Swiss-born Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) was influential in shaping the young United States and its politics and culture. He named his new farm on Pennsylvania's frontier "Friendship Hill." It was central to his dream of creating wealth from industry and land speculation in the wilderness, but he was persuaded to play a direct, firsthand role in his adoptive nation's formative years. Gallatin was an entrepreneur, politician, diplomat, financier, gentleman farmer, and scholar. Revolutionary leader Patrick Henry called him "a most astonishing man." He was Secretary of the Treasury, for Presidents Jefferson and Madison, for 13 years. In his first political office, he helped draft the Pennsylvania constitution. He was an assemblyman, briefly a U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, a U.S. Negotiator for the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812 with Great Britain, and U.S. Minister to France and to Great Britain. Gallatin's 203-page A Sketch of the Finances of the United States (1796) called growing public debt "a public curse." A nation, like a household, he wrote "should live within its means and avoid debt." The first permanent standing committee of the U.S. Congress, on Ways and Means, to superintend government finances, grew from his proposal. As Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin reduced the national debt from Revolutionary War days by half. He reduced military costs, increased customs (import tax) revenue, and sold public lands.
Gallatin planned the financing of the Louisiana Purchase from France (1803), which doubled the U.S. land area, and he funded the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-06) to explore the new lands to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and Clark named the three rivers whose confluence forms the Missouri River for Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin.
By 1802 Gallatin advocated federal funding for roads and canalsinfrastructure called "internal improvements" thento tie the nation together and to grow its economy. He called for roads and canals on the Atlantic Seaboard and across the Appalachian Mountains. Congress rejected his 1808 master plan, but the National Road was started from Cumberland, Md., in 1811 and completed to Wheeling, (now West) Va., on the Ohio River in 1818. This first link between Atlantic Ocean trade and America's heartland preceded New York State's Erie Canal by seven years. U.S. 40, the modern National Road, originally ended near Vandalia, Ill. It now stretches from coast to coast, with Interstate 70 approximating much of its former route.
Beginning in 1813 as a U.S. diplomat in Europe, Gallatin worked on the Treaty of Ghent to end the War of 1812 and helped negotiate trade and other land treaties with Great Britain. At age 70 he became president of the new National Bank of New York (1831-39), later Gallatin National Bank, and helped found New York University to educate all classes, not just the wealthy.
Late in his life Gallatin published influential studies of American Indian languages and tribes. In 1842, aged 81, he founded the American Ethnological Society. Based on his linguistic studies, he theorized that the Indians of North and South America had common, prehistoric ancestors from Asia. In 1843, aged 83, Gallatin turned down President John Tyler's request that he once again serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
GALLATIN AND FRIENDSHIP HILL
Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin was born in 1761 in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1780 at age 19 he came to America, "the freest country in the universe," with a friend, Henri Serre. Landing near Boston, Mass., just as the Revolutionary War wound down, they had $400 and a load of tea to sell, but made no profit. In 1783 Gallatin and a partner speculated in western lands120,000 acres in Virginia and the Ohio River valley. Gallatin became an American citizen in 1785.
In 1786 Gallatin bought this 370-acre Fayette County, Pa., farm. In 1789 he married Sophia Allegre and started the house Friendship Hill. Sophia died within a few months, and this may have propelled Gallatin into politics later in 1789. By frontier standards, Gallatin was a very well educated politician. He held the Swiss equivalent of a college degree. His career more than proved that Gallatin was superbly qualified for a life of public service.
In 1793 Gallatin married Hannah Nicholson of New York City, daughter of former U.S. Navy commander-in-chief James Nicholson. In 1795 Gallatin and partners bought 650 more acres on the Monongahela River at Georges Creek. There Gallatin founded New Geneva, predicting prosperity from river trade and envisioning an industrial center in the wilderness. His business ventures there would include a general store, sawmill, gristmill, boatyard, and by 1799 a boring and grinding works for musket manufacture. Most profitable was the glassworks, producing windowpanes and bottles.
Gallatin's wife Hannah did not relish country life. The couple left Fayette County in 1825, never to live here again. By 1832 they had sold the western holdings and, with their three children, lived in New York City. Long absences for public service had doomed his New Geneva businesses. With them his dreams of industry in the wilderness were dashed.
GALLATIN'S LIFE IN THE CONTEXT OF EARLY AMERICAN HISTORY
A two-story brick house, the earliest part, was begun in 1789, the year Gallatin brought his bride Sophia to live here. It took several years to complete. After Sophia's death Gallatin married Hannah Nicholson. In 1798 a growing family led to adding the Frame House.
Gallatin's public service took the family away from Friendship Hillto Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Paris; and London. Hannah and the children often summered in New York City with her parents. From Paris Gallatin directed son Albert Rolaz to supervise a large addition. The Stone House was nearly completed for the Gallatins' return from Europe in 1823. The stone kitchen was built in 1824. Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette visited his namesake county in early 1825. After Lafayette spent a night at Friendship Hill, Gallatin said his famous guest "encumbered . . . my house with a prodigious crowd."
In 1825 the Gallatins put the property up for sale and left Fayette County. Later owners enlarged and altered the house. A floor plan that shows how the house grew over the years is available for your self-guiding tour of the house.
ABOUT YOUR VISIT
Friendship Hill is in Fayette County, Pa., near Uniontown, Pa., (12 miles) and Morgantown, W.Va., (10 miles) via U.S. 119 and Pa. 166. The park entrance is on Pa. 166, three miles from the U.S. 119 and Pa. 166 intersection. Gallatin House closes on some federal holidays. Contact the park for those dates.
Facilities The historic house and grounds, information center, and picnic area with shelter and grills are open to the public. Find food and lodging in Point Marion, Uniontown, and Morgantown.
Activities A self-guiding tour explores historic sections of the house. The park has over nine miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. The memorial grave of Gallatin's first wife Sophia is in a wooded glen, a 20-minute round-trip walk from the house. The main loop trail, 3.8 miles long, gives close looks at the area's natural features.
Accessibility The Gallatin House, picnic area, parking lot, and restrooms are wheelchair-accessible. Service animals are welcome.
Safety The park lies on bluffs above the Monongahela River; beware of dangerous dropoffs along trails. • Wear sturdy footgear, carry water, and prepare for a steep climb back from the river. • Watch for mine openings throughout the site; do not enter mineshafts. • Surface water is highly acidic; do not drink from streams. • Do not disturb plants, animals, or cultural features in the park. • Metal detecting and collecting artifacts are illegal. For firearms regulations ask a ranger or check the park website.
Related sites Fort Necessity National Battlefield on U.S. 40 (the National Road) 27 miles east of Friendship Hill commemorates the 1754 battle of Fort Necessity. It was George Washington's first military encounterand the start of the French and Indian War.
Source: NPS Brochure (2016)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
Evaluation and Installation of a Wetland for Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage at Friendship Hill National Historic Site (David M. Hyman, Pamela E. McIntire and Harry M. Edenborn, January 1990)
Geologic Resource Evaluation Report, Friendship Hill National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2008/022 (Trista Thornberry-Ehrlich, February 2008)
Historic Structure Report, Architectural Data Section, Friendship Hill (John B. Marsh and Scott Jacobs, September 1984)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Albert Gallatin Home ("Friendship Hill") (S. Sydney Bradford, November 24, 1964)
Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Friendship Hill National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/FRHI/NRR-2019/1978 (Charles Andrew Cole, Abhinandan Bera, Sarah Rothman and C. Paola Ferreri, August 2019)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 02-Dec-2021