Nestled in the rolling Westchester countryside is the gracious home and farm of John Jay (1745-1829), one of America's principal Founding Fathers. Jay co-authored the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, and the Federalist Papers, which aided ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He served as President of the Continental Congress, U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the second governor of New York State.
During many years of devoted service to the State and the Nation, he looked forward to the day when he would retire with his wife and children to "the house on my farm in Westchester County..." 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.
John Jay Homestead presents: Moments in Time: Photographs from the Jay Collection, a special exhibit now open in the Back Parlor Gallery. Moments in Time presents photographs of Jay family members between 1840s and 1930s and captures their lives at home, at play, travelling the world, and at the service of their country in war and peace.
Photographs presented include those taken of Jay family members in Vienna by Austrian Imperial Court photographers in the 1870s, and an original Matthew Brady photograph of a Jay family wedding party on the front steps of the main house from 1863. Also included are rare daguerreotypes taken of Jays before the Civil War and early 20th century photo albums showing family members on vacation and enjoying recreation.
The exhibit can be viewed during regular tours of the John Jay Homestead historic house museum. All photographs, reproductions and albums on display are part of the John Jay Homestead's archival collection.
Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near the historic site:
May 1 - October 15
Hourly House Tours: Wednesday-Sunday, 1pm-4pm
25-Minute Highlight Tours: Saturdays during Farm Market, 10am, 10:30am, 11am, 11:30am
Discovery Centers: Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm
October 16 - April 30
Hourly House Tours: Thursday-Saturday, 1pm-3pm
Discovery Center: Closed for the season
School and group visits are by appointment only. Please call the site at 914.232.5651 for more information.
Historic sites charge a vehicle use fee and/or admittance fee at various times and locations throughout the year. A list of fees is available below. For program fees or to verify information, please contact the site directly.
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site invites you and your class to learn about the life of Founding Father John Jay and to explore the exciting times in which he lived. The historic house has been restored to look as it did during John Jay's lifetime. Students get a first-hand look at the changing nature of everyday life by comparing today's lifestyles with those of Jay's era. A variety of programs allow teachers to select visits or outreach programs that complement and coincide with their own curriculum. All age groups use the house and furnishings as a resource to develop enthusiasm for the past and an understanding of the founding of the United States.
John Jay Homestead has developed all education programs to meet current State and Common Core curriculum standards. These programs encourage students to use the critical thinking skills of a historian or social scientist by requiring them to read, analyze, apply, synthesize and evaluate historical information.
The education staff will work with teachers to design programs around specific curriculum needs such as Document Based Questions.
Slavery, Slavery and the Jay Family: What is the difference between a servant and a slave? What is the difference between abolition and manumission? Why did many of the Founding Fathers historic house museum and study primary sources, including objects and documents, your students will come to understand John Jay's conflicting attitudes as slave owner and manumission advocate and learn about his son William's role in the abolition movement. They will also learn about the lives of some of the actual servants and slaves who lived at the Homestead. continue to own slaves as they established a new nation where "all men are created equal?" We provide an immersive, hands-on experience that will help your students answer these and other probative questions.
After a lifetime of public service, John Jay and his family retired to his farm in Bedford in 1801. Jay had been the chief negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, and had served as Chief Justice, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and as a two-term Governor of New York. Jay's wife, Sarah, died shortly after moving to Bedford and Jay never remarried. Upon John Jay's death in 1829, the farm and home were inherited by William Jay, John's second son. William Jay became a prominent leader of abolitionists, and the Homestead became a center in the anti-slavery movement.
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site's current special exhibition, Reflections On Our Past: A Viewer Response Exhibit, is presently on view in the museum's Back Parlor Gallery. The exhibit includes a wide variety of objects that are taken from the site's collection storage rooms, things that are not normally displayed. The objects are not thematically or chronologically linked. Some are true treasures, while others are everyday objects: everything from John Jay's 18th-century silver shoe buckles to a Civil War period sword, from portraits to rare documents, from old tools to precious luxury objects. An equally wide variety of people from the community, including scholars, neighbors, and schoolchildren, were invited to select an object and submit a creative response to it. Some contributed essays, others poems, and still others drawings and photographs. Their responses can be viewed in guidebooks available in the gallery. The result is a wide-ranging exhibit that will be interesting to all ages.
Reflections On Our Past can be viewed both as part of a regular tour of the historic house, and by itself, during special gallery hours held on Sundays from noon to 2:00, and on Mondays from 10:00 to noon.
Pages & Pictures is a film and book club; every two months we will watch a different film and read the book it was based upon. Free admission. Advance registration optional. Call the site (914-232-5651) or the Friends of John Jay Homestead (914-232-8119) for information on upcoming installments of the series.
Tonight, we discuss the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter. While Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. A race against time, behind enemy lines, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years ofculture.