Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site

Skip Navigation LinksHome / Historic Sites / John Jay Homestead State Historic Site

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site has launched new digital content you can enjoy from home. These fun, interactive activities allow you to experience history while historic house tours are suspended. Please visit http://johnjayhomestead.org/ for online events and virtual tours.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site will be mounting a new exhibit and is asking the public to help. Reflections on Our Past: A Viewer Response Exhibit II, will be an entirely digital exhibit curated with responses from our community.

COVID-19 UPDATE: While New York State Park grounds, forests and trails are currently open, please note that parking, indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks may be limited or closed to prevent community spread of COVID-19. If you do plan on visiting, we ask all visitors to recreate local, meaning choose parks close to home, practice social distancing and use common sense to protect yourself and others. Learn more about COVID-19 and its impact on NY State Park operations, visit: https://parks.ny.gov/covid19/

Address
400 Jay Street
Katonah, NY 10536
Latitude 41.248043
Longitude -73.658768

Come explore John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, an original American Experience.

Experience American History at the home of Founding Father John Jay and 5 successive generations of the Jay family. Do you want to learn, from a first-hand source, about the birth of our nation? Founding Father, John Jay, can enlighten you. Do the origins and changes of the antislavery movement pique your interest? You will gain perspective from John Jay's son and grandson who were at the forefront of the movement. Discover the stories of the slaves who lived at John Jay Homestead before the family championed the abolition cause. Do you wonder what life was like for early 19th century women? John Jay's daughters have a story to tell.

Experience important furniture and decorative arts

Admire the chairs used by the first United States Senate; see a John Singer Sergent portrait hanging in the Ballroom, a Houdon bust of John Paul Jones, and the Biennais mirror owned by Marie Louise, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. These original objects and many more can be found in John Jay Homestead's collection. Return often to see a current, beautifully curated special exhibit.

Experience John Jay's Bedford Farm

Enter the Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center where you will begin to learn about John Jay Homestead through videos and interactive educational displays. Many of the original farm buildings exist today. Did you know that draft horses were the tractors of the 19th century farm? At the Restored Draft Horse Barn imagine life on the farm, plowing the fields. What was it like to be a child in the 19th century? Walk up to the one room Schoolhouse and imagine yourself with chalk and board in hand.

Experience the great outdoors

We have 62 acres -walk to the ice pond stocked with fish and down the beech allée. Stroll through the beautiful Sun Dial Garden, Herb Garden, and Terrace Garden. In the winter, come and cross-country ski or snow shoe. During the spring and summer, bring a picnic and spend the day. On Saturdays, May through October, shop our regionally acclaimed Farm Market.

Experience the agricultural past

Peer into the chicken coop; see the heritage breed chickens. Come see the community garden and bee hives and feel the connection with the Homestead's agricultural past. Visit the Red Barn Discovery Center to milk our "cow," Buttercup.

Experience great programming and events

The annual Scholars Lecture Series brings world renowned authors and historians to the site. Our signature Barn Dance offers families an energetic start to autumn. Attend tours, special exhibits, and lunches highlighting the Homestead's collection. The outstanding education department offers standards-based school programs and produces children's and family events throughout the year.

Experience an original American Experience.

Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near the historic site:

  • Carriage Barn Education & Visitor's Center
  • The Farm Lane-the only original entrance to the historic farm once owned by John Jay
  • The Formal Gardens-located through the white gate, a fountain and sundial form the centers, beautifully maintained by the Bedford Garden Club and Friends of John Jay Homestead
  • The "Ha-ha's"-a unique landscape feature consisting of rock walls built to keep grazing livestock from getting near the house, but remain invisible when looking down the lawn
  • The Herb Garden-created in 1991 on the site of an historic cutting garden and greenhouse. Maintained by the New York Unit of the Herb Society of America.
  • Ice Pond-created for producing ice in the winter to use year-round, now a picturesque spot.  The road down to the pond is part of the Tree Walk, lined with Red Maples
  • North Court Garden-on the north side of the main house, between the wings.  It beautifies the accessible entrance as well as displays a sampling of plants around the site.  Maintained by the Hopp Ground Garden Club
  • Picnic area-picnic benches are scattered throughout the picturesque site
  • Tree Walk-experience the leafy landscape created by John Jay. Highlights include:  Linden (Tilia americana), Red Maples (Acer rubrum) and European Beech (Faga sylvatica) trees, all historic and gorgeous.
Mailing Address
PO Box 832 Katonah, NY 10536

