In advance of his February 22 birthday, George Washington, his personal bodyguard alongside him, visited the New Utrecht Reformed Church where he reminisced to an audience about his life and accomplishments.
People both young and old showed up at the church’s parish house, 1827 84th Street, to listen to the former president — portrayed by Michael Grillo — speak. Among the crowd, Matthew Sterling and Michael Fame, both history enthusiasts, dressed in 18th century garb to show their excitement.
The event was run by the Friends of Historic New Utrecht(FHNU), whose president Dave Elligers introduced the organization, its mission and its efforts to restore the church. Later, Elligers invited Washington’s bodyguard to come out and speak about his duties, uniform and weapons.
Following his introduction, he stood to the side during the main event, a speech by former President of the United States, George Washington.
As Washington stepped out into the room, he was greeted by a standing ovation. As he spoke, the audience heard stories of his young life, his career as a Virginia County surveyor, and his eventual movement into military life, including stories of heartbreaking defeats, uplifting victories, local battles fought, and, most importantly, the struggle to reclaim the great city of New York during the American Revolution.
Following his speech, Washington answered questions from the audience about aspects of his personal life and even what he thought about his face being on the dollar bill.
Grillo, the man behind the impersonation is education director at the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx. He has been doing impersonations of Washington since 1998.
When asked about the importance of events like this, Laura Lamb commented, “History isn’t only for studying the past. Without knowing where you came from, how can you know where you’re going?”
The FHNU invites all those interested in history to take part in its other events. For more information, visit www.historicnewutrecht.org.