Editor’s Note: This post originally ran in 2010 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.
Take the opportunity to visit the oldest house in Manhattan, one that was George Washington’s headquarters for the Battle of Harlem Heights, during the Revolutionary War. The Morris-Jumel Mansion, at 65 Jumel Terrace in Northern Manhattan, was built in 1765 for British colonel Roger Morris and his wife, Mary, as a country retreat.
The original estate of over 130 acres was called Mount Morris, and sat high on a hill with views of the Harlem River, the Bronx, and Long Island Sound to the east, the New York harbor to the south, and the Hudson River and Jersey Palisades to the west. The Morris family left the house during the war and the house would prove to be a strategic military headquarters. Washington used the house in the fall of 1776 but when Washington was forced to retreat the house was commandeered by British and Hessian troops. Washington returned to the house in 1790 and hosted a dinner that included Thomas Jeffereson, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
After the war, the house became an inn before being bought in 1810 by French immigrant Stephen Jumel, a wealthy wine merchant, and his wife Eliza. The decor and furnishings of the house are mostly from the period the Jumels owned the house, and feature French Empire style furnishings, including a bed said to have belonged to Napoleon.
Eliza participated in Stephen’s business affairs and when he died in 1832 after a tragic accident, Eliza was one of the wealthiest women in New York. At 58 she married 77-year-old Aaron Burr, the former vice president of the United States and most famously known for his ill-fated duel with Alexander Hamilton. Burr apparently tore through her money and Eliza filed for divorce in 1833. It was finalized on the day Burr died in 1836.
Eliza Jumel, a fascinating woman in her own right, lived in the house until her death in 1865, at the age of 90. The house passed to relatives, and several other owners until 1904, when the City of New York bought the property to preserve it as Washington’s headquarters. The house became a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was designated a New York City landmark in 1967. The first-floor interiors were designated in 1975.
The house has had ghostly tales attached to it, including that the spirit of Eliza Jumel is still in residence. The house is important architecturally as the oldest house in Manhattan, and a fine example of the Georgian Palladian style, with an octagon addition at the rear of the house some claim to be the first of its kind in the colonies.
The surrounding brownstone blocks are beautiful, and next door is Sylvan Terrace, a restored block of wood-frame row houses, all fine examples of historic preservation. The Morris-Jumel Mansion is a great trip, and well worth the journey to that other borough.
How to Visit
Address: 65 Jumel Terrace, New York, N.Y.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, children under 12 free.
Directions: Subway C to 163rd Street
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