John Clarkson Jay, Jr. of Massachusetts, a direct descendant of Founding Father, John Jay, together with his wife Emily, has donated two original family drawings to the permanent collection of the Jay Heritage Center. One is a watercolor and the other a pencil sketch; both depict the Jay family’s original home, “The Locusts” and its landscape in Rye circa 1745. John Jay’s family moved to Rye from Manhattan when he was only 3 months old and purchased an expanse of 250 acres between Long Island Sound and the Boston Post Road.
From his childhood upbringing in Rye, John Jay went on to serve in every branch of US government including roles as first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, two term governor of New York State, co-author of the Federalist Papers and negotiator of the Jay Treaty. He is buried in Rye with his family and descendants in a private cemetery. Upon visiting the Jay Property in 1976, the late Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun said, “It was a place that struck me then as symbolic of what was impressive about certain aspects of the latter part of the 18th century—gracious living and status to be sure, but coupled with a sense of responsibility, particularly to government and to the art of getting along together…I am certain that all of us who are here today join in saluting the Jay family for its significant contributions that meant so much when this Nation that we all love was in its precarious infancy.”
“The Locusts” farmhouse will be a recognizable subject to those familiar with another artist’s work, that of renowned American modernist painter Guy Pene du Bois (1884-1958). Du Bois was a student of Robert Henri and a contemporary of Edward Hopper. Since 1938, du Bois’ mural of John Jay and “The Locusts” has adorned the interior of the Caroline O’Day Post Office in Rye. The composition of this WPA work was based on the very same 19th century sketches of the Jay home that have now been donated to the Jay Heritage Center.
While “The Locusts” no longer exists –the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House was built atop its footprint– builders of the Greek Revival mansion salvaged original nails and timbers from the earlier farmhouse and used them in the new construction. The house is currently open for Sunday tours and visitors can see where these fragments were reincorporated into the building.
The newly acquired Jay drawings will be unveiled to the public on Saturday, October 3, 2009 at “Jay Day!” 1:00- 5:00pm. Several of the Jay descendants will also be on hand for this celebration of a legacy preserved. The JHC hopes that the community will be able to see firsthand how beautiful the Jays’ Rye estate once was and imagine it restored to glory and usefulness again.