The Conference House
(also known as the Bentley Manor and the Captain Christopher Billop
House) was built before 1680 and located near the southernmost tip of New York State on Staten Island
. The Staten Island Peace Conference
was held here on September 11
, which unsuccessfully attempted to end the American Revolutionary War
. The house, a National and New York City Landmark, is the only pre-Revolutionary manor house
still surviving in New York City. It is located at Conference House Park
overlooking Raritan Bay
Before the American Revolution
Captain Christopher Billopp, after years of distinguished service in the Royal Navy
, came to America in 1674, leading a landlubbing infantry company. The following year, he settled on the best part of Staten Island, where he was granted a patent for 932 acres (3.7 km²) of land. Archaeological evidence suggests there was an Indian village on the site.
As the legend goes, Capt. Billopp's seamanship secured Staten Island to New York, rather than to New Jersey: the island would belong to New York if the good captain could circumnavigate it in one day - which he proceeded to do.
In 1677, the fortunes of colonial service took Capt. Billopp to New Castle on the Delaware River, where he commanded the local garrison. Upon appointment of Thomas Dongan as governor of the colony of New York, the good captain returned to Staten Island and became active in the local government. He was further rewarded by another patent, expanding his Staten Island property to 1,600 acres (6.4 km²).
It's difficult to ascertain exactly when his manor house was built, but one surviving map shows that a building existed on the site of the Conference House before 1680. What is known for sure is that Captain Billopp's descendants lived in the house until the American Revolution.
On September 11
, Lord Howe
, commander in chief of British forces in America, and his brother General Sir William Howe
, commander of the land forces, met with Benjamin Franklin
, John Adams
, and Edward Rutledge
to offer amnesty and terms of peace in return for ending the American Revolution
. The Americans politely declined, leading to another seven years of conflict.
In 1901 Assemblyman Van Name of Richmond County, New York
introduced a bill for the preservation of the house. In 1926 the house was in danger of being razed. Through the efforts of a group of concerned citizens, a non-profit organization, "The Conference House Association", was formed, and the house was saved. In 1929 the Municipal Assembly of the City of New York placed the house under the association's aegis. The Conference House Park was created in 1926.
The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.