The MORRIS-JUMEL MANSION was
built as a
summer home in 1765 by Colonel Roger Morris,
a Tory who fled to England during most of the Revolutionary War years,
and his wealthy wife, Mary Philipse Morris, a woman whom a young George
Washington once pursued. Washington
seized this mansion and used it for his headquarters during the
War after retreating from lower Manhattan
on September 14, 1776. Washington
left in mid-October when he was forced to evacuate most of his army
British landings in the Bronx threatened to isolate the Americans on
the island. The Morris house then became the headquarters of British
General Sir Henry Clinton, and finally that of the Hessian commander,
Baron Wilheim von Knyphausen. The house located at 160th Street and
Edgecombe Avenue in upper Manhattan's Washington Heights, has a great
view of Manhattan to the south. Prominent Revolutionary War figures --
both American patriots and those loyal to the crown -- attended
fashionable parties and dinners here. After George Washington was
elected President, his cabinet members including Thomas Jefferson,
Alexander Hsmilton, John Quincy Adams and Henry Knox, met here.
Architecturally the mansion is known for its
early use of Palladian forms, its beautiful Georgian interiors, and what is
thought to be the “country’s first
The house, composed of 19 rooms, took three years to build. It also
had the distinction of being the oldest extant residence in Manhattan
(see the New York Times F.Y.I. column, March 16, 2008).
wealthy French wine merchant, Stephen Jummel, purchased the house
in 1810 and lived there with his wife, Eliza
Bowen Jumel who had been a courtesan and was the mother of an
illegitimate son before marrying Mr Jummel. After Jummel’s death,
58-year old Eliza married former Vice President Aaron
Burr although their marriage was short -- only six months and led to a
messy divorce and much gossip.
Both parties accused the other of being unfaithful (getting a divorce
in New York State was not possible without proof of adultery) and both
were said to be correct. Burr, 77 years old at the time of their
divorce, was alleged to have had an adulterous affair with a
26-year-old woman. Burr called Eliza "the Madam of the Heights." One
contemporary described her as: "born a bastard, in youth a prostitute,
in middle age a social climber, died an eccentric."
Burr suffered a major stroke and died at a Staten Island hotel on September 14, 1836 -- the day his divorce was officially final. Eliza continued to live here alone until her death in 1865. The original property for this estate covered an astoundingly huge part of upper Manhattan -- over 100 acres straight across the island from 145th Street and the Hudson River to the East River. New York City bought the mansion in 1903 and operates it as a museum.
drive leading to the mansion (bottom photo) was sold in 1882 and converted into Sylvan
Terrace, 22 wooden row-houses. These houses are examples of "frame
dwellings once common in northern Manhattan." The mansion itself can be
glimpsed at the far end of the road.