|from the collection of the New York Public Library
In the 18th century wealthy merchants and British officers established sprawling summer estates north of the city where the breezes from the rivers provided respite. Decades later, in its October 1916 issue, the Edison Monthly commented "Yorkville in the old days seems to have been the Tuxedo of the well-to-do. Here the more prominent families of the Island developed handsome estates."
Around 1781 John Jones purchased the 132-acre farm of David Provoost along the East River. What would become known as Jones's Woods stretched from approximately 62nd to 82nd Streets. (Part of the estate was considered as a site for a public part in 1851. The plan was scrapped in favor of Central Park.)
Upon the death of John Jones in 1806, the estate was divided among his heirs. Joshua Jones received a section north of the John Jones house, where he soon erected a fine Federal-style mansion at approximately what would be 82nd Street. Because it was a summer home, the residence on the property was known as the Jones "cottage." Similar to the recently constructed home of Archibald Gracie not far to the north, the frame structure featured broad verandas and Chinese Chippendale galleries along the roof line and atop the porches.
Along with the Gracies the family's neighbors were the Schermerhorn, Winthrop, King, and Wilkes families. Jones and his wife, the former Margaret Renshaw, had three sons, Edward Renshaw, Isaac, and George.
All three of the Jones sons married into prominent families. Edward married Elizabeth Schermerhorn (his granddaughter, Edith Jones, would become the popular novelist Edith Wharton). Isaac and George were vice presidents of Chemical Bank, founded and headed by millionaire John Mason. Both of the brothers married a daughter of their boss. George married Serena Mason, and Isaac married Mary Carré Mason.
Upon the death of Joshua Jones in 1821, George inherited the Jones cottage. He and Serena had two children, George Alfred and Serena Mason Jones. As had been the case during his childhood, George initially used the estate as a summer home. But by the 1850's he established the cottage as his family's year-round home.
The Jones family lived peacefully in their bucolic setting. But following the Civil War the riverfront began filling with industry--breweries, tanneries and cigar factories, for instance--while the Yorkville neighborhood quickly developed with homes and stores of the workers they employed. With the opening of the Third Avenue elevated railroad in 1878, the neighborhood that had taken most of the day to reach a century earlier was easily accessible.
George Jones died in 1887. The Jones cottage survived eight more years. In his 1896 Walks in Our Churchyards, historian John Flavel Mines commented "The old Jones mansion at 82d Street and Avenue B, beautifully situated on a bluff at the East River, was torn down last year, but enough of the old family possessions on the line of the river still remains to preserve the traditions of Jones' Woods and keep the name in the mouth of the public."
How long that situation remained is questionable; but today few New Yorkers have any recollection of the Jones Cottage or Jones' Woods.
|The approximate location of the Jones Cottage today.