The stately two-story Morris-Jumel mansion, built in 1765 in a Georgian style modified to suit a country setting, was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Jumel in 1810. Though Stephen Jumel held high social standing due to his prior leadership of a Caribbean plantation, as well as his role as a successful wine merchant, it was the colorful and controversial Madame Eliza Jumel who became the talk of New York City society. Eliza Jumel’s life typified the limited options of ambitious young women with controversial backgrounds in late 18th-century America. Born into a middleclass family, Eliza’s social circumstances declined following the death of her father and remarriage of her mother. Eliza’s fortunes turned after meeting and marrying Stephen Jumel in 1804. The couple was not entirely accepted by society due, in part, to Eliza’s controversial background. Wealth permitted travel, however, and the Jumels sailed to France in 1815. There, Eliza found social acceptance, mingling with aristocrats, including Napolean Bonaparte. In 1816, Eliza returned to New York City with power of attorney over Stephen’s assets while Stephen remained in France. This was likely done to protect Stephen’s assets from creditors. Tragically, Stephen died in 1832 from falling off a wagon. Fourteen months later Eliza, then 58, married 77 year-old former Vice President Aaron Burr. The marriage was marked by Burr’s misuse of the Jumel fortune, and the two formally divorced on September 14, 1836, the day of Burr’s death. Jumel kept this home for the remainder of her life, and died in the mansion in 1865.
The Morris-Jumel Mansion, a National Historic Landmark, is located at the corner of West 160th St. and Edgecomb Ave. in New York City, NY. The Morris-Jumel Mansion is open to the public.