September 4, 2013
The Morris-Jumel Mansion
The Morris–Jumel Mansion, also known as the Roger and Mary Philipse Morris House, “Mount Morris” is located at 65 Jumel Terrace in Roger Morris Park in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. It was built in 1765 by Roger Morris, a British military officer, and served as a headquarters for both the British and the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and the exterior was designated a New York City Landmark in 1967, with the interior following in 1975. It is now a house museum.
In 1765 British Colonel Roger Morris and his American wife, Mary Philipse purchased the property. The breezy hilltop location proved an ideal location for the family’s summer home – this northern Manhattan estate stretched from the Harlem to the Hudson Rivers and covered more than 130 acres.
The Mansion is built in the Palladian style, with a second story balcony and a two-story front portico supported by classical columns. The two-story octagon at the rear of the house is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the colonies.
The first floor of the 8,500 square foot house features rooms for family and social gatherings, and includes the parlor in which Madame Eliza Jumel married Aaron Burr in 1833. Across the hall stands the dining room where Washington likely entertained his guests in 1790. At the far end of the hall, the octagonal drawing room provided a grand setting for social gatherings. Bedrooms on the second floor include those of George Washington, Eliza Jumel, and Aaron Burr. The basement houses the colonial-era kitchen and tells the story of domestic servitude at the Mansion. The kitchen features the original hearth and a bee-hive oven as well as a collection of early American cooking utensils.
Today, the house is lavishly decorated with period furnishings and careful reproductions of period carpets and wallpaper. It features nine restored rooms, one of which was Washington’s office. The dining room and Eliza Jumel’s bedchamber are also open. Personal artifacts of Roger Morris, George Washington, Elizal Jumel and Aaron Burr are also part of the museum’s collection.
Through architecture and a diverse collection of decorative arts objects, each room of the Morris-Jumel Mansion reveals a specific aspect of its colorful history from the 18th through the 19th centuries.
Following the success of the American Revolution, the Morris family, who was loyal to the crown, was forced to return to England. Because the Morris’ were Loyalists, the house was confiscated by the Commissioners of Forfeiture, after which it served as a farmhouse and a tavern, “Calumet Hall”, a popular stop along the Albany Post Road.
During the war, the hilltop location of the Mansion was valued for more than its cool summer breezes. With views of the Harlem River, the Bronx, and Long Island Sound to the east, New York City and the harbor to the south, and the Hudson River and Jersey Palisades to the west, Mount Morris proved to be a strategic military headquarters. Shortly after the Battle of Harlem Heights, Washington and his troops left the Mansion and, for a time, it was occupied by British and Hessian forces.
President Washington returned to the Mansion on July 10, 1790, and dined with members of his cabinet. Guests at the table included two future Presidents of the United States: Vice President John Adams and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of War Henry Knox also attended.
The departure of the British at the close of the revolution did not end the upheaval in the life of the Mansion. Serving as an inn for New York City-bound travelers, ownership of the house passed through many hands. Finally, in 1810, the Mansion was restored to its original purpose as a country house by the French emigrant Stephen Jumel and his wife Eliza.
Stephen and Eliza added new doorways and stained glass to the facade of the Mansion. As regular visitors to France, they furnished much of the house in the French Empire style. Many of those objects, including a bed said to have belonged to the Emperor Napoleon, remain in the Mansion today. Anxious to be accepted into New York society, the Jumels remodeled the house, adding the Federal style entrance, and redecorated the interior in the Empire style.
After Stephen’s death in 1832 from injuries he received in a carriage accident,Eliza, who was now one of the wealthiest women in New York City, married the controversial ex-vice president Aaron Burr in the front parlor of the house; she filed for divorce in 1834, which was granted in 1836, shortly before his death.
In 1882, the Jumel heirs broke up the 115 acres of the estate into 1058 lots, upon which numerous row houses were built, some of which today make up the Jumel Terrace Historic District. The house itself was purchased by New York City in 1903 from the owners at the time, the Earles, with the help of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and converted into a museum run by the Washington Headquarters Association; The museum opened in 1904,and was renovated and refurnished in 1945. The house is owned by the Department of Parks and Recreation, and is a member of the Historic House Trust.
Sarah A. Blank
Sarah Blank Design Studio is a high-end architectural design firm that specializes in high-end kitchens, butler’s pantries, libraries, and master bedrooms, bath suites. The firm works predominantly in Fairfield County and Westchester County. Our award winning firm, with 33 years of experience, often works beyond the kitchens and baths of a client’s home, and designs the architectural interiors for many of the projects that have been commissioned.