Tag Archives: John Jay

Elijah Hunter: Revolutionary War Spy

first baptist church ossiningSpying was a major component of the strategy and the tactics of the American Revolution. However it’s only recently that historians have focused on the intrigues, subterfuges and skullduggery that were used by all sides. Except for the spying of British Major John Andre, his collaboration with Benedict Arnold, and of the failed spying of Nathan Hale, undercover intelligence gathering operations during the Revolution is a mostly forgotten aspect of that conflict.

Nonetheless, spying was quite common in that era and George Washington was its chief proponent.  Washington made full use of the 1700s tools of the spy trade including invisible ink, hiding messages in feather quills, and small silver balls for hiding messages that could be swallowed in the event of capture. He also encouraged forging documents and making sure they fell into British hands. Continue reading

Jay Heritage Center Awards First John Jay Medals

Jay Heritage Center (JHC) Founder Catherine &#8220Kitty&#8221 Aresty and New York Preservation Advocate, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel were recipients of the 1st Annual &#8220John Jay Medal for Service&#8221 awarded at JHC’s 20th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, October 13, 2012.

In keeping with the legacy of one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers, the John Jay Medal recognizes individuals who demonstrate a selfless spirit of commitment and engagement with their community.

As an early member of the Jay Coalition, Catherine &#8220Kitty&#8221 Aresty helped harness the energy of thousands of volunteers and citizens to save the Jay Property when it was threatened by commercial development in the early 1980s. She was one of 5 dynamic women who formed the vanguard for preservation of the site, finally securing a victory in 1992 but her total commitment to seeing the property restored for public use extends more than 30 years including 22 consecutive years on the JHC Board.

Similarly, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s career spans more than 40 years. She has been a pioneering champion of preservation and the arts, credited with bringing the first public art to Bryant Park and the first public performance to Central Park. The first Director of Cultural Affairs for New York City, she was the longest term Landmarks Commissioner in the city’s history, spanning four mayoral administrations from 1972 to 1987. Her expertise and advocacy of historic preservation has garnered her countless honors and prestigious appointments from nor fewer than 4 US Presidents. Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the current Vice Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino served as Honorary Co-Chairs of the evening which drew over 170 people from Manhattan, Westchester and Greenwich to the National Historic Landmark site. While the event also marked an important 2 decade milestone for the organization, adding to the festive feeling was the recent announcement of a public private partnership between JHC, New York State Parks and Westchester County to manage and restore the entire 23 acre Jay estate as a historic park and educational resource. The site has been a member of Westchester County’s African American Heritage Trail since 2004 and was added to the prestigious Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area following its nomination in 2008 by County Legislator Judy Myers.

JHC President Suzanne Clary commended the men, women and coalition of non-profits that first saved Jay’s home but also emphasized the &#8220new coalition&#8221 they are forming with other museums and preservation groups like the NY Preservation League, The Landmarks Conservancy, Audubon NY, the World Monuments Fund and more. Congresswoman Lowey recognized the power of bi-partisan support that continues to guide JHC’s success.

Ken Jenkins, Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators presented a proclamation to both honorees and added his strong words of support for the Jay Heritage Center’s mission to revitalize one of Westchester’s premiere heritage destinations. Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye brought accolades from Sen. Suzi Oppenhiemer and personally congratulated the two medal awardees on their vision and tenacity- he reminded the audience how dilapidated the Jay site was when first acquired and how miraculous its transformation had been under JHC’s trusted stewardship. Both honorees gave moving remarks and thanks and underscored the continued need to stay &#8220passionate&#8221 about preservation.

The theme of the night was Roaring 20s &#8211 guests dressed in everything from raccoon coats and spats to flapper dresses and boas made for an evening that was simply &#8220the bees knees!&#8221 Proceeds form the event benefit JHC’s programs which benefit schools through Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley region.

Learn more about the Jay Heritage Center at www.jaycenter.org

Jay Heritage, County Reach Agreement on John Jay Property

Responsibility for the full restoration and long–term maintenance of the historic John Jay property in Rye, NY, the boyhood home of a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice, will be turned over to the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), under terms of a license agreement announced late last week by Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino at a news conference at the site.

According to a statement issued to the press the agreement is designed to ensure the preservation of the nationally significant property and serve as a model of cooperative stewardship that can be emulated nationwide. &#8220It will also advance shared goals of New York State, Westchester County and non-profits like JHC to promote heritage tourism by making historic resources more accessible to the public,&#8221 the statement said.

“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay property, saving it from demolition,” Astorino said. “Now the county is stepping in again with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”

The property is located adjacent to the county’s Marshlands Conservancy. Westchester County and New York State jointly own 21.5 acres of the site- the Jay Heritage Center owns the other 1.5-acre parcel, which contains the 1838 Jay House, built by Jay’s son on the site where his father grew up.

