John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
Of all the nation's founding
fathers, John Jay held more high offices than any other. Interrupting his law practice
in 1774 to serve as President of the Continental Congress,
Jay then went on to become Minister to Spain during the
Revolution, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the
Articles of Confederation. With Benjamin Franklin and
John Adams, John Jay was the author and key negotiator
of the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution. He was appointed
the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court,
and later became Governor of the State of New York. He
also wrote that state's first constitution in 1777 and
produced, with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the
Federalist Papers that helped convince the voters of New
York to ratify the United States Constitution.
In 1799, Jay began construction of
a comfortable 24-room house that was completed in time
for his retirement in May 1801. Unhappily, his wife,
Sarah, died the following spring. Jay never remarried.
He raised his younger children and lived in the house
until his death in 1829, quietly enjoying his life as
a country farmer. The Homestead, where John Jay lived
his last 28 years, is a beautiful estate that originally
comprised over 900 acres.
The land where John Jay lived his
later years was purchased in 1703 by his maternal grandfather,
Jacobus Van Cortlandt. By 1800 Jay had acquired, by
inheritance and by purchase, 750 acres of property near
Bedford, New York. In 1799 he began construction of
a comfortable 24-room farmhouse. He moved there in 1801,
after his retirement from politics. Tragically, Jay's
wife Sarah died only months after moving to their new
home. John Jay never remarried and lived as a gentleman
farmer until his death in 1829. His son William (1789-1858)
inherited the house and farm; he later became a leading
figure in the struggle to end slavery. William's son
John Jay II (1817-1894) inherited the property and upon
his death it was given to his son Colonel William Jay
(1841-1915). The Colonels' daughter, Eleanor Jay Iselin
(1882-1953) was the last of the family to use the property
as a full time residence.
In 1958 the house and thirty of the
original acres were purchased from Eleanor Jay Iselin's
heirs by Westchester County and transferred to the State
of New York, which opened it to the public in 1964 as
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site. The historic
house is open most of the year, and can be seen by a
guided tour through twelve beautifully furnished period
rooms, restored to an 1820's appearance. Specialized
tours and education programs are available by appointment.
The historic site now encompasses sixty-two acres, including
lovingly-tended formal gardens, magnificent woodland
walks, rolling meadows, and a cluster of 19th century
farm buildings. An 1820's schoolhouse and an 1830s barn
are open for touring. John Jay Homestead hosts special
events throughout the year. Private events can be held
at the site by special arrangement. Please call the
site for additional information.
Five generations of Jays occupied
the home, each developing the farm and home to meet
their needs and interests. Guests to the Jay homestead
today will see glimpses of these generations' tastes
and pursuits with this unique Jay experience of old
New York State.
The John Jay Homestead preserves virtually
intact the retirement home of one of the busiest - and
most often overlooked - of America's Founding Fathers.
Its 60-acre grounds, which feature gardens, old farm
buildings, and miles of bridle trails, are an excellent
place to enjoy the outdoors.
The house is furnished to reflect
its occupants' changing tastes. In the original portion,
reproduction wallpapers and carpets complement the elegant
furniture, primarily crafted in New York, that Jay purchased
for his new home. Family portraits, china, porcelain,
and other artwork adorn the rooms. Outdoors, there is
a beech allee, as well as three restored gardens. Original
outbuildings include a schoolhouse and early 19th-century
barn, in which there is a display about the Jays' agricultural
Tours of the house will be enjoyed
by anyone who appreciates American history. In addition,
special events throughout the year (such as an Antique
Auto Show, Puppet Show, Concerts, and more) provide
great outings for the entire family.
A program for School Groups, grades
4 through 12, (up to 55 students) consists of a one
hour tour that includes a teachers information and an
activities package. This guide can be used before, during,
or after the tour to help students better understand
the the times immediately following independence, and
the efforts it took to unite a new nation.
mid- April to late October 31, Wednesday - Saturday,
10am - 4pm; Sunday 12 - 4pm.
Adults $4.00, Children under 12 and Seniors $2.00.