A Brief History: Grey Towers, also known as Gifford Pinchot House is located at 151 Grey Towers Milford Pennsylvania. It was built by James Pinchot, a wealthy French wallpaper merchant, in 1886. The mansion was designed in a French style to showcase the family’s homeland, from which they immigrated in 1818. The home served as a summer home for the Pinchot family, including James, his wife, and their children.
The house features many locally sourced materials to complete the construction. James came to regret his impact on the surrounding forest that his construction had, as well as the widespread impact the logging industry had around the country. With this regret, James encouraged his eldest son, Gifford Pinchot, to pursue a career in forestry as he left for college. James and his son founded the Yale School of Forestry, which was the first graduate program in the country that focused on forestry. The grounds of Grey Towers Estate served as the schools primary fieldwork location from 1901-1926. Only ruins of the fieldwork buildings can be seen on the grounds today. Gifford was appointed the first chief of the United States Forest Service under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency in 1905.
After their father died in 1908 and mother in 1914, Gifford and his brother Amos split the estate. Amos took half the land and a small foresters cabin, while Gifford and his wife Cornelia took the mansion. During his time in the house, Gifford and his wife continued to add on and make changes to the estate. Gifford’s involvement in politics prompted his wife to focus on creating spaces within the mansion to host dinner parties and meetings, which hosted many respected diplomats and politicians.
After his parent’s death, Gifford Bryce Pinchot, son of Gifford and Cornelia, donated Grey Towers and its 100+ acres of land to the US Forest Service in 1963. Today Grey Towers is host to administrative offices for the Forest Service, as well as seminars and conferences to provide education to guide natural resource conservation. Guided tours of the home are open to the public throughout most of the year.
Haunted History: Prior to marrying Cornelia, Gifford had been engaged to marry Laura Houghteling. However, Laura died in 1894 before they could marry. Following this, Gifford described in his journal entries that he felt a presence in the home and even claimed to see apparitions, which he believed to be Laura.