THE ROGER MORRIS HOUSE
ONE OF OUR MOST INTERESTING REVOLUTIONARY LANDMARKS.
Commanding a superb view of the Harlem valley, looking south from I 60th Street and Jorrmel Place, stands what is easily the most important building, historically, in New York—the Roger Morris House. It is reached by the Broadway subway, 157th Street station; walk three blocks to the east. Also by the Sixth Avenue elevated, getting off at 155th Street.
The building was erected in 1765 by Lieut. Col. Roger Morris, of the British Forty-seventh Regiment and a member of the King's Council. Morris and Washington were brothers in arms during the unfortunate attack on Fort Du Quesne, in which the former was wounded. It is also stated that Mrs. Morris refused the hand of Washington, preferring the dashing young soldier who wore the King's uniform. After the Revolution the estate was confiscated and sold. Meanwhile it looms large in the pages of American history.
It is the building most intimately connected with Washington in New York during hostilities. It was occupied by him as headquarters from September 16 to October 21, 1776—a period of over five weeks. Here he formed plans for the defense of the heights and considered measures for the blockade of the Hudson River.
At the same time he issued the remarkable series of general orders now so eagerly read, and at the same time carried on the famous correspondence with William Duer, of the secret Committee of Safety. He had under him nearly 8,000 volunteers, for the larger part wholly untrained, undisciplined and about as motley a crew as ever gathered under any commander.
Most of them enlisted for only about thirty days, and never troubled themselves to procure suitable uniforms. Notwithstanding their common love of country and undoubted patriotism, they were poor material out of which to oppose the regular trained troops of the British, and the result was a severe defeat for the Americans and the capture of Fort Washington.
The prisoners were first assembled in the barns on the Morris place, and later transferred to hulks and prison ships in New York. During this exciting period the Morris House was the centre of operations, with Washington as first in command.
Upon its surrender to the British, it was occupied by Lieut. General Sir Henry Clinton, and became the headquarters of the invaders all through the summer of 1777. In one of the rooms is shown an old table on which Andre wrote a letter to Arnold in the presence of his captors.
After Sir Henry's occupancy, the house was used during. the summer of 1778 and for the continuation of the war by the Hessian generals and their German staff. With the close of the Revolution the romance of the house for the moment ends, to be renewed at a later date by the wife of Stephen Jumel, a wealthy French-man who purchased the house in 1810.
As in the case of all Royalists, the property of Roger Morris was confiscated and sold. In the days of its ill fortune it became an inn, known as Calumet Hall, and was the first stop for a change of horses on the trip to Albany, being then eleven miles from the city proper. In 1790 it flashed forth for an instant in all its old-time splendor—the old Commander-in-chief and his cabinet, after a visit to Fort Washington, tarried here for dinner "provided by a Mr. Marriner," as the old chronicler records.
Among the distinguished guests accompanying the President were Alexander Hamilton, New York's first and greatest statesman, and Washington's chief councilor in the new government, who was then only about thirty years old; Thomas Jefferson, not yet the world-famous personage in history he has since become as the author of the Declaration of Independence; General Knox, little Nellie Custis, John Park Custis, John Adams, vice-president of the United States; Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Hamilton.
Truly a notable gathering and well calculated to once again bring the old house to its old-time dignity. With the departure of these guests the fame of the old mansion seemed also to de-part, and for nearly twenty years it stood neglected and forlorn. Its purchase by the wealthy merchant al-ready mentioned served to restore its fallen fortunes for a period, as we find it for over fifty years occupying a conspicuous position in the annals of old New York.
Go To Next Page