In Jun 1967, Glassboro went from a small town unknown undiscovered by many, to being featured in headlines around the world.
The event is known as the Glassboro Summit. Within the three days of the event, Glassboro became the center of the Cold War.
President Johnson of the United States and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin met inside Hollybush Mansion on Rowan’s campus to discuss the tensions between the two nations fueling the Cold War.
The building had originally the home of the Thomas Whitney, and was eventually sold with other portions of Whitney’s estate to the state to create the Glassboro Normal School. Once owned by the school, the building became the home of the President of Glassboro State College.
It was the Cold War, and tensions were tight between the two super-powers. The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War had also broken out at the time, and both leaders had opposing views of the situation.
“I just heared recently from Rowan that there was a solar flare that had occurred,” said Glassboro Historical Society President Daniele Spence. “Russia thought that the United States was trying to scramble their missle codes and vice versa.”
In order to ease the tensions the leaders decided to meet for a conference. The event would be the first time since the Nikita Khrushchev visit in 1959 that the Soviet Premiere visited the President of the United States on American soil.
Mary Lee Donahue says in her book, “A Brief History of Glassboro” that the original plans for the meeting were to have the two leaders meet in Washington, D.C. or New York City. Kosygin refused the invitation to Washington after speaking at the United Nations in New York City. President Johnson also refused to travel to New York City for a meeting, after Kosygin’s United Nations Address.
Hearing about the dispute prompted Glassboro State College President Thomas Robinson to resolve the conflict himself. He invited the Kosygin and Johnson to conduct their meeting at his home, Hollybush Mansion, on the Glassboro State’s campus.
“In the interests of world peace, Dr Robinson called the White House to offer a compromise, saying that his home was halfway between New York and Washington,” said Mary Lee Donahue via email. “The two sides agreed on the compromise and ended the Cold War.”
Over the course of three days, the men resolved issues that had been creating tension between the two superpowers. The summit ended up being one of the turning points of the Cold War in the late 60s.
“They met and hammered out quite a few things,” said Spence. “Because of that meeting, things kind of eased up and it was turning point for the future of America and Russia.”
According to a British newsreel, talks had lasted for about 10 hours. The two men emerged from the Victorian style home, and said that they meeting was successful in decreasing the tightness in international security.
Glassboro had been nicknamed “Summit Town” after the meetings. If you walk up to Hollybush Mansion, there is a plague commentating the historical meeting. The building is also registered with the National Registrar of Historical Places. Still lit from outside at night, the mansion stands as a reminder of how a small town came to serve the world.