11/2009: After years of public outcry, on November 3, 2008, owners of the parcel proposed for the development of a retirement community announced their decision to abandon the plans. They entered into an agreement with the Trust for Public Land and Morris County to sell the parcel for preservation as open space. While recreational fields were developed on a portion of the land, they have been sufficiently screened from Morristown National Historical Park. The parcel is now owned by Morris County and had become part of Lewis Morris County Park.
The Jockey Hollow section of the Morristown National Historical Park contains most of the land on which the Continental Army camped in the winter of 1779-80. In mid-December 1779 eight infantry brigades, perhaps 10-12000 thousand troops, converged on Jockey Hollow, a mountainous area a few miles south of Morristown. It was the beginning of one of the worst winters of the eighteenth century, and the Jockey Hollow encampment proved to be a severe trial for Washington’s army. The troops were ill fed, ill clothed, and poorly sheltered. Army discipline, already questionable, broke down. Desertions were frequent and there was even a brief mutiny. But Washington’s perseverance held the army together and in June 1780 at the Battle of Springfield troops from Morristown turned back British and German troops attempting to advance through New Jersey.
Today Jockey Hollow is still approached by roads that were in use in 1776: Jockey Hollow Road (built 1767) and Sugar Loaf Road (built 1776). The high, rolling terrain and adjacent Great Swamp that were natural defense assets in the late eighteenth century remain largely undeveloped. But despite Jockey Hollow’s historical significance and visual integrity, its borders are under siege. The nearby owner of a large land parcel wants a developer to build a five hundred-unit retirement community on approximately ten acres at the northeastern boundary. The impact on Jockey Hollow would be increased traffic, noise, and visual intrusion into the park, profoundly changing how people will experience the area. The National Park Service has asked the owner for the opportunity to appraise the property for possible purchase but was not welcomed.