These beautiful last days of summer are the perfect time to admire the garden at the Morris-Jumel Mansion and step inside to view a thought-provoking exhibition of textile art. Titled The Fabric of Emancipation, the juried show was produced by the mansion in partnership with Harlem Needle Arts, an organization that promotes fabric and needle arts made by artists of the African Diaspora. The works on exhibit highlight the historical and contemporary experience of blacks in the United States. In this pointedly topical piece, for example, Laura R. Gadson juxtaposes the divergent treatment of blacks and whites who attract the attention of the police.
Detail of an artwork by Laura R. Gadson on exhibit at the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Detail of Conversations in Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives, by Laura R. Gadson. On exhibit through October 3 at the Morris-Jumel Mansion.
 
 
Michael Wolf, a member of the stellar Morris-Jumel Mansion docent crew, alerted me recently to a potentially significant episode in the pre-Revolutionary history of the house. I say "potentially significant," because there may be a fly in the ointment: it is not yet clear whether the episode took place in the real world or only in someone's imagination. I hope to be able to answer that question eventually, but for the moment let me give you what information I have found.

The story begins with a calendar page on display this summer at Fraunces Tavern Museum in downtown Manhattan. On the page is a reproduction of a painting by John Ward Dunsmore (1856–1945). Its subject is said to be a reception at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, held on Thursday afternoon, September 1, 1768. The guest of honor was New Jersey governor William Franklin, who was on his way to treaty negotiations with the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix in the Mohawk Valley. (Click "Read More"—just far enough to the right below this paragraph to be difficult to spot—to continue.)

 
 
Because hallways and entryways were prone to drafts, they were lit with lanterns rather than exposed fixtures in the eighteenth-century United States. These special-purpose light fixtures continued to be referred to as "hall lanterns" even after they took on more elaborate forms. In these photographs, you can see a hall lantern that hung in the Morris-Jumel Mansion in the nineteenth century. A vasiiform glass tube surrounds the wick to protect the flame from drafts. The bell hung above the tube was designed to capture the smoke so that it would not stain the ceiling.
Hallway of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, ca. 1887,
Hallway of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, ca. 1887, from William H. Shelton, The Jumel Mansion (1916).
Hall lantern in the entryway of the Morris-Jumel Mansion,, ca. 1887.
Hall lantern in the entryway of the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Detail of a photograph, ca. 1887, from William H. Shelton, The Jumel Mansion (1916).
 
 
In 1812 Eliza and Stephen Jumel purchased a plot of land on the northeast corner of Broadway and Liberty Street. Here is what their onetime property looks like today. I suspect it is worth a trifle more than the $14,700 they paid for it.
Photograph of the front door of 150 Broadway in Manhattan.
Eliza and Stephen Jumel once owned 150 Broadway, today the site of the Westinghouse Building.
Photograph of the Westinghouse Building, at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Streets in Manhattan.
The footprint of the Westinghouse Building, at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Streets in Manhattan, follows the lot lines of the former Jumel property.