Hours of Operation

  • May through October:

    John Jay's Bedford House
    Hourly, docent-led tours of the historic house are available Wednesday through Sunday at 1, 3, and 4pm.
    Special, thematic tours are available Wednesday through Saturday at 2pm.
    A 25-minute, docent-led Highlights Tour is available Saturdays at 10, 10:30, 11am.
    A 25-minute, docent-led Historic House Tour for Families is available Saturdays at 11:30am.
    The historic house tour presented in Spanish is available on the first & third Saturday of the month at 12pm.
    On Sundays at 2pm, we offer special collections-based programs and tours; check our calendar for details.

    Admission:
    Adults - $10
    Students / Seniors - $7
    Children under 12 - free
    Members - free
    Highlights tour - $7Historic House Tour for Families (adults with children 10 & under only) - free

    Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center
    Open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:30-4:30pm
    On Saturdays during the Farm Market the Carriage Barn will open at 9:30am
    Free admission

    Discovery Centers
    Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am-4pm
    Free admission

    Grounds
    Open from sunrise to sunset
    Free admission

  • November through April:

    John Jay's Bedford House
    Hourly, docent-led tours are available Thursday through Saturday at 1and 3pm.
    Special, thematic tours are available Wednesday through Saturday at 2pm.
    A 25-minute, docent-led Historic House Tour for Families is available Saturdays at 11:30am.
    The historic house tour presented in Spanish is available on the first & third Saturday of the month at 12pm.

    Admission:
    Adults - $10
    Students / Seniors - $7
    Children under 12 - free
    Members - free
    Historic House Tour for Families (adults with children 10 & under only) - free

    Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center
    Closed for the season

    Discovery Centers
    Closed for the season

    Grounds
    Open from sunrise to sunset
    Free admission

  • Tour tickets may be purchased online or at the Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center. When the Carriage Barn is closed for the season, tour tickets will be sold out of the Glass Porch on the left side of the Historic House Museum.

    School and group visits are by appointment only. Please call the site at 914.232.5651 for more information.

    Day Use Activities: Seasonal.
    Hiking, birding, landscape painting, photography, equestrian trials and XC skiing. Picnicking: Available year-round.

Fees & Rates

Most New York State Parks charge a vehicle use fee to enter the facility. Fees vary by location and season. A list of entry fees and other park use fees is available below. For fees not listed or to verify information, please contact the park directly.

The easy-to-use Empire Pass card is $80- and your key to all-season enjoyment with unlimited day-use entry at most facilities operated by State Parks and the State Dept. of Environmental Conservation including forests, beaches, trails and more. Purchase online or contact your favorite park for more information. Learn more about our Admission Programs including the Empire Pass.

  • Admission for House Tour
  • Adults - $10
    Students / Seniors - $7
    Children under 12 - free
    Highlights tour - $7
    Historic House Tour for Families (adults with children 10 & under only) - free

    School programs and group tours should contact the park office directly.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site invites you and your class to learn about the life of John Jay and to explore the exciting times in which he lived.

The Homestead offers a variety of program options that meet current curriculum standards. Each program provides students with a first-hand look at the changing nature of everyday life by comparing today's lifestyles and concerns with those of Jay's era. The programs encourage students to use the critical thinking skills of a historian or social scientist, asking them to read, analyze, apply, synthesize and evaluate historical information. All our programs meet common core standards in English, Language Arts and Literacy and in Reading History/Social Studies

Programs are designed to last 2 hours. This includes a tour of either the historic farm or historic house museum, plus an educational activity. All of our programs can be adapted for students with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Please make us aware of these special needs when you book your visit.

Program Options

Then and Now: What was life like 200 years ago? Students will compare and contrast their everyday lives with the way the Jay family lived in the early 1800s. A tour of the historic house will focus on the lack of modern conveniences and its impact on everyday life. Choose one of three complementary educational activities: becoming an "artifact detective" by looking at objects such as chamber pots and open hearth toasters and using analytical skills to determine the objects' purposes; playing colonial games and making a take-home cup and ball game; or making hand-dipped candles. In addition, students will discuss the differences between urban, suburban and rural locations.

