Roger Morris House / Jumel Mansion
The Morris-Jumel Mansion dates from 1765 and is the oldest surviving house in Manhattan. It was originally built as a summer retreat for British colonel Roger Morris, one of many built by wealthy New Yorkers when this part of Manhattan was undeveloped. This spot in Harlem Heights is one of the highest points in Manhattan and (before 20th century development) had a clear view all the way to the southern tip of the island and north into Westchester.
Morris left for England during the Revolutionary War and his house was occupied by both British and American forces, most notably by George Washington between 9/14/1776 and 10/20/1776. Following the war, the house served as a popular tavern before being sold in 1810 to Stephen Jumel. Jumel's widow, Eliza, lived in the home until 1865 and the home passed through a succession of owners before being purchased by the City in 1903 and being opened as a museum the following year with the assistance of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
When I visited in the fall of 2007, the house contained nine rooms restored with period furnishings and details similar to the way it appeared in George Washington's day.
This drawing room on the rear of the house was used for parties, dances, banquets, concerts and other social events.
The tilt-top tea table was an example of how furniture of this period was often built to be stored against the walls when not in use to free up room space for other activities. It also permitted moving the furniture near the fireplace for heat or near windows for light.
18th-century dining rooms were usually reserved for formal occasions with ordinary meals served in the parlors or bedrooms. Meals could include as many as eight courses and this table is set for the dessert course, much as it might have been in Washington's day.
The Morris-Jumel House is part of a historic district that also contains this street of lovingly maintained period row houses on Sylvan Terrace just to the West of the Morris-Jumel House.
Next: Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden