Tag Archives: Jay Heritage Center

Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey To Present Jay Lecture


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Rose HarveyThe John Jay Lecture, jointly sponsored by Pace Law School and the Jay Heritage Center, will be held on April 29th at the Jay Estate in Rye, NY, the National Historic Landmark property where Jay grew up as a child and which he owned and managed from 1813 to 1822 before passing it on to his eldest son Peter.

The speaker this year is Hon. Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) of the State of New York. Harvey will speak on the topic “Stewardship of New York’s Cultural & Natural History”. Continue reading

Jay Heritage Center Celebrates Black History Month


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freedoms gardener 001The Jay Heritage Center invites you to celebrate Black History Month with two exceptional speakers who will talk about the free African American experience in antebellum New York on Saturday, February 8, 2014 10:00am – 12:30pm.

Author, Dr. Myra Young Armstead, Professor of History, Director of Africana Studies at Bard will talk about her book Freedom’s Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America. She will share insights from her research about the free black experience in 19th century New York as revealed in a handwritten diary kept for almost four decades by James F. Brown. Continue reading

Jay Heritage Center Hosting Downton Abbey Talk


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Downtown Abbey at Jay Heritage CenterWhether you love learning about period homes or just can’t wait for Downton Abbey Season 4 to start (January 5, 2014) join the Jay Heritage Center and learn more about the architectural and cultural history of Highclere with Curt DiCamillo, a noted authority on British country estates.

In 1836, Peter Augustus Jay and his wife Mary Rutherfurd Clarkson took down the battered 1745 farmhouse that had long been the original country seat of the Jay family. The soaring Greek Revival mansion that took its place was meticulously planned in the “English stile” which Peter and Mary would have seen during trips to Europe. Continue reading

A New Academic Conference at Jay Heritage Center


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constitution week 016This past September 18 – 20, in launching the first of what it hopes to be many academic conferences at its site, the Jay Heritage Center (JHC) faced a welcome challenge: to select a topic, a keynote speaker, and partner institutions sure to generate vigorous, enlightened and thought provoking discussions.

As a member site of NY’s Path Through History for its themes on Civil Rights and suitably inspired by our nation’s observation of Constitution Week each fall, JHC asked acclaimed scholar, author and Yale Law School Professor, Akhil Reed Amar to speak “On the Nature of Constitutions.” Continue reading

Landmarks of New York Photography Exhibit Opening


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Landmarks Photography.jpgThe Jay Heritage Center kicks off NY Heritage Weekend and the Path Through History Weekend with the opening of their first major photography exhibit, The Landmarks of New York, on Sunday June 2nd at 3pm.

The show fills their newly configured gallery space at the 1907 Carriage House and includes a collection of 90 black and white photos documenting a select cross-section of New York City’s best loved architectural treasures. Continue reading

Manumission Document Tells Story Emancipation in NY


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The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) has announce the gift of an original manumission document for its African American History collection. The word “manumission” means to emancipate or free from bondage.

Manumission documents like this one issued by a New York slaveholder are rare. In this instance, the signatory freeing a slave known only by the name of “Lewis,” is identified as Richard Hatfield, Jr. Hatfield was the son of a leading lawyer, Richard Hatfield, Sr. (1750 -1813) a delegate to the NY State Convention that ratified the constitution. It is recorded that he inherited land (and presumably slaves) that stretched “from the Scarsdale or “Indian Line of Marked Trees” to, or almost to, the then Road to Rye Neck, (now Old Mamaroneck Road, Gedney Way and Mamaroneck Avenue). His property would have passed to his son, Richard Hatfield, Jr. who was an attorney as well.

Instruments like this one were often recorded in the Libers of Conveyances in the Recorder’s Office of the City of New York, usually at the request of the freed slave as an added protection. Another signature on the paper that merits interest is that of Richard Riker (1773-1842) who served as NY Recorder, prior to and after John Jay’s eldest son, Peter Augustus Jay.

But unlike Jay and Jay’s fellow members of the NY Manumission Society who actively fought to end slave trafficking, Riker is rumored to have been complicit in the kidnapping of freed blacks for purposes of selling them back into slavery. This document helps vividly narrate a chapter in African American history when freedom was not only hard won but also uncertain to last; even elected officials could not be trusted to abide by legal writs.

The document was donated by Carol Ubosi nee Smith of the Purdy, Bell and Potter families who have resided in Westchester County since the 1700s. It was found in the 1980s by Ms. Ubosi’s mother, May Potter Smith, amongst several nineteenth century items in the attic of their family home in Harrison. Although this important story was carefully preserved in a family bible, it is still not known how “Lewis” was connected to the Purdy/Bell family of Harrison. A search for further information and context is ongoing.

Last fall, after contacting JHC president Suzanne Clary for research help about the historic African Cemetery in Rye where her ancestors are buried, Ubosi expressed her interest in making the gift to JHC where it could be made available to area schools and scholars. Ubosi grew up in Mamaroneck and New Rochelle and lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. She attended Central State University in Ohio and has taught in White Plains and Silver Spring. She is presently working on a book about the genealogy of her family with Alesia McFadden, a historian of African American History. As an educator, Ubosi hopes this manumission document will shed some light on the rich history of African-Americans living in Westchester and inspire others to explore and share their own family heritage

The Jay Heritage Center is equally delighted that this primary source will be shared with the many middle school history classes who regularly come through its doors to learn about African American History in New York and Westchester. “When students ask us, ‘What does manumission mean?’ says Clary, “this remarkable document will tangibly show them one man’s transition from servitude to freedom almost 200 years ago. The mere fact of its existence demonstrates how precious this paper was to its owner and his descendants. For those families who will see it firsthand at our site it will prompt the necessary questions that are central to an ongoing discussion about the evolution of social justice in our country.” The Jay Heritage Center has been a member site of the African American Heritage Trail since 2004; John Jay and his family played active roles in abolishing slavery in New York.

Jay Heritage Center Awards First John Jay Medals


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Jay Heritage Center (JHC) Founder Catherine “Kitty” Aresty and New York Preservation Advocate, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel were recipients of the 1st Annual “John Jay Medal for Service” awarded at JHC’s 20th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, October 13, 2012.

In keeping with the legacy of one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers, the John Jay Medal recognizes individuals who demonstrate a selfless spirit of commitment and engagement with their community.

As an early member of the Jay Coalition, Catherine “Kitty” Aresty helped harness the energy of thousands of volunteers and citizens to save the Jay Property when it was threatened by commercial development in the early 1980s. She was one of 5 dynamic women who formed the vanguard for preservation of the site, finally securing a victory in 1992 but her total commitment to seeing the property restored for public use extends more than 30 years including 22 consecutive years on the JHC Board.

Similarly, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s career spans more than 40 years. She has been a pioneering champion of preservation and the arts, credited with bringing the first public art to Bryant Park and the first public performance to Central Park. The first Director of Cultural Affairs for New York City, she was the longest term Landmarks Commissioner in the city’s history, spanning four mayoral administrations from 1972 to 1987. Her expertise and advocacy of historic preservation has garnered her countless honors and prestigious appointments from nor fewer than 4 US Presidents. Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the current Vice Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino served as Honorary Co-Chairs of the evening which drew over 170 people from Manhattan, Westchester and Greenwich to the National Historic Landmark site. While the event also marked an important 2 decade milestone for the organization, adding to the festive feeling was the recent announcement of a public private partnership between JHC, New York State Parks and Westchester County to manage and restore the entire 23 acre Jay estate as a historic park and educational resource. The site has been a member of Westchester County’s African American Heritage Trail since 2004 and was added to the prestigious Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area following its nomination in 2008 by County Legislator Judy Myers.

JHC President Suzanne Clary commended the men, women and coalition of non-profits that first saved Jay’s home but also emphasized the “new coalition” they are forming with other museums and preservation groups like the NY Preservation League, The Landmarks Conservancy, Audubon NY, the World Monuments Fund and more. Congresswoman Lowey recognized the power of bi-partisan support that continues to guide JHC’s success.

