Grey Towers NHS: The Bait Box

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Grey Towers NHL►

Grey Towers National Historic Site, with its Bait Box, is in Milford, Pennsylvania. Gifford Pinchot, first director of the United States Forest Service and governor of Pennsylvania, grew up here. Pinchot’s father James bought the land in 1875 and moved the family there from New York City.

James Pinchot regretted the impact his wallpaper business had on the forests. He suggested to his Yale-bound son Gifford that he become a forester. Gifford did study forestry and made a lifelong career of conservation. He and his friend Theodore Roosevelt convinced Congress to establish the United States Forest Service in 1905.

Pinchot served as the USFS Director until 1910 until he had a falling out with Taft, Roosevelt’s successor. He married Cornelia Bryce in 1914 and they moved in to the Milford estate. He served two terms as Governor of Pennsylvania in the 1920s. His son Gifford Bryce Pinchot donated the Grey Towers estate to the US Forestry Service in 1960 to be used as a center for conservation. President Kennedy established the Pinchot Institute for Conservation at the site in 1963.

The Bait Box►

After Gifford and Cornelia married, Cornelia modernized the mansion to serve their political ambitions. In addition to enlarging the first floor rooms, she had several outbuildings constructed.

The Bait Box, tucked away behind the mansion, was created as a playhouse for Gifford and Cornelia’s son. Later, it became Cornelia’s tea room. Today it is a small conference space for conservation groups.

The oval window in the courtyard’s stone wall showcases the surrounding landscape. The narrow garden and pool (which was boarded up when I visited) leads the eye to the Bait House. Young Gifford enjoyed a forge constructed in the Bait Box’s basement and created iron pieces for the mansion.

Grey Towers Posts►

Location: 151 Grey Towers Dr Drive, Milford, PA 18337
Designation: National Historic Site
Date Designated/Established: May 23, 1963
Date of my visit: December 11, 2020

6 thoughts on “Grey Towers NHS: The Bait Box

  1. Quirky! The two door knockers on the Bait House look to me like eyes, and with a bit more imagination I can visualise the little handle beneath (left hand door) as an off-centre nose. Underneath that, the little lock makes me think of a little mouth saying “Oh!” On an entirely different note, Gifford sounds like an interesting guy, ahead of his time.

    1. Thanks Mr. P. For sure he was a visionary with regards to conservation, but he was a little odd, I think. His first fiancée died and he spent years communing with her ghost before he married this wife.

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