SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset County in February completed the open space purchase of the “Eagle’s Nest,” one of several major lookouts in the Watchung Hills used by General George Washington during the American Revolution. Consisting of 1.43 acres, the property holds outsized historic importance, and fills in a missing piece in the Somerset County Park Commission’s Washington Valley Park.
“Somerset County’s Watchung Mountain range was incredibly important to the Continental Army during the War for Independence,” said Somerset County Commissioner and Park Commission liaison Paul Drake. “The hills provided a strong defensive position during two major encampments, while also providing a great view of British troop movements on the plains below. I am thrilled that we could add this important historic site to Washington Valley Park.”
Also known as Wayne’s Brigade Encampment, the” Eagle’s Nest” site in Bridgewater Township was owned for several decades by local restauranteur and Navy veteran Herbert Patullo, who showcased it, off-and-on, as a private Revolutionary War museum. The property was accessible via a right-of-way through Washington Valley Park. A lifelong resident of Bound Brook, Mr. Patullo wanted the property to be preserved. Acquiring the land has been a high priority of Somerset County and the purchase was handled through his Estate, following Mr. Patullo’s death in 2020.
“On behalf of the Estate of Herbert (“Herb”) Patullo, we are very pleased that Herb’s wishes and legacy are fulfilled with the transition of this property to the County of Somerset,” said John Bruder, co-executor of the estate. “Herb expressly desired that the property be conveyed to the County so that the property would be maintained as an historic site and not developed. With this transaction, we have now ensured that Herb’s wishes for the preservation of this historic piece of property are honored. Herb was himself a treasured piece of Somerset County history, having accomplished many things in his life including leaving Bound Brook High School as a 16-year-old to serve his country, at the US Army Supply Depot during WWII, and later in the US Navy. Herb was a local historian and Revolutionary War history buff. He would be very happy to know that Somerset County shall preserve this property for the benefit of all its residents and use it as a centerpiece for its celebration of the 250th anniversary of this nation’s founding.”
“This property fits into our strategy of promoting heritage tourism in Somerset County, especially with the 250th anniversary of the nation coming in 2026,” said Commissioner Melonie Marano, who is liaison to the Open Space Advisory Committee and to the Cultural and Heritage Commission. “In addition to promoting history, it also will enhance outdoor recreation and improve parking and access for the nearby Hawk Watch and Chimney Rock sites.”
Local historian Robert A. Mayers, of Watchung Borough, wrote about the Eagle’s Nest site in his book Middlebrook: The Revolutionary War Encampment that Saved America (American History Press, 2021). In the book, he describes seven lookout rocks through the Watchung Mountains, including the most famous, Washington Rock in Green Brook. Mayers has dubbed the newly acquired property as “Middlebrook Washington Rock” and believes it was used by Washington more often than any other.
“The Revolutionary War was here. Washington stayed seven months right here,” said Mr. Mayers in a video released today by Somerset County. “This is a fantastic place, and for 250 years it was forgotten!”
The Eagle’s Nest was acquired in February by Somerset County with dedicated Open Space funds for $680,000 and will be incorporated into the surrounding Washington Valley Park. The County is considering options for possible future uses of the small residential building, barn, and pavilion that remain on the property. Until a plan is developed for the property, the buildings and adjacent fenced area will not be accessible to the public.