Ken Jenkins, Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators presented a proclamation to both honorees and added his strong words of support for the Jay Heritage Center’s mission to revitalize one of Westchester’s premiere heritage destinations. Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye brought accolades from Sen. Suzi Oppenhiemer and personally congratulated the two medal awardees on their vision and tenacity; he reminded the audience how dilapidated the Jay site was when first acquired and how miraculous its transformation had been under JHC’s trusted stewardship. Both honorees gave moving remarks and thanks and underscored the continued need to stay “passionate” about preservation.

The theme of the night was Roaring 20s – guests dressed in everything from raccoon coats and spats to flapper dresses and boas made for an evening that was simply “the bees knees!” Proceeds form the event benefit JHC’s programs which benefit schools through Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley region.

Learn more about the Jay Heritage Center at www.jaycenter.org

Jay Heritage, County Reach Agreement on John Jay Property


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Responsibility for the full restoration and long–term maintenance of the historic John Jay property in Rye, NY, the boyhood home of a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice, will be turned over to the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), under terms of a license agreement announced late last week by Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino at a news conference at the site.

According to a statement issued to the press the agreement is designed to ensure the preservation of the nationally significant property and serve as a model of cooperative stewardship that can be emulated nationwide. “It will also advance shared goals of New York State, Westchester County and non-profits like JHC to promote heritage tourism by making historic resources more accessible to the public,” the statement said.

“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay property, saving it from demolition,” Astorino said. “Now the county is stepping in again with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”

The property is located adjacent to the county’s Marshlands Conservancy. Westchester County and New York State jointly own 21.5 acres of the site; the Jay Heritage Center owns the other 1.5-acre parcel, which contains the 1838 Jay House, built by Jay’s son on the site where his father grew up.

The new license agreement will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in significant capital infrastructures to the Jay Heritage Center, which will raise funds as a private 501(c)3 and also apply for grants. Tax deductible donations from individuals and corporations will be accepted to help restore the historic meadow, the gardens, the apple orchards and rehabilitate historic structures for public educational uses as lecture halls, classical music spaces and art galleries.

At a press conference at the site, Astorino was joined by Rye City Mayor Doug French and Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), as well as New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth to announce the agreement, which must be approved by the county’s Parks Board, the Board of Acquisition and Contract, and the State Comptroller’s Office.

The Jay Property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.

Most recently in 2009, it became 1 of only 100 Congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area based on the importance of its architecture, its landscape and themes of freedom and dignity that its 10,000-year-old history embodies.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said the JHC’s Clary.

Deputy Commissioner Alworth also praised the agreement, saying: “Partnership agreements such as this one have been highly successful in enhancing the quality of parks and historic sites for the visiting public. The Jay Heritage Center has done an impressive job restoring the historic house, and I’m confident they will continue their excellent stewardship of the site. This public-private partnership will ensure the John Jay property remains a valued recreational and cultural resource for Westchester residents and visitors alike.”

The main terms of the agreement are:

· The county and state, as owners, will grant a 10-year license, which is renewable after the initial term, to the Jay Heritage Center for the use of the property. This will give the JHC the ability to raise funds to operate the park and make improvements.

· The county and state will have the right to approve or disapprove any physical alterations to the property.

· The property will continue to be operated and maintained as state and county parkland and will be accessible to the general public. The JHC may establish admission fees, subject to approval by the state and the county consistent with county fee structures.

· JHC will create and pay for a specific maintenance and restoration schedule detailed in the agreement, dealing with landscape, invasive plant removal and restoration of historic structures, among other things.

· The county will continue to police the property.

· The county will no longer spend approximately $25,000 annually to maintain the property, and JHC will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and the capital improvements that the property requires.

· The county will remain responsible for the costs of any environmental remediation that may be required on the property for conditions that existed prior to the license agreement. Any environmental remediation required as a result of JHC’s restoration work will be the responsibility of JHC.

Photo:Top Row: JHC Board members Emma Hanratty, Jim Kelsey (JHC Vice President,) Lauren Lambert, Michael Kovner (JHC Vice President); Bill Mooney, Senior Assistant to County Executive, Joe Sack ,Rye City Council

Second Row: Deputy County Executive, Kevin Plunkett, Frank Sanchis, World Monuments Fund and JHC Advisory Board, JHC Board member Cathy Rosenstock, Julie Killian, Rye City Council and Tom O’Handley, Audubon NY

Third Row: JHC Board Member Charlene Laughlin, Anne Van Ingen, Preservation League of NY State, Patricia Mulqueen, Con Edison Community Relations Westchester, JHC Founder, Kitty Aresty, Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye

Front Row: Tom Alworth, New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, Suzanne Clary, JHC President and Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive.

