The octagonal drawing room at the Morris-Jumel Mansion is hosting distinguished guests: Greek and Buddhist goddesses and women of the Old Testament, painted by artist Andrea Arroyo. The shaped canvases take the form of panels from medieval altarpieces, honoring a range of women in a way traditionally restricted to saints and other holy figures in Christian iconography. The paintings, on display until August 21, are part of Arroyo's exhibit Boundless—The Women of the Mansion.
Painting of Susannah Bathing. The water is filled with the eyes of the men who are spying on her.
Susannah Bathing, by Andrea Arroyo. The water is filled with the eyes of the men who are spying on her.
Painting of Tara, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, by Andrea Arroyo. She is shown with one of her identifying symbols, the lotus flower.
Tara, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion, by Andrea Arroyo. She is shown with one of her identifying symbols, the lotus flower.
Arroyo has crafted outdoor, site-specific pieces as well, but the latter will only be on view until this Sunday, July 31, 2016. All are invited to attend a free closing reception and performance on the 31st at the Morris-Jumel Mansion (1 to 2:30 PM), which will include live art by Arroyo and piano accompaniment by jazz musician Marjorie Eliot.
Outdoor installation by Andrea Arroyo at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. It consists of a white banner with cutouts hanging from the balcony of the mansion.
Outdoor installation by Andrea Arroyo at the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
 
 
In 1855, Eliza Jumel's estate, rich with fruit trees and flowers, was described as "an earthly paradise, minus the angel." If the lands surrounding the Morris-Jumel Mansion, her onetime home, are less extensive than in the nineteenth century, they still offer a feast for the eye. These blooms—carefully tended by Morris-Jumel gardener, Karen Waltuch, and her corps of volunteers—caught my attention this week.
Wildflowers in front of the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Wildflowers welcoming visitors to the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Cardinal flowers in the back garden at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, July 20, 2016.
Cardinal flowers in the back garden at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, July 20, 2016.
 
 
Today is the 151st anniversary of the death of Madame Eliza B. Jumel (April 2, 1775–July 16, 2016). Her house, the Morris-Jumel Mansion, preserves her memory—as do I. Requiescat in pace, dearest Madame.
Winged hourglass made of cast iron--detail from the fence of a graveyard on Staten Island.
Detail from the fence of the Rezerou-Van Pelt Family Cemetery, Historic Richmond Town.
 
 
The Manhattan end of the High Bridge was built on land purchased from Eliza Jumel. She also owned the land bordering the Harlem River all the way south to what is now 159th Street. These two pictures show what the area looked like in the 1840s and today.
View of High Bridge and the Harlem River, 1844.
W. J. Bennett, View of High Bridge and the Harlem River, 1844. Courtesy New York Public Library. The Morris-Jumel Mansion is barely visible in the left middle ground, perched on Coogan's Bluff.
View of High Bridge and the Harlem River, 2016.
Margaret Oppenheimer, View of High Bridge and the Harlem River, 2016. Dredging and landfill in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries altered the irregular contours of the river. Five of the stone piers of the High Bridge were replaced by a steel arch in 1923 to allow larger ships to navigate the waterway.
 
 
Many relics of Eliza and Stephen Jumel survive, from personal letters to the wallpaper that decorated their home. The fact that the letters and wall hangings were made from rag paper—used in Europe and and the United States until the mid-nineteenth century—was a big key to their longevity. Richard Campbell, writing in 1747, provides a very clear description of how paper was made during the centuries when it was manufactured from cotton or linen rags rather than wood pulp:

"The Rags are picked, separated into Parcels, according to their Fineness, washed and whited; then they are carried to the Paper-Mill, where they are pounded amongst Water till they are reduced to a Pulp. When they are beat to a due Consistence, they are poured into a Working-Tub, where there is a Frame of Wire, commonly called the Paper-Mould, which is composed of so many Wires laid close to one another, equal to the Dimensions of the Sheet of Paper designed to be made; and some of them disposed in the Shape of the Figure which is discovered in the Paper, when you hold it up betwixt you and the Light.
[Campbell's "Figure . . . discovered in the Paper" is what we call a watermark today.]
"This Frame the Workman holds in both his Hands and plunges it into the Tub, and takes it quickly up again: The Water runs through the Spaces between the Wires, and there remains nothing on the Mould but the beaten Pulp, in a thin Coat, which forms the Sheet of Paper: A Flannel-Cloth is laid upon the Top of the Mould and the Paper turned off upon it; then they dip as before, and continue to supply the Vessel with fresh Matter as it decreases. The Flannel Cloths suck up the remaining Moisture, and the Paper after some time will suffer to be handled and hung up to dry in Places properly fitted for that purpose."
Source: R[ichard]. Campbell, The London Tradesmen: Being a Compendious View of All the Trades, Professions, Arts, both Liberal and Mechanic, now practiced in the Cities of London and Westminster (London: T. Gardner, 1747), 125.
Workman holding a paper mould, letting the water drain from the paper pulp. 18th-century engraving.
Workman holding a paper mould, letting the water drain from the paper pulp. From Diderot & d'Alembert, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 1767, vol. 5, “Papetterie,” detail of plate 10. University of Michigan Library.
Eighteenth-century engraving showing workers hanging paper to dry.
Workers hanging paper to dry. From Diderot & d'Alembert, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 1767, vol. 5, “Papetterie,” detail of plate 12. University of Michigan Library.
 
 
Detail of a manumission document from the archives of the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Detail of a manumission document from the archives of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, currently on exhibit at the house.
History buffs, don't miss a summer exhibit at the Morris-Jumel Mansion that has slipped in under the radar screen. It explores the subject of slavery in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New York through the lens of documents from the house's archives. One of the most interesting items is a paper promising freedom to a slave named Jack. His owner was a free black man, William Waldron—son of a Dutch-American father and enslaved mother. Waldron, like his father, became a farmer in Harlem who depended on slave labor—as did so many New York landowners in the eighteenth century. The document is a reminder that New York slaveholders were a more diverse group than we might think.

The exhibit, titled Cuffee Philipse: A Legacy in Documents, was organized by
former Morris-Jumel Mansion archivist Emilie Lauren Gruchow.