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Peter Augustus Jay House &
the John Jay Heritage Center

In assembling 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 right place.

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 Mansion.

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 in ruins.

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.

John Jay Heritage Center

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 tours

Visiting the Peter Augustus Jay House

March thru December on Wednesdays & Sundays at 2:30.

Specifics on visiting the Peter Augustus Jay House and the John Jay Heritage Center were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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