The Morris-Jumel Mansion

The Morris-Jumel Mansion

The Morris-Jumel Mansion – located in the heart of Washington Heights – is the perfect escape for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Mansion’s elegant Georgian style and well-preserved exterior gives visitors an opportunity to travel back in time to the eighteenth century. Get yourself a taste of Upper Manhattan and visit one of the city’s best kept secrets!

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The fascinating story behind the Morris-Jumel Mansion begins with Roger Morris, an officer for the British Army, and his American wife Mary Philipse. They both decided to build and design a country estate that would occupy 130 acres of land and stretch from all the way from Harlem to the Hudson River. The estate was meant to be used as a summer farm where the newly-wed couple could grow fruits, vegetables and raise animals. At the time, the island of Manhattan was sparsely populated and the vast land provided many opportunities for harvesting and farming.

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The Mansion finally opened its doors in 1765 and Morris and his wife comfortably lived there until the Revolutionary War. Since Roger was affiliated to the British Army, they both were forced to flee their beloved mansion in order to avoid being caught off guard by the Continental troops.

In 1776, George Washington proceeded to set up his headquarters at the Morris-Jamel grounds because of it’s strategic location above the sea level. It was right in the very same mansion that Washington was able to triumph over the Brits during “The Battle of Harlem Heights”.  New York was the capital of the U.S. at the time and American troops felt more confident in their ability to defeat their enemies from that moment on. A couple of decades later after the war was declared to be over, a successful merchant named Stephen Jumel purchased the Mansion and lived in it with his wife Eliza.  Jumel passed away in 1832, and his wife remarried to Aaron Burr.

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The Mansion was acquired by the city of New York in 1904 and it has since been operating as a not-for-profit museum. It now stands as Manhattan’s oldest house and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961. The Mansion’s of architectural interest due to it’s majestic Tuscan columns, unique octagonal room, and elegant Georgian interiors that are well-preserved. The Mansion’s open to the public year-round and the entrance is free to those who wish to explore the estate’s emblematic grounds. However, donations are encouraged and are tax-deductible. The proceeds go towards maintaining the mansion’s grounds and help update the yearly calendar of cultural events. The area surrounding the Mansion forms part of a subdivision of Washington Heights called Jumel Terrace Historic District. Notable residents who’ve lived in this area are Duke Ellington, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall.

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Nowadays, the Morris-Jumel Mansion offers self-guided and docent-guided tours to the public for an in-depth explanation of the intricate history behind the estate. Each docent-guided tour is one hour long and is offered every Saturday at noon and every first Friday and Sunday of the month at 1pm. There are also educational tours available for school students where they can learn more about George Washington’s stay in the house and the way families used to live back in the 18th century.

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The Mansion also presents exhibitions that are open to the public and the one currently on display for this summer is called “The Fabric of Emancipation”. This special exhibit presented in collaboration with Harlem Needle Arts showcases African-American material history through carefully selected pieces of needle and fiber arts. The carefully selected collection of works capture the incredible talent textile artists had at the time. There are always new exhibitions to attend and the schedule changes seasonally.

Lin-Manuel Miranda recently revealed that he wrote portions of “Hamilton” while visiting the house. When making a trip to the Mansion, don’t forget to walk through the Sunken Gardens and breathe in the peaceful environment. Besides exhibits and educational tours, the Mansion also has plenty of other cultural events such as workshops, summer concerts, and even yoga sessions. The Mansion comes with a gift shop that sells rare items, vintage jewelry, candles, and other cool finds to surprise your friends with. Get a taste of Upper Manhattan and enjoy scenic views of neighboring New Jersey and the harbor by visiting the Morris-Jumel Mansion.

 

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Sylvan Terrace

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Five Historic Washington Heights Co-ops

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Edgar Catasus

Edgar is a a film fanatic, a food lover, and an Upper West Side enthusiast. After working in PR and marketing in Chicago, he is pursuing his dream of becoming a writer. He loves photography and on his spare time you can find him hiking or biking the great outdoors (while also snapping some pretty awesome Instagram pics!).

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