Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

November 09, 2020

Dan Keefe | Brian Nearing
(518) 486-1868 |

Stronger Focus on Mohawk Legacy Planned for Johnson Hall State Historic Site

New Master Plan for 18th Century Colonial Estate Calls for Expanded Native American Programs, Construction of Longhouse

Blacksmith's Shop, New Visitors Center, Parking Also Proposed

An expanded Johnson Hall State Historic Site would enhance the Fulton County destination for New York's Colonial history and more fully describe the historic role that the Mohawk and other Native peoples played during the era, under a new master plan completed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Developed through a public planning process, the long-term plan calls for a cultural reinvigoration of the 33-acre site in Johnstown, which has been a state historic site since 1906. Its centerpiece is Johnson Hall, the former residence of Sir William Johnson, an 18th century British colonial official who mediated relations in the Mohawk Valley with the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Confederacy, which once extended from Ontario, south to the Susquehanna River, and from Lake Erie east to the Hudson River.

"State Parks is committed to including more of the untold stories in our shared history, including those of the Native American and indigenous peoples," said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "For too long, their role has been relegated to a backdrop in the Colonial narrative, and our plans for changes at Johnson Hall will help remedy that. Telling more complete and accurate narratives will enhance the appeal of this important Fulton County destination to a wider range of audiences and visitors."

The Mohawks were one of six nations in the confederacy (also commonly referred to as the Iroquois), and Johnson was critical in obtaining tribal support for Great Britain during the French and Indian War of the 1750s. One of the most important men in Colonial America, Johnson was married to Molly Brant, a Mohawk woman, with whom he had eight children. Brant ran the estate household and served as a diplomatic intermediary between the Mohawk and British officials during the Revolution.

During Johnson's lifetime, his large estate served as a regional diplomatic and trade center in the Mohawk Valley, and was the site of a "council fire" when Haudenosaunee leaders would meet with him to discuss important matters. Johnson died in 1774, just before the start of the Revolutionary War. Molly Brant and Johnson's family supported the British during the war, and afterward, the Johnson estate was confiscated by New York state authorities. Molly Brant settled in Ontario, Canada, and is recognized as a Person of National Historical Significance by that country.

State Parks recently acquired a 3.4-acre adjoining parcel at 137 Hall Avenue to add to the historic site, which once covered an estate of about 700 acres. The parcel will provide room to implement recommendations from the plan, including replacing a small existing visitors center with a modern new center to include restrooms, historical exhibits, a gift shop, staff offices and a kitchenette, as well as expanding the historic site's trail network. A non-period barn on the parcel will be removed and an existing structure may be renovated for staff/intern housing.

Other enhancements under the plan include:

  • Building a longhouse – a type of communal residence used by the Mohawk – at Johnson Hall under efforts to enhance the site's collaboration with indigenous groups to interpret Mohawk impact in the region during that period.
  • Building a "trade house," to represent the history of business transactions and cross-cultural exchanges that took place between colonists and the Haudenosaunee at the Johnson estate between 1763 and 1774.
  • Constructing an 18th-century blacksmith's shop, to represent hand-forged metal items that were made at the Johnson estate at the time, and a "garden house" to reflect Johnson's interest in landscaping and gardening on his estate grounds.
  • Further programming would be added to represent the contributions of enslaved people who worked at the Johnson estate, as part of efforts to broaden interpretation of the historic site.
  • Expanding educational programming with area schools, creation of an artist-in-residence program, adding of volunteer docent and junior docent training programs, and exploration of merchandising partnerships to support local artisans and the creative arts tied to unique cultural products connected to the history of Johnson Hall.

The master plan outlines a long-term vision for potential capital improvements, programming enhancements and resource stewardship for the next ten to fifteen years. Timing of the improvements will depend on available funding and maintenance needs of existing infrastructure.

Johnson Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and to the New York State Register of Historic Places in 1980.

During the last decade, more than 540,000 people have visited Johnson Hall, which is located in the city of Johnstown.

An online version of the master plan and an associated Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is available online at

A non-digital copy of the documents can be provided by Paige Barnum, AICP, Park Planner, 625 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Albany, New York 12207.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails and boat launches, which were visited by a record 77 million people in 2019. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.