The new license agreement will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in significant capital infrastructures to the Jay Heritage Center, which will raise funds as a private 501(c)3 and also apply for grants. Tax deductible donations from individuals and corporations will be accepted to help restore the historic meadow, the gardens, the apple orchards and rehabilitate historic structures for public educational uses as lecture halls, classical music spaces and art galleries.

At a press conference at the site, Astorino was joined by Rye City Mayor Doug French and Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), as well as New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth to announce the agreement, which must be approved by the county’s Parks Board, the Board of Acquisition and Contract, and the State Comptroller’s Office.

The Jay Property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.

Most recently in 2009, it became 1 of only 100 Congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area based on the importance of its architecture, its landscape and themes of freedom and dignity that its 10,000-year-old history embodies.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said the JHC’s Clary.

Deputy Commissioner Alworth also praised the agreement, saying: “Partnership agreements such as this one have been highly successful in enhancing the quality of parks and historic sites for the visiting public. The Jay Heritage Center has done an impressive job restoring the historic house, and I’m confident they will continue their excellent stewardship of the site. This public-private partnership will ensure the John Jay property remains a valued recreational and cultural resource for Westchester residents and visitors alike.”

The main terms of the agreement are:

· The county and state, as owners, will grant a 10-year license, which is renewable after the initial term, to the Jay Heritage Center for the use of the property. This will give the JHC the ability to raise funds to operate the park and make improvements.

· The county and state will have the right to approve or disapprove any physical alterations to the property.

· The property will continue to be operated and maintained as state and county parkland and will be accessible to the general public. The JHC may establish admission fees, subject to approval by the state and the county consistent with county fee structures.

· JHC will create and pay for a specific maintenance and restoration schedule detailed in the agreement, dealing with landscape, invasive plant removal and restoration of historic structures, among other things.

· The county will continue to police the property.

· The county will no longer spend approximately $25,000 annually to maintain the property, and JHC will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and the capital improvements that the property requires.

· The county will remain responsible for the costs of any environmental remediation that may be required on the property for conditions that existed prior to the license agreement. Any environmental remediation required as a result of JHC’s restoration work will be the responsibility of JHC.

Photo:Top Row: JHC Board members Emma Hanratty, Jim Kelsey (JHC Vice President,) Lauren Lambert, Michael Kovner (JHC Vice President)- Bill Mooney, Senior Assistant to County Executive, Joe Sack ,Rye City Council

Second Row: Deputy County Executive, Kevin Plunkett, Frank Sanchis, World Monuments Fund and JHC Advisory Board, JHC Board member Cathy Rosenstock, Julie Killian, Rye City Council and Tom O’Handley, Audubon NY

Third Row: JHC Board Member Charlene Laughlin, Anne Van Ingen, Preservation League of NY State, Patricia Mulqueen, Con Edison Community Relations Westchester, JHC Founder, Kitty Aresty, Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye

Front Row: Tom Alworth, New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, Suzanne Clary, JHC President and Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive.

John Jays Rye Home Draws Over 1,200 for Fall Fest

Growing exponentially in membership support from Westchester and Fairfield counties, the Jay Heritage Center (JHC) recently hosted its annual Fall Family Festival, celebrating American culture and traditions. Highlights included costumed tours of JHC’s Sesquicentennial Civil War Exhibit &#8220The Jays and the Abolition of Slavery&#8221 along with traditional music and activities for all ages.

The event was organized by JHC’s Young Preservationists, a group of parents committed to the adaptive reuse of John Jay’s landmark home as a community learning center for children and adults, a place furnished with lively ideas and people, not just furniture. The fresh vision of co-presidents, Emma Hanratty and Caroline Wallach had great resonance as over 1200 people showed up to applaud their efforts while munching on crisp autumn apples and sipping cider. The weather held as parents and kids painted pumpkins and ran 3 legged races in the old Jay meadow- the property thrummed with traditional folk tunes like Oh Susannah provided by the duo Cracked Walnuts. Nate the jackstock donkey was back courtesy of Tilly Foster Farm and reminded visitors that the Jay estate was once itself a working farm with plentiful crops and gardens. Farmer’s market offerings of pumpkin muffins and homemade jams were on hand thanks to Meredith’s Bread from Kingston while Cocoa out of neighboring Larchmont satisfied sweet cravings with artisanal chocolates and brownies. The place was filled with butterflies &#8211 both the winged wildlife that naturally adorns the landscape as well as vivid butterfly painted faces and balloon animals to take home courtesy of James Daniels.

