On July 4, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant attended Independence Day celebrations at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock. His host, Woodstock-native Henry C. Bowen, had gained success in the dry goods and newspaper businesses in Brooklyn, New York, and, in 1846, had established a summer retreat in his hometown.
The patriotic festivities that Bowen initiated in 1870 evolved into an annual tradition that continued for more than two decades. Year after year, politicians, ambassadors, literary celebrities, important social figures—and the press—journeyed to Woodstock. There, they and other attendees partook of a program that included speeches, music, and food held in tastefully decorated surroundings. Over the years, famous guests included the likes of Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
To accommodate the growing crowds, Bowen opened Roseland Park in 1876. Set on roughly 60 acres, it included a boat house, private bungalows, fountains, and statuary among its amenities. Though few of its Victorian features remain, the park is still open to the public as is Roseland Cottage, a National Historic Landmark and Historic New England property.