Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site

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Address
400 Jay Street
Katonah, NY 10536
Latitude 41.248043
Longitude -73.658768

Nestled in the rolling Westchester countryside is the gracious home and farm of John Jay (1745-1829), one of America's principal Founding Fathers. Jay co-authored the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, and the Federalist Papers, which aided ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He served as President of the Continental Congress, U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the second governor of New York State.

During many years of devoted service to the State and the Nation, he looked forward to the day when he would retire with his wife and children to "the house on my farm in Westchester County..." The land where John Jay lived his later years was purchased in 1703 by his maternal grandfather, Jacobus Van Cortlandt. By 1800 Jay had acquired, by inheritance and by purchase, 750 acres of property near Bedford, New York. In 1799 he began construction of a comfortable 24-room farmhouse. He moved there in 1801, after his retirement from politics. Tragically, Jay's wife Sarah died only months after moving to their new home. John Jay never remarried and lived as a gentleman farmer until his death in 1829. His son William (1789-1858) inherited the house and farm; he later became a leading figure in the struggle to end slavery. William's son John Jay II (1817-1894) inherited the property and upon his death it was given to his son Colonel William Jay (1841-1915). The Colonels' daughter, Eleanor Jay Iselin (1882-1953) was the last of the family to use the property as a full time residence.In 1958 the house and thirty of the original acres were purchased from Eleanor Jay Iselin's heirs by Westchester County and transferred to the State of New York, which opened it to the public in 1964 as John Jay Homestead State Historic Site. The historic house is open most of the year, and can be seen by a guided tour through twelve beautifully furnished period rooms, restored to an 1820's appearance. Specialized tours and education programs are available by appointment.

The historic site now encompasses sixty-two acres, including lovingly-tended formal gardens, magnificent woodland walks, rolling meadows, and a cluster of 19th century farm buildings. An 1820's schoolhouse and an 1830s barn are open for touring. John Jay Homestead hosts special events throughout the year. Private events can be held at the site by special arrangement. Please call the site for additional information.

John Jay Homestead presents: Moments in Time: Photographs from the Jay Collection, a special exhibit now open in the Back Parlor Gallery. Moments in Time presents photographs of Jay family members between 1840s and 1930s and captures their lives at home, at play, travelling the world, and at the service of their country in war and peace.

Photographs presented include those taken of Jay family members in Vienna by Austrian Imperial Court photographers in the 1870s, and an original Matthew Brady photograph of a Jay family wedding party on the front steps of the main house from 1863. Also included are rare daguerreotypes taken of Jays before the Civil War and early 20th century photo albums showing family members on vacation and enjoying recreation.

The exhibit can be viewed during regular tours of the John Jay Homestead historic house museum. All photographs, reproductions and albums on display are part of the John Jay Homestead's archival collection.

Don't miss these popular destinations and attractions within or near the historic site:

  • Carriage Barn Education & Visitor's Center
  • The Farm Road-part of the Bedford Riding Lanes Association trails for horse riders
  • The Formal Gardens-located through the white gate, a fountain and sundial form the centers, beautifully maintained by the Bedford Garden Club
  • The "Ha-ha's"-tall barriers built to keep grazing livestock from getting near the house, but invisible when looking down the lawn
  • The Herb Garden-created in 1991 on the site of an historic cutting garden and greenhouse.  Maintained by the Herb Society.
  • Ice Pond-created for producing ice in the winter to use year-round, now a picturesque spot.  The road down to the pond is part of the Tree Walk, lined with Red Maples
  • North Court Garden-on the north side of the main house, between the wings.  It beautifies the accessible entrance as well as displays a sampling of plants around the site.  Maintained by the Hopp Ground Garden Club
  • Picnic area-picnic benches are scattered throughout the picturesque site
  • Tree Walk-experience the leafy landscape created by John Jay. Highlights include:  Linden (Tilia americana), Red Maples (Acer rubrum) and European Beech (Faga sylvatica) trees, all historic and gorgeous.
Mailing Address
PO Box 832Katonah, NY 10536

Hours of Operation

  • Grounds are open year round from sunrise to sunset.
  • Tours:

    May 1 - October 15
    Hourly House Tours: Wednesday-Sunday, 1pm-4pm
    25-Minute Highlight Tours: Saturdays during Farm Market, 10am, 10:30am, 11am, 11:30am
    Discovery Centers: Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm

    October 16 - April 30
    Hourly House Tours: Thursday-Saturday, 1pm-3pm
    Discovery Center: Closed for the season

  • Carriage Barn Education & Visitor Center:

    May 1 - October 15:
    Wednesday-Sunday, 12:30pm-4pm
    Saturdays during Farm Market, 10am-4pm

    October 16 - April 30: Closed for the season
  • School and group visits are by appointment only. Please call the site at 914.232.5651 for more information.