Jay Heritage Center Presents:Alan Taylor’s ‘The Slave War of 1812′


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The Jay Heritage Center will offer its third program commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 this year on Thursday, September 6th with a new talk and book signing by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alan Taylor previewing his latest book project about the Slave War of 1812.

During the War of 1812, more than 3,000 slaves escaped from Virginia and Maryland by stealing boats to reach British warships in Chesapeake Bay, where they were taken on board and employed.

Alan Taylor, professor of history at the University of California, Davis, and the Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Fellow, will discuss how their help proved essential to the British coastal raids, particularly the capture of Washington, D.C. Taylor’s previous books include William Cooper’s Town (Knopf, 1996), which won the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes for American history. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (Knopf, 2010), was called “the most illuminating and original history of the conflict ever written.” Pulitzer-winning historian Gordon Wood, writing in The New York Review of Books, called it “remarkable and deeply researched,” adding, “Taylor masterfully captures the strangeness of this war.” Copies of Taylor’s books will be available for purchase and signing. Refreshments will be served.

The event, which is part of Jay Heritage Center’s 2012 Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, September 6, 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM, at at the 1907 Van Norden Carriage House, Jay Heritage Center, 210 Boston Post Road, in Rye, Westchester County, NY.

The Annual Meeting will also include the President’s Report, the re-election of Trustees for the Class of 2015 (Emma Hanratty, Michael A. Kovner, and Thomas R. Mercein) and the Election of Trustees of the Class of 2015 (Samuel W. Croll III, Lauren Lambert, and Cathy Rosenstock).

Those who are unable to attend can sign and mail a proxy, or submit a proxy by e-mail. Contact jayhc@earthlink.net for more information.

John Jay’s Rye Home Draws Over 1,200 for Fall Fest


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Growing exponentially in membership support from Westchester and Fairfield counties, the Jay Heritage Center (JHC) recently hosted its annual Fall Family Festival, celebrating American culture and traditions. Highlights included costumed tours of JHC’s Sesquicentennial Civil War Exhibit “The Jays and the Abolition of Slavery” along with traditional music and activities for all ages.

The event was organized by JHC’s Young Preservationists, a group of parents committed to the adaptive reuse of John Jay’s landmark home as a community learning center for children and adults, a place furnished with lively ideas and people, not just furniture. The fresh vision of co-presidents, Emma Hanratty and Caroline Wallach had great resonance as over 1200 people showed up to applaud their efforts while munching on crisp autumn apples and sipping cider. The weather held as parents and kids painted pumpkins and ran 3 legged races in the old Jay meadow; the property thrummed with traditional folk tunes like Oh Susannah provided by the duo Cracked Walnuts. Nate the jackstock donkey was back courtesy of Tilly Foster Farm and reminded visitors that the Jay estate was once itself a working farm with plentiful crops and gardens. Farmer’s market offerings of pumpkin muffins and homemade jams were on hand thanks to Meredith’s Bread from Kingston while Cocoa out of neighboring Larchmont satisfied sweet cravings with artisanal chocolates and brownies. The place was filled with butterflies – both the winged wildlife that naturally adorns the landscape as well as vivid butterfly painted faces and balloon animals to take home courtesy of James Daniels.

Grownups had plenty to see too as veteran JHC archaeologist, Dr. Eugene Boesch, displayed the Paleo Indian and archaic woodland artifacts he has recovered from the grounds of this national treasure including a 4000 year old projectile point. Bruce Macdonald of Ashwood Restoration opened up his preservation workshop and explained the challenges involved in recreating mahogany spindles for the mansion’s 19th century staircase. At the 1907 Carriage House, families saw a sustainable dollhouse and learned that their footprints matter in a power point presentation on invasive trees and plants threatening New York State habitats. But many parents and grandparents were content to just sit in wicker rockers on the veranda to watch their children play and drink in the unequalled view of New York State’s oldest man-managed meadow a vista famously dubbed “a time funnel” to the past.

