info 12.7.10

Jumel Terrace Historic District
Every Person in New York

Born in 1774, the daughter of a sailor and a prostitute, Eliza Jumel was beautiful and brilliant and ended up the richest widow in New York. Beautiful, brilliant, and shrewd.

Unwilling to remain Stephen Jumel's mistress, she became gravely ill while he was away on a business trip. On his hasty return, she asked to be married to him before she died and he immediately agreed. Her recovery was rapid and complete.

Whether or not Gore Vidal's hilarious portrait of her in Burr is entirely accurate, she's an intriguing figure and just part of the fascinating history of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 1765 Jumel Terrace [160th] 212.923.8008, in Harlem. It is Manhattan's oldest house.

The Morris in the name is Roger Morris, son of the famous architect of the same name, who built the house in 1765 as a summer place for himself and his wife. Jumel bought the house in 1810. George Washington had his HQ here for a time and it's easy to picture the great man in the small but fine office on view. Aaron Burr figures into the history of this house, but you'll have to go there to find out how.

Additional incentive to visit: This Saturday, 4pm, is their annual holiday concert, presented by Brooklyn Baroque. Tickets are $25, and you need to register in advance at 212.923.8008.

Right by the mansion are some wonderful row houses that make up the Jumel Terrace Historic District. Foremost among these is Sylvan Terrace between Jumel and St. Nicholas. Built in 1882, this evocative street will transport you to old New York the moment you enter it.

[Today's image is based on a photo by Madeleine Doering]

Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.

Times Square (from 2008)

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