house known as The Hermitage. The resultant building is a significant example of the Gothic Revival style, with tall, gable roofs, elaborate bargeboards, diamond paned windows and pointed Tudor arches. The rear summer kitchen dates to the 1880’s.
The building is interpreted today to the 1890’s, so as to tell the most complete story of its Victorian past. The museum also contains an extensive collection of period costumes and accessories, from the mid-1700’s through to the end of the Victorian era. The Rosencrantz legacy (the name was changed by Elijah’s son, Elijah, Jr.) is well preserved by the museum’s archives which document their contributions to local history as mill owners and members of the developing upper middle-class. The Rosencrantz family assembled a property of about 200 acres that included cotton mills downstream as well as farmland to the west.
The history of The Hermitage is one of great interest and variety. It documents vast socio-economic changes, advances and declines. It tells the story of an exciting period during the birth of our nation. The changing fortunes of one family over more than a century and a half can be read in the exhibitions of clothing, personal items and ephemera in the restored home. The Hermitage museum provides a view into the history of this site and all those who helped contribute to its development and posterity.