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:
- Carriage Barn Education & Visitor's Center
- The Farm Road-part of the Bedford Riding Lanes Association trails for horse riders
- The Formal Gardens-located through the white gate, a fountain and sundial form the centers, beautifully maintained by the Bedford Garden Club
- The "Ha-ha's"-tall barriers built to keep grazing livestock from getting near the house, but invisible when looking down the lawn
- The Herb Garden-created in 1991 on the site of an historic cutting garden and greenhouse. Maintained by the Herb Society.
- Ice Pond-created for producing ice in the winter to use year-round, now a picturesque spot. The road down to the pond is part of the Tree Walk, lined with Red Maples
- North Court Garden-on the north side of the main house, between the wings. It beautifies the accessible entrance as well as displays a sampling of plants around the site. Maintained by the Hopp Ground Garden Club
- Picnic area-picnic benches are scattered throughout the picturesque site
- Tree Walk-experience the leafy landscape created by John Jay. Highlights include: Linden (Tilia americana), Red Maples (Acer rubrum) and European Beech (Faga sylvatica) trees, all historic and gorgeous.