Monday, September 27, 2021. Warm days in the mid-70s, and cooler evenings in the mid-60s, this past weekend in New York.
There was a concert in the Park Saturday — “Global Citizen Live NYC” — one of six across the world on six continents including London, Paris, Rio, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Lagos, Mumbai, Sidney, Las Vegas, L.A., and Seoul to raise voices for the hunger crisis and climate needs of developing countries.
At the evening, there was a surprise appearance of Paul Simon singing one my favorites, “The Boxer,” with a lyric in the first stanza that acknowledges the human condition in these times of ours:
I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises,
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.
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Meanwhile, the city continues to come back to New York life. A week ago Friday, the Versailles/ Giverny Foundation, Inc. hosted a dinner outdoors on the grounds of the Palladian style 1765 Morris Jumel Mansion in upper Manhattan to celebration the completion of the Versailles Foundation’s restoration of Madame Jumel’s French Reception Room and Bedroom.
The evening was hosted by The Versailles Foundation’s President, Barbara de Portago, and her son and Junior Committee Director Russell A.G. Grant, with his wife, Lindsay.
Upon arrival, guests picked out of a basket a lottery style table number and were offered George Washington’s favorite “Cherry Bounce” cordial. The recipe was concocted in 1784 by his wife Martha Washington with plenty of brandy!
The Mansion is the oldest private house in the borough of Manhattan. It was built as a summer villa for British Officer Roger Morris and his family. From “Mount Morris” the highest point in Manhattan you could see clear across to New Jersey, Connecticut, and down to New York Harbor. Much of that view still exists except for the taller buildings erected over the years in upper Manhattan to the south.
When the American Revolutionary War got underway, Colonel Morris, a loyalist to His Majesty, King George, returned to England. In the Autumn of 1776 General George Washington and his Continental Officers occupied the house as Headquarters, as it was ideally situated for observing troop movements. Washington commanded the September 16th Battle of Harlem Heights, his first victory, from the house.
After the war, the estate was confiscated under the Forfeiture Laws and sold to cover war debts. For a brief time, it was a tavern and hosted one of President George Washington’s first Cabinet dinners on July 10th, 1790. Twenty years later in 1810 Stephen Jumel, a rich French merchant, purchased the house for his former mistress and wife, Eliza Bowen, who came from poor beginnings, was self-educated (she was a voracious reader) and grew to be a successful businesswoman.
By the time her husband Stephen died in 1832, she was New York’s wealthiest woman. Shortly thereafter, in the front parlor of the house, she married former Vice President Aaron Burr — who went down in history for the killing of Alexander Hamilton in a gun duel. The marriage to Burr was short. She divorced him in 1834, and lived on in great luxury until her death three decades later in 1865.
Among the many guests the Morris-Jumel Mansion hosted were John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, Gore Vidal, and Lin Manuel Miranda, who wrote in the house portions of his 2015 musical, Hamilton.
In 1903 the Mansion was purchased by The Daughters of the American Revolution and converted to a Museum. It is now owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and is a member of the Historic House Trust, and a wonderful place for a late summer dinner for the Versailles Foundation’s work.