John Jay Homestead State Historic Site

Katonah
NY

John Jay’s 24-room retirement farmhouse

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QUICK FACTS
  • John Jay is one of the diplomats — along with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Henry Laurens — who negotiates the Treaty of Paris (1783), ending the Revolutionary War with Britain.
  • Jay becomes the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1789 - 95).
  • He negotiates the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America — known as the Jay Treaty, 1794 - 95 — which, while unpopular in America, prevents the U.S. from having another war with Britain.
  • Jay is elected the 2nd Governor of New York (1795); he serves two terms.
  • Jay begins building a 24-room farmhouse in 1799 near Bedford, in Westchester County, New York.
  • He and his wife retire there in 1801.
  • In 1981 the farmhouse — now with some 60 rooms — is declared a National Historic Landmark.
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John Jay, who was the first U.S. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, moved into this renovated and expanded 24-room farmhouse — begun 1799 — in 1801. Building on land that had been purchased in 1703 by his maternal grandfather, Jacobus Van Cortlandt, Jay acquired adjoining property; by 1800 he had 750 acres of land near Bedford, New York.

Though this was to be a retirement home for both Jay and his wife, Sarah Livingston Jay (1756 - 1802) died just months after they moved there. Jay never remarried. He lived the life of a gentleman farmer, immersing himself in his farm and his children and grandchildren, more interested in husbandry than politics, until his death in 1829.

The estate served as a working farm and rural retreat for five generations of the Jay family until the death of Eleanor Jay Iselin in 1953. In 1958 the house and some of the land were purchased by Westchester County and transferred to the State of New York. In 1964 it opened to the public as John Jay Homestead State Historic Site.

Today the site encompasses 62 acres. The house has been restored to the later part of Jay’s occupancy in the 1820s and includes many pieces of furniture owned by Jay and his family. The extensive grounds include related farm buildings and a formal garden (begun in the mid-1900s by Jay descendants). Picnic areas and restrooms are also available.

Guided tours take visitors through 12 furnished period rooms — but start in the Gift Shop where there is an introductory video of Jay’s contributions to America as one of the Founding Fathers.

Associated People

But as an intellectual enterprise ... [Jefferson’s University of Virgina] proved less satisfactory to its creator when it opened the year before he died. The students turned out be not so much an aristocracy of virtue and talent as a gang of rowdy youths with a taste for drink, gambling, breaking windows, firing guns into the air, and thrashing professors who tried to stop them. The horrified Jefferson came down from his mountain to Charlottesville to reprimand them. Flanked by his dear friends and fellow trustees James Madison and James Monroe, the frail eighty-two-year-old patriarch drew himself up to his full six foot two, began to speak — and burst into tears.

Myron Magnet
The Founders at Home: The Building of America, 1735 - 1817 (2014)