Peter Augustus Jay House &
the John Jay Heritage Center
the information for our list of places in the Hudson
Valley, we've seen just about everything and
in some ways have become just a little immune to being
exceptionally impressed. We arrived at the Peter Augustus
Jay House after months of visiting sites and after having
a lot of difficulty finding the place. It's hard to
find. When we finally discovered the sign and made the
turn into the drive we stopped and backed up thinking
we had made yet another mistake. But no, it was the
There are weeds everywhere and the
drive is all cracked and in a terrible state of disrepair.
Once you are on the driveway you'll swear, like we did,
that this cannot be right. But keep going because you
are about to experience one of the greatest surprises
and hidden secrets in the Hudson Valley.
Just a short way down the driveway
you'll make a quick turn and suddenly looming up before
you is a towering columned Greek Revival portico gleaming
white in the bright sun. To actually see the thing you
have to stop and lean your head out the window and look
up, you are that close. The driveway has suddenly arrived
at the front entrance to the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay
Peter Augustus Jay was the son of
John Jay, Founding Father, President of the Continental
Congress, negotiator of the Treaty of Paris ending the
American Revolution and first Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court. John Jay grew up on this land as a child, then
a bucolic farm overlooking Long Island Sound. His son,
Peter Augustus, became a wealthy farmer and businessman
and created this amazing home in 1838. Over the years
it passed out of the family until it was finally abandoned
to the elements in the middle of the 20th century. Now
the surrounding land is the Marshlands Conservancy encompassing
the great meadow between the mansion and the sound,
the largest meadow on Long Island Sound.
The mansion and associated carriage
house now comprise the John Jay Heritage Center which
is attempting to rescue the mansion and restore its
interiors as well as present exhibitions on the heritage
of John Jay and his impact on America. The museum exhibits
are friendly and kid accessible in an open and towering
room in the carriage house. The mansion itself is still
But that is part of the amazing fun
of the place. Some of the mansion, like the front portico,
have been restored to their amazing grandeur. Just past
the front doors, you enter a home in a state of shambles.
Tattered bits of wall paper still stick to the walls,
moldings hang, interior doors are akimbo and an overwhelming
sense of neglect infuse the place. But the truly amazing
part is that once your eyes adjust to the gloom, it's
all still there, the bits and pieces of the house are
still in place. Over the passing centuries the details
of the house are intact or sufficiently in evidence
to be brought back. Small samples of the restoration
and architectural drawings evidence what this place
will eventually be transformed into.
The mansion is a project caught mid-act.
You are invited in to see what is going on. Chances
are that while you are there a carpenter or glazier
will be at work shoring up as window or correcting a
lean. You have the opportunity to enter the past and
actually touch an historic restoration as it labors
fitfully along. In this house you are literally in the
presence of the founding of American Democracy, in these
rooms the great and mighty of New York visited and talked.
Down a path in the woods of the Marshlands
Conservancy is a small family cemetery where John Jay
and Peter Jay and their descendants are buried. One
of the Founding Fathers of America still resides at
his ancestral home, observing the passage of time, inviting
you to visit this most extraordinary work in progress
and be surprised as you round that bend.
This National Historic Landmark is
the site of Founding Father John Jay's boyhood home.
The Jay Heritage Center is restoring and preserving
the 1838 Greek Revival Peter Augustus Jay House, and
the 1907 Classical Revival Carriage House as an education
center for American history and culture. These buildings
are open to the public during the restoration process.
From the veranda of the Jay House, the visitor enjoys
a timeless and dramatic vista over the fields of Marshlands
Conservancy to Long Island Sound and Long Island itself.
The mission of the Jay Heritage Center
is to restore the Jay House and Carriage House and establish
educational programs related to the site’s historical
cultural and environmental significance. The Peter Augustus
Jay House (1838) is the center piece of the National
Historic Landmark District.
Collections include books, information,
photographs, records, video and audio tapes about the
Jay property and Boston Post Road Historic District,
oral histories, newspapers, local history. Research
access is by request only.
The Heritage Center maintains an exhibits,
“John Jay; American Greek Revival Architecture,”
and “Layers of Paint/Layers of History.”
Guided and self-guided tours of Boston Post Road Historic
District; teacher workshops: domestic architecture unit;
family programs, children’s Architecture Detective
March thru December on
Wednesdays & Sundays at 2:30.