Grade level: K-2
Standards: Social Studies 1, 5; English Language Arts 1, 3; Arts 3

Life of a Child: What was it like to be a child in early America? What subjects would children have learned about in school? Did they have any chores or household responsibilities? What did kids do for fun? Students will take a historic house tour which focuses on the lives of the Jay children who lived at the Homestead, as well as the servant children who worked there. During a visit to our 1826 schoolhouse, students will experience a mini-lesson in either spelling or math, based on your classroom curriculum. Finally, students will have "recess" and play games that were popular in the 1800s. Optionally, students will participate in a craft activity where they will make a take-home cup and ball game. ***Please note that this program is only available May 1 through October 15.***

Grade level: 3-5
Standards: Social Studies 1, 5; English Language Arts 1,3,4; Arts 2; Math 1

John Jay's Farm: This program uses the historic farm structures on the property as well as letters and maps to explore the evolution of agriculture and how technological advances affected the industry. All students will tour the historic farm, discuss building and land use, and learn about agriculture in New York. Younger students will use a series of maps to discuss the evolution of the farm from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. Older students will examine historic documents to learn about the impact of changing modes of transportation and advances in technology on agricultural enterprise. During the winter, or in the event of inclement weather, students will take a historic house tour that focuses on the business of the farm. Optional post-visit classroom activities using maps and other documents are also available.

Grade level: 2-12
Standards: Social Studies 1, 3, 4; English Language Arts 1, 3, 4; Math, Science and Technology 4, 5

John Jay, Revolutionary Spymaster: Though widely celebrated for his political and diplomatic achievements, John Jay played an important role in creating a spy network to help defend the colonies during the Revolutionary War. Students will explore the historic house museum looking for secret spy messages while learning about the defenses protecting New York, the split loyalties of its inhabitants, different spying techniques, and historical anecdotes about important political figures. Students will participate in a ciphering activity and decode secret spy messages. An optional post-visit classroom ciphering activity is also available.

Grade level: 4-6
Standards: Social Studies 1, 2, 5; English Language Arts 1, 3, 4

John Jay and the Constitution: What's the difference between a president and a king? How much power should states have? What does the Constitution say about slavery? Moving through the historic house museum and using objects from our collection and documents from the Jay archives, students will learn how states with very different economies and interests, having just fought a long and expensive war against a king, agreed to come together and adopt a government with strong but clearly-defined powers. Please note that this program is intended for students who already have some working knowledge of the Constitution - it is not designed as an introduction to the subject. An optional post-visit classroom activity using additional documents is also available.

Grade level: 7-12
Standards: Social Studies 1, 2, 5; English Language Arts 1, 3, 4

Slaves, Slavery and the Jay Family: How is a servant different from a slave? What's the difference between manumission and abolition? Why did many of the Founding Fathers continue to own slaves as they established a nation where "all men are created equal?" We provide an immersive, hands-on experience that will help your students answer these and other probing questions. While they tour the historic house museum and study primary sources, including objects and documents, your students will come to understand John Jay's conflicting attitudes as slave owner and manumission advocate and learn about his son William's role in the abolition movement. They will also learn about the lives of some of the slaves who lived at the Homestead. Please note that this program is intended for students who already have some working knowledge of the institution of American slavery - it is not designed as an introduction to the subject. An optional post-visit classroom activity using additional documents is also available.

Grade level: 6-12
Standards: Social Studies 1, 2, 5; English Language Arts 1, 3, 4

Holidays at Bedford House: Happy Holidays! Offered during the month of December only, students will explore the decorated Homestead with a guide, learn about the holiday traditions and foods of the Jay family, and take part in a holiday- themed, take-home, activity. Students can learn about the culture and life of Americans in the 1800s, compare their own experiences, and make connections to the past. Please note that we can only accept one classroom visit per day for this special program.

Grade level: K-5
Standards: Social Studies 1-5

Fees

All prices listed for on-site educational programs are a per student cost*. Materials fees may apply depending upon the activity you select.