  • Day Use Activities: Seasonal.
    Hiking, birding, landscape painting, photography, equestrian trials and XC skiing.
  • Picnicking: Available year-round.

Fees & Rates

Historic sites charge a vehicle use fee and/or admittance fee at various times and locations throughout the year. A list of fees is available below. For program fees or to verify information, please contact the site directly.

  • Admission for House Tour(includes Exhibit Gallery)
  • $7 Adults
    $5 Seniors/Students
    $5 per person for pre-arranged groups
    Children 12 and under Free


    Educational Programs: $2/child on-site + material costs;
    $50/class off-site.
  • Brick Yard
  • $3,000/day
  • Rentals
  • Big Room - $4,000 up to 8 hours
    Big Room - $2,000 up to 4 hours
    Big Room - $750 for 2 hours for small workshop with no catering

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site invites you and your class to learn about the life of Founding Father John Jay and to explore the exciting times in which he lived. The historic house has been restored to look as it did during John Jay's lifetime. Students get a first-hand look at the changing nature of everyday life by comparing today's lifestyles with those of Jay's era. A variety of programs allow teachers to select visits or outreach programs that complement and coincide with their own curriculum. All age groups use the house and furnishings as a resource to develop enthusiasm for the past and an understanding of the founding of the United States.

John Jay Homestead has developed all education programs to meet current State and Common Core curriculum standards. These programs encourage students to use the critical thinking skills of a historian or social scientist by requiring them to read, analyze, apply, synthesize and evaluate historical information.

The education staff will work with teachers to design programs around specific curriculum needs such as Document Based Questions.

  • What about the cost?
    The fee for an on-site visit is $2.00 or $3.00 per student depending on the program. All of our programs can be done either on-site or in the classroom. These programs have been made possible in part through contributions from Friends of John Jay Homestead, Inc. The Margaret Mayo-Smith Bus Fund provides funding for transportation to the site for schools that demonstrate need.
  • When can we schedule a visit?
    Please visit the Availability Calendar to view when John Jay Homestead State Historic Site is available.
  • Do we offer an Outreach Program?
    Yes, we do. Our outreach program is a flat fee of $50.00 per class. All of our programs can be done in the classroom. Please call Bethany White, our Education Coordinator, at 914.232.5651 ext 101 or email at bethany.white@oprhp.state.ny.us for more information on the Outreach Program.



    Grades K-4

    Then and Now: This program allows students to compare and contrast their everyday life with the way the Jay family lived here in the early 1800's. By looking at objects such as chamber pots and open hearth toasters, students become historic detectives using their analytical skills to determine the objects purpose. Students are also asked to look at items in the home and try to "guess" their modern equivalents, (e.g. the mortar and pestle is the colonial version of the blender). As well as the tour of the home, students discuss the difference in urban/rural/suburban locations. Finally, students will participate in colonial games as well as making a colonial craft they can take home with them.


    Grades K-12

    John Jay's Farm: This program utilizes the historic structures on the property as well as a series of maps to discuss the evolution of agriculture and how technological advances affected the industry.


    Grades 4-8

    John Jay, Revolutionary Spymaster: Why does the CIA have a room at its Liaison Conference Center named after John Jay? Widely celebrated for his political achievements, it is often overlooked that John Jay played an important role in creating a Patriot spy network to help defeat the British during the American Revolution. Students will move through the Homestead learning about New York's defense, the split loyalties of its inhabitants, different spying techniques and historical anecdotes about important political figures.


    Grades 6-12

    John Jay and the Constitution: What's the difference between a President and a King? What are taxes for? What did the Constitution say about slavery? What kind of federal government might New Yorkers want, and was that different from, say, residents of frontier states, or states in the South? Why was it so important that New York ratify the Constitution, if there were already enough supporting states to make it become law? How much power should states have?

    Moving through the historic house and using objects from our collection and documents from the Jay archives, students will explore how states with very different economies and interests, having just fought a long, expensive and bloody war against a king, agreed to come together and adopt a government with strong powers.

Grades 8-12

Slavery, Slavery and the Jay Family: What is the difference between a servant and a slave? What is the difference between abolition and manumission? Why did many of the Founding Fathers historic house museum and study primary sources, including objects and documents, your students will come to understand John Jay's conflicting attitudes as slave owner and manumission advocate and learn about his son William's role in the abolition movement. They will also learn about the lives of some of the actual servants and slaves who lived at the Homestead. continue to own slaves as they established a new nation where "all men are created equal?" We provide an immersive, hands-on experience that will help your students answer these and other probative questions.

After a lifetime of public service, John Jay and his family retired to his farm in Bedford in 1801. Jay had been the chief negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, and had served as Chief Justice, Secretary for Foreign Affairs and as a two-term Governor of New York. Jay's wife, Sarah, died shortly after moving to Bedford and Jay never remarried. Upon John Jay's death in 1829, the farm and home were inherited by William Jay, John's second son. William Jay became a prominent leader of abolitionists, and the Homestead became a center in the anti-slavery movement.