Grownups had plenty to see too as veteran JHC archaeologist, Dr. Eugene Boesch, displayed the Paleo Indian and archaic woodland artifacts he has recovered from the grounds of this national treasure including a 4000 year old projectile point. Bruce Macdonald of Ashwood Restoration opened up his preservation workshop and explained the challenges involved in recreating mahogany spindles for the mansion’s 19th century staircase. At the 1907 Carriage House, families saw a sustainable dollhouse and learned that their footprints matter in a power point presentation on invasive trees and plants threatening New York State habitats. But many parents and grandparents were content to just sit in wicker rockers on the veranda to watch their children play and drink in the unequalled view of New York State’s oldest man-managed meadow a vista famously dubbed &#8220a time funnel&#8221 to the past.

The event was part of the Hudson River Valley Ramble weekend which celebrates American heritage in New York State. It also coincided with President Obama’s call to service for National Public Lands, encouraging volunteers all over America to get more involved in the parks they love like the Jay Property.

For more information on future Jay Heritage Center and Young Preservationist events and volunteer opportunities go to www.jaycenter.org or friend them on Facebook.

Photo: Jack Lundin sports Union blue like many of John Jay’s descendants did during the Civil War.

John Jays Manhattan Historic Walking Tour

John Jay’s Manhattan, an historic walking tour sponsored by John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, will take place Saturday, October 15. Participants will meet in lower Manhattan, and step off promptly at 10:00 a.m., rain or shine. The cost of participation is $20.00 per person- members of the Friends of John Jay Homestead can participate for $15.00.

Founding Father John Jay, America’s first Chief Justice, was born and educated in New York City, and spent much of his life there. The walking tour will trace his haunts, visiting the locations of the places where he lived and worked as one of New York’s leading lawyers and politicians, as well as U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York. The tour will recall the time when New York was the capitol city of a young republic, and present a reminder of how the geography and architecture of Manhattan Island have changed since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century.

The walk will cover approximately 1? miles and take about two hours, proceeding at a leisurely pace over mostly level terrain. Comfortable footwear is highly recommended. The tour will both begin and end in lower Manhattan, convenient to several subway lines. Attendance is limited, and advance registration is required- payment is due in advance, and is non-refundable. To reserve your place and learn the tour’s initial gathering place, call John Jay Homestead at (914) 232-5651, extension 100.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is located at 400 Route 22, Katonah, N.Y. It is regularly open for guided tours Sunday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and at other times by appointment.

Curators Finds Focus of John Jay Talk

Curator’s Fabulous Finds, a series of artifact talks at John Jay Homestead, will continue on Sunday, October 2 at 2:00 p.m., and will be repeated on Thursday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m. This fall’s lecture will examine and discuss portraits of members of the Jay family from the Homestead’s historic collection. The cost of admission will be $10.00 per person- members of the Friends of John Jay Homestead may attend at no charge.

The functions of portraiture and the differing ways people were portrayed over history will be explored, discussing pictures by such famous painters in the Homestead’s collection as John Trumbull and John Singer Sargent. The techniques of oil painting and watercolor will also be covered. Participants will get a close look at several paintings, and details of the lives of the people in them will round out the talk.

Space at the lecture is limited, and reservations are strongly suggested. To reserve seats, call John Jay Homestead at (914) 232-5651, extension 105.

John Jay was a President of the Continental Congress, the second U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the second Governor of New York State. He retired to Bedford in 1801 to live the life of a gentleman farmer. His home is now a beautiful sixty-two acre historic site that includes lovely walks, several gardens, farm buildings, and a richly-decorated main residence restored to the 1820s, the last decade of Jay’s life.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is located at 400 Route 22, Katonah, N.Y. John Jay Homestead is regularly open for guided tours Sunday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and at other times by appointment. The site is one of six historic sites and 15 parks administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Taconic Region. For additional information about John Jay Homestead, please visit www.johnjayhomestead.org.

July 4th Jamboree at John Hay Homestead

On Monday, July 4, John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, N.Y. will hold special programs in celebration of America’s 235th birthday.

The festivities will begin at 11:00 a.m. with The American Colonials Fife and Drum Band playing Yankee Doodle and other patriotic songs, followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence from the front porch of the Jay home. This part of the program will conclude with visitors, young and old, getting an opportunity to sign a copy of the Declaration themselves. The fife and drum concert and reading will be given free of charge.

At noon, tours of the first floor period rooms of John Jay’s house will become available for $5.00 for adults, seniors, and students. Children aged twelve and under, and members of the Friends of John Jay Homestead, can tour the house free. Admission tickets will be sold until 1:30- the historic house will close at 2:00 p.m.

