­Hidden in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, is one of the best-kept secrets of the National Park System -- Friendship Hill National Historic Site, home of Albert Gallatin from 1789 to 1825. Though little-known today, Gallatin, a Swiss immigrant to America, was an influential man who joined Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe in shaping the philosophy of this nation.

Friendship Hill National Historic Site
© National Park Service
Albert Gallatin lived in this plain brick house for 40 years, which became
the Friendship Hill National Historic Site in 1978.

In 1783, when he was a young man, Gallatin visited the Revolutionary leader Patrick Henry. After that one visit, Henry declared him "a most astonishing man!" Gallatin advised Presidents on foreign and economic affairs, reduced the national debt, and arranged financing for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. His influence as a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps helped bring about the end of the War of 1812. He also devised a system by which the executive branch held Congress fiscally accountable. Gallatin is best known, however, as Secretary of the Treasury for Presidents Jefferson and Madison.

In 1789, Gallatin began building a plain brick house on what was then the edge of the frontier; it would be his home for forty years. On a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River, Friendship Hill was expanded over the years to accommodate Gallatin's growing family. He also established a general store, gristmill, sawmill, glassworks, and gun factory in the area.

A trip to Friendship Hill National Historic Site, authorized in 1978, offers a rare opportunity to learn more about Gallatin -- a man who has been curiously lost in history. A self-guided tour of the house features exhibits and mementos of his career, including a campaign poster from his 1796 bid for Congress, an Annual Report to the House Ways and Means Committee from his tenure as Treasury Secretary, and manuscripts and pamphlets written in his later years.

Ten miles of hiking trails wind through the woods and meadows of Friendship Hill. One of them takes visitors past the memorial grave of Gallatin's first wife, Sophia.

Friendship Hill National Historic Site Information

Address: 1 Washington Parkway
Farmington, PA 15437
Telephone: 724/725-9190
Hours of Operation: (Gallatin House) Daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. April - October; (Park Grounds and Trails) Daily, Sunrise to Sunset year round
Admission: Free

Learn more about these other national historic sites:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic SiteClara Barton National Historic Site
Fort Larned National Historic Site
Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
Adams National Historic Site
Edgar Allen Poe National Historic SiteFort Raleigh National Historic SiteHampton National Historic SiteLincoln Home National Historic SitePuukohola Heiau National Historic SiteTheodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic SiteEdison National Historic SiteFort Scott National Historic SiteHarry S. Truman National Historic SiteLongfellow National Historic SiteSagamore Hill National Historic SiteThomas Stone National Historic Site
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Eisenhower National Historic Site Fort Smith National Historic Site Herbert Hoover National Historic Site Maggie L. Walker National Historic SiteSaint Paul's Church National Historic SiteThomas Stone National Historic Site
Boston African -American National Historic Site Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic SiteFort Vancouver National Historic SiteHome of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic SiteManzanar National Historic Site

Saint-
Gaudens National Historic Site

Touro Synagogue National Historic Site
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Eugene O'Neill National Historic SiteFrederick Douglass National Historic SiteHopewell Furnace National Historic SiteMartin Van Buren National Historic SiteSalem Maritime National Historic SiteUlysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site Ford's Theater National Historic SiteFrederick Law Olmsted National Historic SiteHubbell Trading Post National Historic SiteMary McLeod Bethune House National Historic Site Saugus Iron Works National Historic SiteWeir Farm National Historic Site
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Chicago Portage National Historic Site
Fort Davis National Historic SiteGloria Dei Church National Historic SiteJimmy Carter National Historic SiteNinety Six National Historic Site Springfield Armory National Historic SiteWilliam Howard Taft National Historic Site
Christiansted National Historic SiteFort Laramie National Historic SiteGolden Spike National Historic SiteJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic SitePalo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site Steamtown National Historic Site

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.