The event was part of the Hudson River Valley Ramble weekend which celebrates American heritage in New York State. It also coincided with President Obama’s call to service for National Public Lands, encouraging volunteers all over America to get more involved in the parks they love like the Jay Property.

For more information on future Jay Heritage Center and Young Preservationist events and volunteer opportunities go to www.jaycenter.org or friend them on Facebook.

Photo: Jack Lundin sports Union blue like many of John Jay’s descendants did during the Civil War.

Huntington Painting Returns to Historic Jay Estate


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The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) celebrated the recent anniversary of John Jay’s birthday on December 12 with news of an extraordinary gift from one of his descendants. In celebration of the continued restoration of the 1838 Jay House in Rye, Ada Hastings of Great Barrington, Massachusetts and her family magnanimously donated a portrait of John Jay’s great granddaughter that once hung in the mansion’s Drawing Room. The luminescent painting of a young Alice Jay by pre-eminent artist Daniel Huntington is documented in sepia toned family photos from 1886; it is visible hanging in a prominent location next to two other famous artworks originally owned by the Jays of Rye: Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of John Jay (which today is on view at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.) and Asher Durand’s depiction of Peter Augustus Jay (which belongs to New York Hospital where Peter Augustus Jay served as President of the Board.

The young subject of the painting, Alice Jay, along with her parents and siblings, lived both in New York and at the Rye estate during the mid and late 19th century. Windows into Alice’s life and times, particularly during the Civil War, are well documented in family letters and diaries. Alice’s father, Dr. John Clarkson Jay, was John Jay’s grandson and a vocal opponent of slavery like his grandfather and father before him. Through the local Episcopal church where he served on the vestry, he was instrumental in spearheading efforts in Rye to recruit volunteers for the Union efforts during the Civil War, a campaign which drew enlistments from Alice’s two older brothers, Peter, who became Captain of a local militia, and John, who served as an assistant surgeon. Alice’s sister kept a diary in which she wrote proudly in 1862, “Rye is called the banner town of the county for she has raised more men by volunteering than any of the other towns.”

The artist of the painting, New Yorker Daniel Huntington (1816 – 1906), trained with Jay family friends and esteemed colleagues like John Trumbull (who accompanied Jay as his secretary to Europe during treaty negotiations but also achieved renown as a painter, most notably for his grand scale Declaration of Independence now at the Capitol Rotunda) and Samuel F. B. Morse (whose successful career as an artist preceded his renown as an inventor and earned him the nickname of “America’s Da Vinci.”) Under the tutelage of men like these, Huntington rose to prominence both during and after the Civil War. He was a member of the National Academy of Design for most of his life and acted as its President for 22 years; he was also Vice-President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 33 years and helped that institution expand and grow in stature.

Perhaps Huntington’s most recognizable work, The Republican Court, was completed in 1861 at the start of one of our nation’s bloodiest engagements. His tableau harkened back to what was sentimentally remembered as a more harmonious time between the states — the initial founding of our union –and it represented an idealized assembly of the leaders of that period (Northern and Southern) in a European, court like setting. The image prominently features John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay and 62 other identifiable personages of the Revolutionary War. Huntington’s painting was reproduced in 1865 as a very popular engraving. The larger original oil painting is owned by the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Winter hours for the Jay Heritage Center are Tuesday through Friday, 10am – 5pm and by appointment. Please call (914) 698-9275 or contact JHC Program Director, Heather Craane at jayhc@earthlink.net to schedule group or school tours. The Jay Heritage Center’s Exhibit commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, “The Jays and the Abolition of Slavery: From Manumission to Emancipation” will open in May 2011.

John Jay’s home in Rye is a National Historic Landmark and a designated site of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area selected for its themes of Environment, Landscape and Gardens, Architecture and Freedom and Dignity. It is one of 13 sites on Westchester County’s African American Heritage Trail.

