Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Jumel Mansion - Manhattan

I’m not going to tell you too much about this place. I went there in 1964, just after my Mom had read about it in the newspaper. She was like that; she’d read something interesting, clip it out and the next thing I knew we were in the car and my father would be driving us to see it.

My wife is like that, too. I’m more of a drive by and see something, stop and look at it. It might seem more spontaneous, but I come up with less things than either my Mom, or Sue. So, their method is obviously a more fruitful track.

Without looking anything up I remember the story like this; Madame Jumel was the richest women in Colonial America due to some circumstances involving marriage and death. In those days that’s how it worked for women. They married as well as they could and then hoped for the early demise of the husband. Then she was free to marry the stable hand if she chose to. But, it worked both ways. George Washington married up, so to speak, when he tied the knot with Martha.

Anyway, Madame Ju
mel was involved with two men; one of whom I believe was Alexander Hamilton; but I’ll check that before I wrap this up. This is just my preliminary memory of the house and the things we were told on the tour.

At the time of our visit there had been a ghost scare at the mansion. A group of school children had gone on a field trip to see the house. When they were assembled on the front lawn a figure appeared on the upstairs balcony screaming at the children; and their very frightened teacher. No explanation was ever uncovered for the bizarre incident; other than the “ghost” screaming that the kids were making too much noise.

When we visited about a month later the docent showed us some of the window panes which had been etched upon with the signatures of either Madame Jumel, or one of her family. I don’t remember exactly. I do know this; that prior to the 1960’s the house was in disrepair and the local residents in Harlem had broken a good many of the windows.

But you could readily tell the original wavy panes from the new replacements. And these were the ones which had writing on them. The odd part was that the name and handwriting were from one particular person who had been dead too long to have done the etching on a few of the panes.

The house is on something like 160th Street in Nicholas Park. The Alexander Hamilton residence is barely a mile south of that on 141st Street, where it was relocated in the early 2000’s. It is still within the original 34 acre tract of land which Hamilton called home.

Okay, so now I will look on line for a picture of the house and a link which will tell the whole story. What you have read is merely the memory of a 10 year old kid. I’m looking forward to reading the whole story. Hope you’ll join me… here’s a great link with photos of every room.

The one of the mannequin reminded me of the fright I had when we came up the stairs to the second floor. The bedroom pictured with the mannequin was positioned in such a way that when you turned at the top of the landing you were looking right at it. As a 10 year old expecting a ghost to jump out at any minute, it did the trick and scared the hell out of me!

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