Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood is the oldest surviving residence in Manhattan.
The mansion was built in 1765 by Colonel Roger Morris, a Loyalist who returned to England when the Revolutionary War broke out.
During the war, George Washington used the home as his military headquarters during the Battle of Harlem Heights. It was then purchased by Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French merchant, in 1810.
After Jumel died in 1835, his widow Eliza married former vice president Aaron Burr, though the couple divorced a few months later.
Today, the mansion is located just off of 162nd Street in Manhattan.
It’s part of the Jumel Terrace Historic District, which also features historic homes on Sylvan Terrace across the street from the mansion.
The cobblestone street outside the Morris-Jumel Mansion was originally built for horse-drawn carriages entering and exiting the home. Now called Sylvan Terrace, the street’s wooden townhouses were built in 1862.
Walking into the Morris-Jumel Mansion felt like stepping back in time.
The City of New York purchased the Morris-Jumel Mansion in 1903 and turned it into a restored museum.
While I was amused to find that the entrance to the historic home featured a Ring doorbell, I immediately forgot about the building’s modern touches when I stepped through the threshold. I was greeted by a grand entryway with floor-to-ceiling portraits, historic furniture, and fine architecture.
On the first floor, a French parlor off the entryway served as a greeting room for guests.
The parlor also hosted Eliza Jumel and Aaron Burr’s wedding in 1833.
Eliza Jumel bought most of the Empire-style furniture in France.
The Jumels were rumored to have known Napoleon Bonaparte while residing in France.
Further into the first floor hall, a floor-to-ceiling portrait depicted Eliza Jumel and her grandchildren.
The portrait was painted by Alcide Carlo Ercole in 1854.
The dining room featured a replica of the original patterned wallpaper that the Jumels sourced from France in 1825.
The “Draped Cone” pattern was produced by the French wallpaper firm Zuber beginning in 1797.
One of the most stunning parts of the house was the Octagon Room on the first floor.
Designed by the home’s first owner, Roger Morris, it is thought to be the first octagon-shaped room built in the American Colonies. The shape was common in British garden structures because it allowed for breezes to cool off the room.
The 1833 painting of Eliza Jumel in the Octagon Room shows her seated on the same ornate sofa that remains displayed in the room today.
The room’s original cloud wallpaper was custom-made by Atelier D’Offard. The reproduced version in the present-day museum is based on an 1815 pattern from the Musée des Artes Décoratifs in Paris.