Then and Now with Artifact Activity $3.00
-Substitute candle making activity - materials fee $1.00
-Substitute game making activity - materials fee $1.00

Life of a Child with School House Activity $3.00
-Substitute game making activity - materials fee $1.00

John Jay's Farm $3.00

John Jay, Revolutionary Spymaster $3.00

John Jay and the Constitution $3.00

Slaves, Slavery and the Jay Family $3.00

Holidays at Bedford House $3.00

Outreach program (per class) $50.00

*We offer a discount of $1/student for visits during the months November, January, February, and March.

During twenty-seven years of service to his state and nation, John Jay looked forward to the day when he would retire with his wife and family to "the house on my farm in Westchester County...."

In 1785, Jay had inherited a 287-acre parcel, originally purchased by his maternal grandfather, Jacobus Van Cortlandt. Two years later, he inherited an adjoining 316 acres from an aunt. He soon began developing the land as a farm, purely for business purposes. In the late 1790s, he decided to make the Bedford farm his home in retirement. He enlarged his farm manager's house to become his own home, increased the number of outbuildings on the farm, and moved here in the summer of 1801. His wife, Sarah Jay, joined him later in the fall, and the couple lived here with the three youngest of their five children.

Only months later, in May 1802, Sarah died. Jay never got over the loss of his beloved wife, but continued to reside on the farm for another twenty-seven years with some of his children and grandchildren. Jay's daughter Ann, known familiarly as Nancy, took her mother's place as female head of the household. Jay's younger son William spent much of the first decade of the nineteenth century away from home, first as a student at Yale, then as an apprentice lawyer in Albany. Sarah Louisa, the youngest child, also spent much time away as she grew older, first as a student at a girls' school in Albany, then later wintering with her older siblings, Peter Augustus in New York or Maria in Albany. Sarah Louisa died in 1818 at the age of twenty-six after a brief illness.

John Jay was finally able to enjoy a considerable amount of family companionship after his son William married Augusta McVickar in 1812. William and Augusta moved into the house, and had five children by the time of John's death in 1829. In his last years, Nancy was also still at home, and there were frequent visits from Maria and Peter Augustus.

As for the farm, its produce changed over time. When Jay was alive, Bedford was part of the breadbasket of New York City, and the farm's principal products were wheat, butter, apples, and pears. This remained much the same during the time the property was in William Jay's ownership, following John's death. It began to change in the next generation, that of William's son, John Jay II. Given the condition of the roads and available modes of transportation in the early nineteenth century, the Jay farm had been very isolated, two days' distant from New York City. The advent of the railroads in the mid-nineteenth century made it possible to ship produce much faster, and the farm's products shifted more toward fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh milk. And now that Bedford was not nearly so remote from New York City as it had been, the area began to change character.

John Jay II, William's son, had married Eleanor Kingsland Field in 1837. The couple first lived in another house on the Jay farm until William's death in 1858. John then inherited the main house, and they moved in after a dramatic remodeling, transforming the farmhouse into a stylish Victorian country retreat. They made their Manhattan home their principal residence, to be near John's law office and their social life. The Bedford farm was still run for profit, but its commercial function was now joined by use as a summer home and country getaway for the Jays and their friends and relations.

The leisure-class lifestyle progressed further with the next generation of the Jays. Col. William Jay and his wife, the former Lucie Oelrichs, were members of The Four Hundred, the exclusive social set associated with Mrs. William B. Astor, Jr. Col. William owned the Jay farm from 1894 to 1915. A lawyer like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he had his office in New York, and made that city his principal home. As president of the Coaching Club, which held fashionable events in Manhattan and Newport, Col. Jay and his wife were leading society figures. Their home in Bedford became primarily a country home and only secondarily a working farm. They did another updating of the house in 1897, using Richard Howland Hunt as their architect.

Col. Jay's daughter, Eleanor Jay Iselin, was the next owner of the property. She and her husband, Arthur Iselin, were the first generation of the family since her great-grandfather's to make the house their principal home. Arthur could now commute easily into New York for his work as a board member of the Chemical Bank, given fast train service to Manhattan. They enlarged the house in the mid-1920s with a large masonry wing designed by Warren & Wetmore, the architects of Grand Central Terminal. The farm was developed further, and its principal crops changed to eggs, waterfowl, and potatoes. Then, in 1929, came the Stock Market Crash.

