Morris-Jumel Mansion, Roger Morris Park
65 Jumel Terrace, at 160th Street, east of St. Nicholas
New York, NY 10032
Subway: B or C to 163rd Street Bus: M101, M3 or M18 to 161st Street
Manhattan's oldest surviving house, the Morris-Jumel Mansion atop Harlem Heights, is a monument to colonial grandeur. Built about 1765 as a summer retreat for British colonel Roger Morris and his wife, Mary Philipse, its distinctive style was very advanced for its time. Morris, the son of a successful English architect, may have influenced the Palladian design, which includes a two-story portico and triangular pediment, classical columns, and a large octagonal room at the rear--the first of its kind in the country.
Before the present-day thicket of trees and buildings grew up around the mansion, "Mount Morris" commanded views of downtown Manhattan as well as of New Jersey and Westchester. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Morris, a Loyalist, left for England, during which time the home was occupied in turn by George Washington, British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton, and Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen, the Hessian commander. Each man was drawn by the mansion's military vantage point.
The Jumels spent several years
in France, where they kept company with the Napoleonic
court circle, but settled in the Mansion in 1828.
Eliza Jumel, with her impoverished past and extravagant
habits, was never accepted by New York Society. One
year after her husband's death in 1832 from injuries
sustained in a carriage accident, she married former
Vice President Aaron Burr in the mansion's front parlor.
The union lasted six months, and the couple formally
divorced in 1836. During her waning years, Madame
Jumel was immensely wealthy, but gradually lost her
senses and died in 1865. The City bought the house
from later owners, the Earles, in 1903, and it opened
as a public museum the next year.
The mansion, operated by Morris-Jumel Mansion, Inc., and the surrounding Roger Morris Park are part of the Jumel Terrace Historic District. The mansion has twelve restored period rooms including the octagonal drawing room, a dining room glittering with 19th-century ceramics and glass and Eliza Jumel's chamber, with a bed that is said to have belonged to Napoleon. The third floor is used for temporary exhibitions and houses the archival collection. Research is currently underway for a reinterpretation of the room believed to have been used by George Washington. After extensive exterior restoration work, completed by the City in 1994, the mansion was returned to its former splendor.