Illustrations: Above, “The Republican Court” by Daniel Huntington (1861, Brooklyn Museum of Art). John Jay is depicted in the crimson robe on the far left and Sarah Livingston Jay is opposite him in white in the right foreground. An engraving based on this painting was recently donated to the Jay Heritage Center. Middle, “Alice Jay” by Daniel Huntington; Below, an 1886 photograph of the Jay Drawing Room. Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Jay is on the left of the mirror and Asher Durand’s portrait of Jay’s eldest son Peter is on the right.

County Must Clean-Up Soil Dumped at Jay Heritage Site


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The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) in Rye, N.Y., is expressing its gratitude to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for the speed with which it followed up on the problems of contaminated fill on the historically and environmentally important Jay Heritage Site property.

In January, the Westchester Parks Department added fill to the grounds of the Jay Heritage Center that contained obvious trash and debris. JHC commissioned a independent study of the soils and found that it was also contaminated with SVOCs, pesticides (like DDT and chlordane) arsenic and heavy metals such as lead and chromium. The Jay Property is the boyhood home of Founding Father John Jay who is also buried in a private cemetery at the Rye estate.

Joe Stout, Westchester County Parks and Conservation Commissioner, had declared the fill safe in an email to JHC President, Suzanne Clary and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) on January 25, 2010 which said in part “We are confident that the fill is safe.”

Westchester County has now confirmed however, that it will abide by a DEC request to clean-up the site within 30 days. According to a press release issued by Jay Heritage, in talks with the County Executive’s office, the County assured JHC that this clean-up will be done with full protection of archaeologically sensitive artifacts and in consultation with JHC. Archaeological review will be conducted in historic garden areas and behind an Indoor Tennis House that is thought to be the 3rd oldest in the United States.

JHC president Suzanne Clary said, “We look forward to working with the new County administration and NY State to safeguard and preserve John Jay’s boyhood home in Rye with renewed dedication, and historic and archeological sensitivity.”

Disclosure: Jay Heritage Center is an advertising supporter of New York History.

Photo: Visible Debris in fill at the Jay Heritage Center.

John Jay Descendent Makes Gift of Early Historic Drawings


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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.

10,000 Years of Pre-History in Rye at Jay Heritage Center


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Rye boasts unique prehistoric resources including one of the top 12 important Paleo-Indian archaeological sites in New York State. In studying the Jay Property since 1982, archaeologists, including the late Prof. Byland, and Dr. Boesch have found compelling evidence of early tribal settlement, hunting and fishing patterns substantiated by numerous artifacts including quartz projectile points and decorated pottery shards. There will be an opportunity to see these specimens up close and learn what they tell us about pre-historic life in Rye during a lecture this Sunday, September 27th, at 4:00pm in the 1907 Van Norden Carriage House at the Jay Heritage Center – 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House, Rye, NY.

Archaeologist Dr. Eugene Boesch has been researching the Jay Property since 2006 conducting documentary research and archaeological investigations which uncovered evidence for the 18th century Jay home known as “The Locusts” and earlier Native American occupations on the property dating back at least 4,000 years.

This special lecture is endowed in memory of the late Prof. Bruce Byland a member of the faculty of Lehman College of the City University of New York. In the New York area he worked with the Metropolitan Forensic Anthropology Team in the identification of the remains of Pierre Toussaint, since Beatified by the Catholic Church, and in the excavation of New York’s colonial African Cemetery. He was the catalyst for a multi-year archaeological study of the Boston Post Road Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, with the Jay Heritage Center. The finds from this excavation are being prepared for future exhibit at the Jay site.

The event is free for Jay Heritage Center members; $5 for non-members.

An Architecture Kids Camp at Jay Heritage Center


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From architraves to anthemia, children age eight to eleven can immerse themselves in the world of New York State’s varied architecture during an architecture camp for kids at the Jay Heritage Center all next week (Mon. August 17 to Fri., August 21, 9:30 am to 1:00 pm). The campers will discover the fundamentals of architecture by studying the Greek Revival 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House, along with the two other 19th-century mansions, which are part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. Kids can learn how Hudson Valley architects like Minard Lafever and AJ Davis championed inspirational designs that still capture our imagination.

