Tag Archives: Jay Heritage Center

At Jay Heritage Center: The Greek Revival Era in NY


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Jay Heritage CenterOn December 7th at 3 pm Architectural Historian Barry Lewis will present a free lecture, “New York in the Greek Revival Era 1830 – 1850”, at the Jay Heritage Center, 210 Boston Post Road, in Rye, NY.

The Greek Revival decades were the beginning of the modern era in New York City. Industrialization hit the city by the 1830s completely changing the landscape. Wall Street was re-built for corporate headquarters including a magnificent U.S. Custom House, suburbia was born (around Washington Square), the immigrants and tenement slums arrived (the Five Points) and the modern notion of high-end shopping began when A.T. Stewart opened America’s first department store (today, it houses the NYC Department of Buildings) at Broadway and Chambers Street in 1845. Continue reading

Hudson Valley Ramble At The Jay Heritage Center


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In themeadow 2​The Hudson Valley Ramble came to Rye on Jay Day, Sunday, September 28th. The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) has been participating in this annual event since 2009 when it was named to the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area as a premier destination to study themes of Architecture, Landscape, and Freedom and Dignity.

About 1000 people came to the Jay Estate and soaked up the sunshine, centuries of history and the views. They sampled old fashioned honey crisp apples and homemade donuts and enjoyed traditional entertainments like apple coring and pumpkin decorating. Docents led tours of preservation projects in process including the restoration of a room that is believed to have once housed a collection of 50,000 seashells. Continue reading

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