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:
May through October:
Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center
Open Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00am-4:00pm
Red Barn Discovery Center
Open Wednesday through Friday by reservation only
Open from sunrise to sunset
November through April:
Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center
Closed for the season
Closed for the season
Open from sunrise to sunset
Day Use Activities: Seasonal.
Hiking, birding, landscape painting, photography, equestrian trials and XC skiing. Picnicking: Available year-round.
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.
ALL OUR FIELD TRIPS ARE AVAILABLE VIRTUALLY AT NO COST!
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. Learning objectives are achieved over the course of three lessons designed for Remote, Hybrid, or In-Person learning models.
All program materials including lesson plans, readings, worksheets, and virtual tour videos are delivered to you via USPS on a flash drive. There is no charge for these programs – we only ask that you report to us the number of students attending this virtual field trip. Click HERE to request a program.
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 virtual tour of the historic house will focus on the lack of modern conveniences and its impact on everyday life. 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
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 read stories about the defenses protecting New York, the split loyalties of its inhabitants, different spying techniques, and historical anecdotes about important political figures. Ciphering activities and a virtual tour of the historic house museum are also included in this program.
Grade level: 4–6
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 experience that will help your students answer these and other probing questions. While they virtually tour the historic house museum and study primary sources, 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.
Grade level: 6–12
Standards: Social Studies 1, 2, 5; English Language Arts 1, 3, 4 </P>
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.
Take a virtual tour of John Jay's Bedford House. http://johnjayhomestead.org/virtual-tour/
We've also created digital versions of our Thematic Tours for you to enjoy from home!
Happy birthday Ben! Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. Franklin and Jay were political colleagues and personal friends. Join us as we examine the relationship between the two men and how their contributions helped shape our nation.
The story of the Jay family, their enslaved people, and the way the generations of the Jays acted in response to the institution of slavery is complex. Glimpses of the past these stories give are enlightening, and in many cases, surprising. Most of all, they can be a springboard toward developing a deeper understanding of the people who are part of this story: The Jays, their enslaved, and the many people who strived to end the institution of slavery in America.
Sarah, Nancy, Eleanor and the rest! Six generations of strong, educated women lived at John Jay's Bedford House. Their stories, presented in honor of Women's History Month, shed light on the roles of women in upper class homes in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries.
Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson! John Jay and Thomas Jefferson were adversaries during their political careers but had a mutual affinity for each other that led to a friendship during their retirement.
On May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention met for the first time. Join us as we explore the debates, controversies, and compromises that led to the establishment of the oldest governing document in the world.
On June 18, 1812, President James Madison declared war with England, the first time the United States had ever declared war on another country. Take a docent-led tour of John Jay's Bedford House that highlights the causes of war and the impact that it had on America.
Happy birthday America! Although John Jay did not sign the Declaration of Independence, he was a passionate supporter of our fight for freedom. Jay served on a committee exposing and prosecuting Loyalists, led a ring of spies, and eventually gained favorable terms in our peace agreement to end the war. Check out our virtual tour to learn more about these and other contributions John Jay made toward our nations birth.
On August 24, 1517, thousands of French Huguenots were killed as part of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. This event, and the continued persecutions of Jay's ancestors led his grandfather to flee France and establish himself in America. This tour looks at the Jay family's Huguenot heritage and examine how its influence shaped John Jay's beliefs.
John Jay and Alexander Hamilton were the two most influential New Yorkers in the early republic. To celebrate the anniversary of the first of the Federalist articles, now known collectively as The Federalist Papers, being published on September 27, 1787, check out our thematic tour that explores the relationship between these two men and how their ideas helped shape the country.
Happy birthday John Adams! On October 30, John Adams would have turned 283 years old and at the age of 65, became the first President to reside in the new executive mansion in Washington DC.
New York Revolutionary Gouverneur Morris died on November 6th, 1816. Often referred to as the "Penman of the Constitution," Gouverneur Morris is frequently forgotten among the Founding Fathers. This tour will explore Morris's political career, his vibrant personality and his close friendship with John Jay.
220 years ago, on December 14th, George Washington died at the age of 69. This tour will discuss how John Jay and George Washington worked together to help build the new nation and shape its identity on the world stage. It will also explore the enduring friendship between the two men.
We've digitized some of our exhibits for you to enjoy at home.