Predating today’s Presidents Day holiday by close to two weeks was a performance by historian Michael Grillo – who was decked out as our nation’s first commander-in-chief for a special appearance at the New Utrecht Reformed Church Parish House on February 7.
Grillo, who lives in Bay Ridge, is also education coordinator for the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx.
His presidential alter ego helps to teach young and old alike facts they may not have known before.
“He is the first American to have a victory parade on Broadway,” said David Elligers, president of the Friends of Historic New Utrecht, who organized the evening told the Home Reporter.
From Home Reporter:
That evening, the general was accompanied by two of his men – John Kish, Sr. and John Kish, Jr. He shared stories with the crowd of his past visits to New Utrecht, which consists of modern-day Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Borough Park.
“I first came to New York in May of 1772, ” Washington said. “It wasn’t for time of war, but to enroll my stepson in college, Kings College, named after King George II, on Rector Street.”
But his second visit was during a time of warfare: The British had just evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776 and Washington was commanded by the Continental Congress to protect New York City from any invasion.
“By the time June, 1776 came, New York Harbor down to Sandy Hook was all one white mass – British ships,” Washington recalled, adding that it was the largest invasion the world would see until D-Day nearly 200 years later. British troops were stationed on Staten Island.
In August, the British crossed the Narrows and traveled up Kings Highway and by the end of the month “all was lost” with the Battle of Long Island.
Seven years after the loss and strategic withdrawal of the Battle of Brooklyn, General Washington would return to New York to parade down a section of lower Broadway in Manhattan that would later come to be known as the Canyon of Heroes.