Much of the family fortune was lost. The farm paid poorly through the 1930s, and the costs of maintaining the estate became difficult. By the mid-1940s, as the Bedford-Katonah area was developing into a bedroom community of New York City, the value of the land became greater than the income the farm could generate. The Iselins began selling land, to be developed for suburban housing. Aware of the difficulty of keeping the property, Mrs. Iselin sought an appropriate new function for it that would honor its historic significance. In 1946, she offered it to be the location of the United Nations, but her offer was not accepted. Following her death in 1953, her heirs put the property up for sale. In 1957, the John Jay Homestead Association, led by Otto Koegel, was founded to save the property for public benefit. It brokered an arrangement where Westchester County would purchase the historic house and its formal estate grounds, then transfer it to state ownership for operation as a history museum. The Homestead became New York State property in 1959, and after restoration, opened to the public in 1965. Following the death of Otto Koegel in the early 1970s, the John Jay Homestead Association disbanded. The Friends of John Jay Homestead was founded in 1977 as its successor.

Please check our calendar of events for tour times and availability.

Historic House Tours
Open for a regular schedule of docent-led tours, historic Bedford House has been restored to reflect its 1820s appearance during John Jay's lifetime. Well over 50% of the furnishings are original to John Jay and his family.

Thematic Tours
Specialty tours are offered at 2pm on days the Historic House is open. Each month we explore a new topic - check our calendar of events for information. Topics we examine include:
-American Revolution
-Huguenots
-John Jay & Benjamin Franklin
-John Jay & Alexander Hamilton
-John Jay & George Washington
-John Jay & Gouverneur Morris
-John Jay & John Adams
-John Jay & Thomas Jefferson
-Slavery & Abolition
-United States Constitution
-War of 1812
-Women of the Jay Family

Connecting to Collections: Fine Arts Tour
A guided exploration of the paintings and sculptures on display in John Jay's Bedford home. The multiple generations of Jays who lived at the Homestead collected art in many forms including family portraits, an original landscape by Thomas Cole, a plaster bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon, and prints given to John Jay by John Trumbull of his most famous history paintings.

Connecting to Collections: Furniture Tour
A special look at the furniture on exhibit in John Jay's Bedford home. Explore the styles, methods of construction, and fine materials of these fascinating artifacts created by artisans in America and Europe.

Connecting to Collections: Decorative Arts Tour
A tour of the decorative arts found throughout John Jay's historic Bedford house. Experience the artistry required to produce elegant porcelain dinnerware, an intricate silver coffee service, a gilded candelabra, and so much more.

Curator's Fabulous Finds
Join our knowledgeable staff for a customized, collections-based discussion. This special opportunity includes an up-close examination of items, selected by our curator specifically for your group's interest.

Highlights Tour
This 25-minute tour of John Jay's Bedford House will give you a glimpse of the 1820s Parlor, Dining Room, and John Jay's Bedroom. The rooms are adorned with many of the home's original furnishings and John Jay Homestead's collections treasures.

Historic House Tour for Families
What was life like 200 years ago? Compare your everyday life with the way the Jay family lived in the early 1800s. This 25-minute tour of the historic house, designed for families with children 10 and under, will focus on the lack of modern conveniences and its impact on everyday life through examining objects such as chamber pots and open-hearth toasters. Children must be accompanied by an adult; adults must be accompanied by a child.

Holiday Tours
Celebrate the holiday season at John Jay Homestead with a guided tour of John Jay's Bedford House focused on the holiday traditions and decorations of the 1820s. Please note that this tour is only offered during the month of December.

Visita a la Casa Histórica en Español
Los visitantes del sitio histórico estatal John Jay Homestead están invitados a hacer un visita guiada por docentes de la casa Bedford de John Jay. El interior de la casa histórica ha sido restaurado para reflejar su apariencia durante la vida de John Jay. Más del 50% de los muebles son originales de John Jay y su familia. Este tour se ofrece Español en el primer y tercer sábado de cada mes.

The Back Parlor Gallery was created in 2008 to feature annual exhibits that are produced in-house on subjects relative to the historic site's mission, providing the opportunity to exhibit items from the collection not normally on display.

Current exhibit (opening February, 2020)
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
Staff, Trustees, and volunteers have selected their favorite collections to share with visitors.

Get Directions

Amenities Information