John Jay Homestead State Historic Site's current special exhibition, Reflections On Our Past: A Viewer Response Exhibit, is presently on view in the museum's Back Parlor Gallery. The exhibit includes a wide variety of objects that are taken from the site's collection storage rooms, things that are not normally displayed. The objects are not thematically or chronologically linked. Some are true treasures, while others are everyday objects: everything from John Jay's 18th-century silver shoe buckles to a Civil War period sword, from portraits to rare documents, from old tools to precious luxury objects. An equally wide variety of people from the community, including scholars, neighbors, and schoolchildren, were invited to select an object and submit a creative response to it. Some contributed essays, others poems, and still others drawings and photographs. Their responses can be viewed in guidebooks available in the gallery. The result is a wide-ranging exhibit that will be interesting to all ages.

Reflections On Our Past can be viewed both as part of a regular tour of the historic house, and by itself, during special gallery hours held on Sundays from noon to 2:00, and on Mondays from 10:00 to noon.

Thu 05 May
Herb Society of America Open Meeting & Lecture
Thursday, May 5, 2016 10:00 AM
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
(914) 232-5651

The New York Unit of the Herb Society of America's spring meeting and lecture in the ballroom, will feature Sam Sifton. Founding editor of NYT Cooking, food columnist for the Sunday Times Magazine and author of Thanksgiving: How to it Cook Well, Mr. Sifton promotes local and sustainable food sourcing at home and in restaurants. Registration at 10am with coffee; meeting at 10:30 followed by lecture and an herbal luncheon. A donation is suggested. For information and registration, please email herbsocietyny@gmail.com.

Sat 07 May
I Love My Park Day
Saturday, May 7, 2016 09:00 AM - 02:00 PM
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
(914) 232-8119

Come join us at John Jay Homestead Sate Historic Site in celebrating the fifth annual I Love My Park Day! I Love My Park Day is an exciting statewide event to improve and enhance New York's parks and historic sites and bring visibility to the entire park system and its needs. Various volunteer projects will be available to choose from.

Join Friends of John Jay Homestead for a day of service at the 62-acre John Jay Homestead State Historic Site. Invasive removal and spring clean-up projects to suit volunteers of all ages and abilities.Check-in begins at 9:00am.

Register Now

Registration: Required
Wed 11 May
Garden Class -- Get Growing: Planting, Spacing, and Staking
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
(914) 232-5651

Want some help getting started in the garden? In this class, Shanyn Siegel discusses basic garden logistics and offers some practical tips and techniques for a well-planned and productive garden. Join horticulturist and seed conservationist Shanyn Siegel as she takes you through an entire gardening season with interactive classes designed to help you hone—or discover—your garden skills. Classes explore every topic a vegetable gardener might be interested in and offer practical advice on how to easily maintain a bountiful kitchen garden. Classes are held in the Glass Porch of John Jay's Bedford House. Advance registration required; $35 per class, discounts for multiple-class or early registration. Class details and registration information at: www.shanynsiegel.com/jjhclasses.

Registration: Required
Thu 12 May
American Revolution in Film: The Crossing
Thursday, May 12, 2016 07:00 PM
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
(914) 232-5651

Part of the Pages & Pictures series, a film and book club; every two months we will watch a different film and read the book it was based upon. Free admission. The Crossing is a stirring dramatization of General George Washington's surprise attack on the British Army's German mercenaries and the Battle of Trenton. Based on the book by Howard Fast, The Crossing brings to life Washington's historic passage across the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776 and the lopsided fight that followed. Starring Jeff Daniels, Roger Rees and Sebastian Roché. 89 minutes. Advance registration optional at www.johnjayhomestead.org.

Registration: Optional
Fri 13 May
Play Days @ Jay
Friday, May 13, 2016 12:00 PM - 02:00 PM
John Jay Homestead State Historic Site
(914) 232-5651

Plant seeds in a flower pot you customize, EXPLORE 6 interactive Discovery Centers, PLAY colonial games, complete our NEW Family Activity Guide, and win a prize for completing our scavenger hunt. Bring a picnic lunch! Education staff will lead a ½-hour hands-on activity at 1:30pm. Free admission. Advance registration optional.

Registration: Optional

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Amenities, Activities & Information

  • Amenities
  • Bridle Path
  • Educational Services (Accessible)
  • Gardens
  • Gift Shop (Accessible)
  • Interpretive Signs
  • Scenic Views
  • Self Guided Tours
    • Activities
    • Audio-Visual Programs (Accessible)
    • Demonstrations (Accessible)
    • Group Tours (Accessible)
    • Guided Tours
    • Hiking
    • Historic House
    • Picnic Area