In what officials are calling a model public-private partnership, the Jay Heritage Center has signed a license agreement with Westchester County to assume responsibility for the full restoration and long-term maintenance of the historic John Jay Property in Rye. The son of John Jay, a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice, built the 1838 Jay House on the site where his father grew up. The county and state own 21.5 acres of the 23-acre property next to the Marshlands Conservancy. JHC owns the remaining 1.5 acres.
County, state, city and JHC officials gathered at the historic site to announce the agreement Friday morning.
“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay Property, saving it from demolition,” said Astorino. “Now the county is stepping in again with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”
The agreement is designed to ensure the preservation of the nationally significant property and serve as a model of cooperative stewardship that can be emulated nationwide. It also aims to promote heritage tourism by making historic resources more accessible to the public.
The county will no longer spend $25,000 annual on the maintenance of the property, as the agreement will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in significant capital infrastructures to the Jay Heritage Center, which will raise funds as a private 501 (c) 3 and also apply for grants. Astorino and JHC President Suzanne Clary emphasized that donations will also be accepted.
At the press conference, Clary smiled broadly as she thanked a number of county, state, Rye city and JHC officials for their assistance in the agreement.
“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said Clary.
The JHC hopes to complete renovations, restore the historic meadow, gardens, apple orchards and possibly the property’s tennis court, which officials believe is the third oldest tennis court in the country. They also aim to add indoor and outdoor classrooms, continue to educated children about the site’s history and the connection between land use and race; build up the population of native birds and build classical music spaces and art galleries on the property.
New York State Parks Deputy Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth also praised the agreement, saying: “Partnership agreements such as this one have been highly successful in enhancing the quality of parks and historic sites for the visiting public. The Jay Heritage Center has done an impressive job restoring the historic house, and I’m confident they will continue their excellent stewardship of the site. This public-private partnership will ensure the John Jay property remains a valued recreational and cultural resource for Westchester residents and visitors alike.”
The Jay Property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.
Most recently in 2009, it became one of only 100 Congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area based on the importance of its architecture, its landscape and themes of freedom and dignity that its 10,000-year-old history embodies.
To read the full details of the license agreement click here.