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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 pursuits.

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.

Visiting the John Jay Homestead

mid- April to late October 31, Wednesday - Saturday, 10am - 4pm; Sunday 12 - 4pm.

Adults $4.00, Children under 12 and Seniors $2.00.

Specifics on visiting the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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