With guidance from professionals, each camper will then design and construct their own dream house or a building essential for a city, such as a school or fire department. After learning about the basic principles of zoning, they will organize their buildings on a giant map of the Boston Post Road. Cardboard boxes and other recycled materials are used to create the colorful, bustling mini city. This year the campers will also learn about green building and how historic structures can be environmentally sustainable.

The cost is $200 per camper. The Jay Heritage Center is located at 210 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY 10580. Limited enrollment. For further information call 914-698-9275 or e-mail jayhc@earthlink.net.

Photo: The Greek Revival Architecture exhibit in the 1907 Carriage House at the Jay Heritage Center, Rye. NY.

Welcome Our New Sponsor, The Jay Heritage Center


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Please join me in welcoming The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) as our new sponsor for New York History. Support from advertisers like JHC helps make this site possible. If you are interested in supporting us and extending your brand through advertising targeting those interested in New York history, let us know.

The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) in the lower Hudson valley in Rye, New York was chartered in 1993 to oversee restoration of John Jay’s boyhood property in Rye, including the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House. The site has been closed for a time due to extensive restoration but has recently re-opened. The JHC was recently named to the Hudson River Valley Heritage Area. The grounds and pastoral landscape of the 23 acre scenic 1745 Jay Property are a must see for visitors interested in American History, Social Justice, Landscape Preservation and Environmental Stewardship as well as lively place for concerts, interactive theatre and art shows. The site also has a a great Quadricentennial Exhibit. “A Legacy of Sailing-Residents of the Jay Estate and Yachting New York 1843-1966.”

Begun in the spring of 2008, New York History has already grown to be the state’s most popular online journal about New York State history. The site has become a go-to state news resource for those interested in New York history from the academic to the lay traveler and resident and for those outside the state who want to stay current on history news happening in the state, the latest books, and events and exhibits.

Experience War of 1812 Sinking of Hamilton & Scourge


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Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 6 pm, War of 1812 sailor Ned Myers will be telling his lively tale of the sinking of the Hamilton & the Scourge at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, N.Y. To be completely accurate, an authentically costumed James H. Fischer will relate the story of the famous shipwrecks’ survivor in this presentation for the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series. Fischer’s presentation will also include a series of Jacques Cousteau slides of lake bottom vessels.


Seaman Myers lived to tell his story to noted American author James Fenimore Cooper. Fischer, a marine consultant who has studied the underwater history of Lake Ontario for 22 years, draws on Myers’ narrative as told to Cooper for A Life Before the Mast. Fischer shares fascinating details of the moments before a squall surprised captain and crew.

The wrecks of the two merchant ships – Hamilton, built as Diana in Oswego, NY, and the Scourge, originally Lord Nelson, were discovered in 1973 and are considered to have national historic significance to both the U.S. and Canada.

The $5 program fee benefits educational programming at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center, Ray and West Main Streets, Sackets Harbor, NY. For more information, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Photo: James H. Fischer in 19th century sailor’s dress is seen below the bust of U.S. merchant ship Diana purchased in Oswego and converted in Sacketts Harbour in 1812 as the US naval warship Hamilton.

Jay Heritage Center’s 400th Yachting & Sailing Exhibit


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The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) in the lower Hudson valley in Rye, New York was chartered in 1993 to oversee restoration of John Jay’s boyhood property in Rye, including the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House. The site has been closed for a time due to extensive restoration but has recently re-opened. The JHC was recently named to the Hudson River Valley Heritage Area. The grounds and pastoral landscape of the 23 acre scenic 1745 Jay Property are a must see for visitors interested in American History, Social Justice, Landscape Preservation and Environmental Stewardship as well as lively place for concerts, interactive theatre and art shows. The site also has a a great Quadricentennial Exhibit. “A Legacy of Sailing-Residents of the Jay Estate and Yachting New York 1843-1966.”

Owners of the historic Jay Estate in Rye and their families shared a passion for the water and were influential members of the New York sailing community: John Clarkson Jay was one of the founders of the historic New York Yacht Club, owner of the yacht, “La Coquille” and a consultant to Commodore Matthew Perry following his 1852 -54 Expedition to Japan; the Van Norden patriarch, a member of the Holland Society, was one of the original organizers of the 1909 Henry Hudson Tercentenary that celebrated New York’s most vital waterway while applauding the contributions of European culture to this state’s development and commerce; Edgar Palmer, famed Princeton philanthropist, owned several famous yachts including two schooners named “Guinevere” that were legendary for their state of the art technology—both vessels were commissioned to the US Navy in World War I and World War II for special escort patrol.

