Location: 65 Jumel Terrace, New York
Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan‘s oldest house, was headquarters to General Washington in September and October of 1776. After Washington‘s departure, the Mansion played host to a succession of British and Hessian military leaders, served briefly as an inn for weary travelers, and finally returned to its role as country house. And that‘s just the beginning of the fascinating history of this stately mansion built on a hilltop in 1765.
The house was built eleven years before the Revolution, in 1765, by British Colonel Roger Morris and his American wife, Mary Philipse. The breezy hilltop location proved an ideal location for the family‘s summer home. Known as Mount Morris, this northern Manhattan estate stretched from the Harlem to the Hudson Rivers and covered more than 130 acres. Loyal to the crown, the Morrises were eventually forced to return to England as a result of the American victory.
The departure of the British at the close of the revolution did not end the upheaval in the life of the Mansion. Serving as an inn for New York City-bound travelers, ownership of the house passed through many hands. Finally, in 1810, the Mansion was restored to its original purpose as a country house by the French emigrant Stephen Jumel and his wife Eliza.
Stephen Jumel died in 1832, and Eliza, then one of the wealthiest women in New York, later married the former U.S. Vice President, Aaron Burr. Their marriage lasted just two years. Eliza retained ownership of the Mansion until her death in 1865. After a twenty-year court battle, which was finally settled by the U.S Supreme Court, the property was divided and sold.
The Mansion itself survived the subdivision along with a small plot of land. In 1894 it was purchased by General Ferdinand P. and Lillie Earle. In tune with the deep patriotic sentiment of the late 19th century, the Earle‘s revered Washington and the Mansion‘s history as his headquarters. They persuaded the City of New York to purchase the house and remaining property in 1903 and to preserve it as a monument to the nation‘s past.
The Mansion is built in the Palladian style, with a second story balcony and a two-story front portico supported by classical columns. The two-story octagon at the rear of the house is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the colonies.
The first floor of the 8,500 square foot house features rooms for family and social gatherings, and includes the parlor in which Madame Eliza Jumel married Aaron Burr in 1833. Across the hall stands the dining room where Washington likely entertained his guests in 1790. At the far end of the hall, the octagonal drawing room, or withdrawing room as it is properly known, provided a grand setting for social gatherings. Bedrooms on the second floor include those of George Washington, Eliza Jumel, and Aaron Burr. The basement houses the colonial- era kitchen and tells the story of domestic servitude at the Mansion. The room features the original hearth and a bee-hive oven as well as a collection of early American cooking utensils.
Through architecture and a diverse collection of decorative arts objects, each room of the Morris-Jumel Mansion reveals a specific aspect of its colorful history from the 18th through the 19th centuries.