“george washington partied here!”
New York City has no lack of opulent historic homes open to tour, but few have a story that can match the legend of Manhattan's Morris Jumel Mansion. It's located right at the tip of Manhattan, and its prime location has made it an important spot throughout history. Originally built in 1765 as the summer home for British Colonel Roger Morris and his wife Mary Philipse, the couple vacated the house in 1775, when American forces closed in on New York during the American Revolution. George Washington himself took up residence in the home after the disastrous Battle of Long Island. He and his troops left the area shortly after, but he made a brief visit back to the mansion in 1790 to host a grand party-- guests included his good friends Thomas Jefferson and John Adams! The home was later purchased by high society couple Stephen and Eliza Jumel-- a wealthy French wine merchant and his mistress-turned-wife. It gets even more scandalous-- New York society whispered behind closed doors about Eliza's dark past. Eliza definitely didn't come from wealth, like the rest of the social elite, and the worst of the rumors theorized that she had been a child prostitute in a brothel run by her own mother. Regardless of what their neighbors thought, the two wasted no time filling the mansion with expensive French art and furnishings, some gifted to them by Emperor Napoleon. At least, they were doing that, until Stephen died under very mysterious circumstances in 1832. As the story goes, he fell on a pitchfork while running errands. His wounds were treated and bandaged and he was brought back home to be cared for by Eliza, who decided that it would be a good idea to unbandage his wounds to clean them. Stephen bled to death shortly thereafter. Some defended Eliza, saying that she probably didn't know enough about medicine to realize that her actions would result in her husband's death, but gossip-mongers purported that she knew exactly what she was doing when she took his bandages off. Either way, the mansion, and everything in it, was left to Eliza. Less than a year later, she had remarried... to another notorious murderer: politician Aaron Burr, who had killed his rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Burr died (from natural causes) in a tavern a few years later, leaving Eliza alone again. Completely shut out by New York society, she slipped into dementia, becoming a recluse-- some even say that she was the inspiration for Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. She reportedly wandered the halls wearing disheveled, soiled finery and routinely held dinner parties, which no one attended. She died in the mansion, alone, in 1865, at the ripe old age of 90. Her final will left the property to her granddaughter, cutting other heirs out of the will entirely. Today, the house is a museum, still adorned with many of the expensive French antiques from Eliza and Stephen. But, that's not the only thing you can see when visiting the Morris-Jumel Mansion-- if you're really lucky, you might get to meet Eliza herself. Her spirit has been sighted by many, including a group of students in 1960, who claim a tall, grey-haired woman shushed them during a school trip. Others have sighted Aaron Burr, Stephen Jumel, a serving girl, and a British solider. Even if you don't spot a ghost, there's no denying that there's something haunting about the mansion and its dark history!
Some say it's haunted by Eliza, the scandal-ridden wife of Stephen Jumel. She reportedly once shushed a group of school kids on a tour, so be respectful!
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Morris Jumel Mansion
- Tue - Fri: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
- Sun, Sat: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
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