The exhibit explores the rich history of yachting in New York and features the same pristine view of Long Island Sound from the 1838 Jay mansion that inspired these sailing families when they lived in Rye. Among the unique items are extensive collections of 1909 Hudson Fulton Tercentenary memorabilia including post cards, banners, silver and bronze medals for the 1909 Commission; original engraved invitations, programs and silverware from Tiffany’s; vintage photographs of the 1909 naval parade; 100 year old ship plans of the replica Half Moon and Clermont; maritime photographs from Mystic Seaport’s unparalleled Rosenfeld Collection; an original 1916 scrapbook documenting the very first of the NY 40 design regattas from Long Island Sound all the way to Marblehead and more.

The exhibit is just one reason to visit the site. According to the JHC website:The Jay Property in Rye is the boyhood home of New York State’s only native Founding Father, John Jay (1745-1829). Located next to a marshlands preserve with public trails, this sylvan and historic 23 acre park is all that remains of the original 400 acre Jay family estate where America’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and author of The Jay Treaty grew up. Located just 35 minutes from Manhattan, the Property has an 8000 year old scenic vista of Long Island Sound over a meadow bordered by sunken stone ha-ha walls, a European garden design feature added by Jay’s eldest son circa 1822. It is also located on the historic Boston Post Road where mile marker “24” out of 230, designated in 1763 by Jay’s colleague, Benjamin Franklin, is set into the perimeter wall.

The centerpiece of this National Historic Landmark is an 1838 Greek Revival mansion with soaring Corinthian columns built by Peter Augustus Jay atop the footprint of his father and grandfather’s original home “The Locusts” reusing original timbers and nails from the same house. Visitors can literally see the layers of history being uncovered here. The PA Jay House is being carefully restored and managed by the not-for-profit organization, the Jay Heritage Center (JHC) for use as an educational facility hosting Programs in American History, Social Justice, Landscape Conservation and Environmental Stewardship. The house is an official project of the Save America’s Treasures Program and at 170 years old, it is the oldest National Historic Landmark structure in New York State to be using an energy efficient geothermal heating and cooling system. It was recently designated as an important site in the Hudson River Valley Heritage Area list because of its architectural significance and best green management practices.

The African American Heritage Trail of Westchester County lists the Jay property as one of 13 significant sites worth visiting. John Jay is well known for advocating emancipation, serving as President of the Manumission Society and establishing the first African Free School.

Visitors to our National Historic Landmark site see and learn about:

-an 8000 year old Paleo Indian viewsshed of Long Island Sound — arrowheads and pottery have been found by archaeologists on this site revealing a rich cultural heritage. See the oldest managed meadow on record in all of New York State, an unparalleled scenic view!

-the land where the only Founding Father native to New York grew up and is buried with his descendants; John Jay learned to ride her in Rye as a boy, developing his lifelong love of nature; the Jay Property was a refuge he returned to time and again to be with parents, his son and grandchildren. It is here that Jay’s character was shaped, and led him to serve in every branch of government including first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and Governor of New York.

-the landmarked Boston Post Road with its mile marker placed by Benjamin Franklin; a stretch of road distinguished by three pre- Civil War architectural gems, Whitby, Lounsberry and the 1838 Jay Mansion, all intact in their landscapes.

-a magnificent 170 year old Greek (and “green”) Revival Building that is an official Save America’s Treasures project and also the oldest NHL in all of New York State with a working geothermal heating and cooling pump system, and the first NHL in Westchester County to use such a sustainable system

-a site on the African American Heritage Trail that was home of one America’s leading families in the fight to abolish slavery; a place where slaves worked and were emancipated; the home of Peter Augustus Jay who was an eloquent advocate for African American suffrage in New York State at the 1821 Convention

Photos: The 1838 Jay Mansion and an Aerial View of Jay Property and Neighboring Nature Sanctuary.