John Jay Homestead State Historic Site


John Jay’s 24-room retirement farmhouse


  • 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

In 1789 the South and especially Virginia had been the impelling force in creating the nation. By 1815 the South and slaveholders still seemed to be in control of the national government. President Madison was a slaveholder. So too were Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, James Monroe, the secretary of state, and George W. Campbell, the secretary of the treasury. All Republican leaders of the House were slaveholders. In 1815 the United States had four missions in Europe: two of them were held by slaveholders. The chief justice of the United States was a slaveholder, as were a majority of the other members of the Court. Since 1789 three of the four presidents, two of the five vice-presidents, fourteen of the twenty-six presidents pro tempore the Senate, and five of the ten Speakers of the House had been slaveholders.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)