A new part of the program will also begin at noon and continue until 4:00, a July 4th Jamboree, sponsored by the Bedford-Armonk Rotary Club. The Jamboree is a charity event that will take place near the Jay Homestead barnyard, and will include colonial games for kids, wagon rides, a patriotic pet parade and contest, a beekeeper, a blacksmith, a SPCA pet adoption station, live music, and food. Wristbands needed for participation in these activities will cost $10 for adults and $5 for children. The proceeds will benefit John Jay Homestead, the SPCA of Westchester County, and other local community organizations. For more information about the Jamboree, log onto www.july4jamboree.com.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is located at 400 Route 22 in Katonah, N.Y. It is one of six historic sites and 16 state parks administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Taconic Region.

Kids History Adventures at John Jay Homestead

This summer your kids can become pioneering wilderness explorers with Lewis and Clark, patriotic soldiers during the War of 1812, and investigative naturalists and archeologists during John Jay Homestead’s History Adventure Days, a themed summer camp weeks at John Jay Homestead, organized as three weekly sessions.

Kids entering grades 2-7 can sign up for one session or all three. This year’s themes are “Exploring the Unknown: Lewis & Clark and the Corp of Discovery” (July 25-29), “Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: The War of 1812” (August 1-5), and “Seeing is Believing: Uncovering the Cabinet of Curiosity” (August 8-12).

Each session runs Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. The cost is $250.00 per week. A 10% discount is given to members of Friends of John Jay Homestead. Daily rates are available. More information about the program can be found online or by calling (914) 232-5651 x101. Be sure to register your child soon- spaces are limited and fill up quickly.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is located at 400 Route 22 in Katonah, Westchester County, NY. It is one of six state historic sites and 16 parks administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Taconic Region.

John Jays Manhattan Historic Walking Tour

John Jay’s Manhattan, an historic walking tour sponsored by John Jay Homestead State Historic Site, will take place Saturday, May 21. Participants will meet in lower Manhattan, and step off promptly at 10:00 a.m., rain or shine. The cost of participation is $20.00 per person- members of the Friends of John Jay Homestead can participate for $15.00.

Founding Father John Jay, America’s first Chief Justice, was born and educated in New York City, and spent much of his life there. The walking tour will trace his haunts, visiting the locations of the places where he lived and worked as one of New York’s leading lawyers and politicians, as well as U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Chief Justice of the United States, and Governor of New York. The tour will recall the time when New York was the capitol city of a young republic, and present a reminder of how the geography and architecture of Manhattan Island have changed since the arrival of the first European settlers in the 17th century.

The walk will cover approximately 1? miles and take about two hours, proceeding at a leisurely pace over mostly level terrain. Comfortable footwear is highly recommended. The tour will both begin and end in lower Manhattan, convenient to several subway lines. Attendance is limited, and advance registration is required- payment is due in advance, and is non-refundable. To reserve your place and learn the tour’s initial gathering place, call John Jay Homestead at (914) 232-5651, extension 100.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is located at 400 Route 22, Katonah, N.Y. It is regularly open for guided tours Sunday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and at other times by appointment.

Illustration: Portrait of John Jay painted by Gilbert Stuart.

John Jay Homesteads Curator on American Silver

Curator’s Fabulous Finds, a series of artifact talks at John Jay Homestead, will continue on Sunday, May 15 at 2:00 p.m., and will be repeated on Thursday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m. This spring’s lecture will examine and discuss British, Spanish, and American silver from the Homestead’s historic collection. The cost of admission will be $10.00 per person- members of the Friends of John Jay Homestead may attend at no charge.

Like all members of the upper class in the early 19th century, the Jays used fine silver on a day-to-day basis. Among the objects to be examined are John Jay’s elegant, Neoclassical Sheffield plate hot water urn and a very rare, early 18th-century sterling silver teapot made for his wife’s grandmother by the noted silversmith, Pieter Van Dyck.

Attendees will also view up close such unusual objects as an 18th-century silver table fork from Spain, a Bull’s Eye lamp (which burned whale oil), a silver and coral whistle and bells (a baby’s toy for play and for teething), and a mote spoon, used for removing stray tea leaves from one’s cup of tea. The differences between sterling silver, coin silver, and Sheffield plate will be discussed, as will the techniques of hand working silver in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Space at the talk is limited, and reservations are strongly suggested. To reserve seats, call John Jay Homestead at (914) 232-5651, extension 105.

John Jay was a President of the Continental Congress, the second U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the second Governor of New York State. He retired to Bedford in 1801 to live the life of a gentleman farmer. His home is now a beautiful sixty-two acre historic site that includes lovely walks, several gardens, farm buildings, and a richly-decorated main residence restored to the 1820s, the last decade of Jay’s life.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is located at 400 Route 22, Katonah, Westchester County, NY. John Jay Homestead is regularly open for guided tours Sunday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and at other times by appointment.

Photo: John Jay’s silver tea urn. Courtesy john Jay Homestead.