In 1846, a local Staten Island historian, Gabriel P. Disosway, published an article about the house and its place in the history of the American Revolution. He expressed hope that the house would be saved. Although the owners of the house did not share Disosway’s concern, public interest in preservation was growing steadily nationwide. In 1886, a bill was introduced in the New York State legislature to acquire the Conference House for museum purposes. The bill did not pass, but enough interest had been generated that it was reintroduced in 1896, 1901, and again in 1909.
In April 1926, Harmon National Real Estate, which had just acquired the property in 1925, gave the Billopp House one acre of land to the City of New York for use as a park, recreational area and museum. During this time, the Conference House became the first house museum on Staten Island; however, the house had been heavily deteriorated and was even in danger of being razed.
A group of local preservationists realized that its destruction would mean the loss of an important piece of American history. This group, the Conference House Association, was formed on September 21, 1925, and would oversee the reconstruction of the house, furnish the newly restored rooms, and open the house as a museum. The first officers and trustees included members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), business and civic leaders, historians, and local preservationists.
“…it is the idea of the Association to so reconstruct the building that it may look as nearly as possible as it did when the famous Conference took place on September 11, 1776.”
The Conference House is a National Historic Landmark and New York City Landmark. It is owned by the City of New York, operated by the Conference House Association as a house museum, and is a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City.
The Mission of the Conference House Association is to preserve, protect and maintain the historic Conference House, educate visitors about its historical significance and the role it played in the birth of our nation, and use the lessons learned from the failed peace conference to help resolve modern day conflicts within our youth and community.
The Conference House is owned by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, is operated by the Conference House Association, and is a member of the Historic House Trust of NYC. “This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.”