For its largest restoration project in years, John Jay Homestead has secured plans that will begin the transfomation of its Carriage Barn into a new Education and Visitors Center.
The c.1801 structure that is centrally located on the 62-acre grounds will be saved, and the restored and improved barn will allow for individual visitors, school groups and families to participate in hands-on learning projects and view multimedia presentations while it creates a welcoming area to the state historic site.
“John Jay Homestead is an important part of our community,” said Friends of John Jay Homestead Executive Director Wendy Ross.
“It is a huge space that is open to the public—people use it to ride horses, walk dogs, and to learn about history.” She added that the farmer’s market, the egg co-op, beekeeping school and community teaching garden, are resources the public also really enjoy at the Homestead.
The Friends of John Jay group is a nonprofit, educational organization that provides volunteers, funding and other support for the operation and preservation of the site.
The contract for the construction portion of the $1.4 million project was awarded in late January, coming after years of research, planning and fundraising for project which was done in cooperation with the NY State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Ross explained that more than half of the total fundraising goal has already been reached, through a combination of individual donations, private foundation grants and government funding. Construction work is expected to begin in April.
She said the new education and visitor’s center will be a great meeting place—to learn about John Jay’s accomplishments, to see the exhibit gallery, to serve as a gateway to the attractions at the Main House and throughout the Homestead property—and even a place to have a cup of coffee while perusing the new gift shop.
The revamped center will include a welcome and information desk, a map-model of the property, computer kiosks called “orientation stations" with built-in touch screens and large format LCD monitors. Exhibit areas will showcase 19th century farming and the Jay family’s long history of caring for horses, as well as a reading room with period news magazines featuring articles relevant to Jay's life.
The hands-on activity space for young children will include "discovery boxes" that hold themed items from period clothing to vintage games. The boxes will surround a replica pony cart, based on a photo of the Jay children enjoying a ride. Visitors will be able to ascend the piece and have their pictures taken in period garb.
An historic site since 1959, the Homestead celebrates Founding Father John Jay—who was president of the Continental Congress and chief negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. He also served on the United States Supreme Court as the first Chief Justice, as U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and was the second governor of New York State. He retired to his Bedford farm in 1801 and lived there until his death in 1829.
Rose Harvey, the NY State Commissioner for Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said the new visitor center will be an asset to the community.
“The Carriage Barn project will celebrate history, encourage tourism at the Homestead and provide the community additional reasons to visit this local and national treasure.”