It did. And this week, park officials called for public comment on a plan to have an events company lease the mansion and its grounds for five years at an annual cost of $10,000 to $20,000. The comment period ends Oct. 25.
The outfit, when chosen, would in turn rent out the building for weddings, corporate retreats, and other events for $1,000 to $2,000.
Income generated from the lease would be funneled into refurbishing the premises, while day-to-day maintenance would fall to the events company, said Valley Forge park business manager Patrick Madden.
The National Park Service, he said, receives more than 25 requests a year to hold parties in historic buildings at the park. In the past, the answer has been no.
But if the idea is adopted, Deirdre Gibson, chief of planning and resource management at the park, thinks the leasing of the Knox house for public parties will be a win-win situation.
She said the public will get to see the inside of previously shuttered treasures, the park service can concentrate on administering the site, and the events company can do what it does best - throw a party.
"Teaming up with their expertise is beneficial for everybody," she said. "We have over 100 buildings in the park and we don't need them all, but we want to preserve them."
Currently, Valley Forge Park leases two buildings for public use - one to the U.S. Postal Service, the other to a Montessori school. But no historic structure there is offered for parties.
Nationwide, other parks have done it for decades. Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park and the Cavallo Point Retreat and Conference Center in Sausalito, Calif., are two examples, Madden said.
It took Valley Forge more time to implement the idea because the Knox house needed extensive work and because the park was working on a general management plan for its buildings. With that done, the approval process for the lease can begin.
The Knox estate has a rich history. A series of millionaires owned the farmhouse; one couple used their gold-rush bounty to turn the house into a gentleman's country estate.
By the time it was bought by Philander Chase Knox in 1903, the estate included gardens, a swimming pool, bath house, tennis court, and racetrack, plus a breeding farm for horses.
In 1904, Knox, a lawyer, was appointed by the governor to be a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. He served as secretary of state under President William Howard Taft from 1909 to 1913.
In a 1909 newspaper account, Knox's life in Valley Forge was detailed:
"There he plays golf, gallops across the historic acres, walks, reads in his library or on the great veranda, entertains his friends, walks under the shade trees, looks in at the stables where his blooded horses are cared for, and plays poker with any who may care to meet him."
After Knox died, the house and grounds were donated to the state, which turned over the property to the park service in 1976.
The veranda where Knox read was used by Gorman on Sept. 24, 2011, to entertain her six dozen guests. Appetizers were offered in the dining room under the chandelier; drinks were served in the parlor. Guests made their way down the veranda steps to a large white tent for dinner.
George Washington's patter about colonial drinking and dancing blended perfectly with the historic setting, Gorman recalls. Guests still rave about the party.
"He really fit with the location," she said. "The whole thing flowed together really well. It was fun."
Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or email@example.com.