William’s homes: Claremont

In January 1811 William and his suite sailed from Liverpool on board the ship Jane, bound for New York where they arrived about two months later. Around the same time the Courtenays’ yacht Dolphin – commissioned by William’s father, armed with cannon and probably stowed with William’s belongings – also crossed the Atlantic, arriving at the Blandford river in Virginia before continuing to New York where some of the cannon later re-appeared. (Perhaps Dolphin carried William and his suite to Liverpool before crossing the ocean.)

William soon took up residence in Bloomingdale at Claremont but, when the USA declared war on the UK in the summer of 1812, he was sent to the interior and lived for some time at Poughkeepsie. We do not know if or when he was allowed to return to Claremont before October 1814 when he sailed from New York with his suite on board the Gustav Adolph, bound for France.

Many of the press cuttings on this page have been contributed by North American members of the Courtenay Society who have generously agreed to share findings from their research.

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  • 1811 London daily newspaper, The Globe, 27 April:

Advice has been received at Powderham Castle, in Devonshire, from America, of the arrival of Lord Courtenay, with his yacht, in Blandford river, in Virginia.

  • 1811 English weekly newspaper, Exeter Flying Post, 6 June | Plymouth, June 4:

Monday. Wind variable. The Jane, Clark, which arrived here yesterday [Sunday 2 June 1811] carried out to New-York, from Liverpool, about five months since, the Right Hon. Lord Viscount Courtenay and his suite, passengers. His lordship has purchased a large estate, and suitable mansion, on Long Island. The Jane brought home several packets of letters sealed with the Courtenay arms and crest, directed for Lord C. Somerset [one of William’s brothers-in-law], his lordship’s sisters, his solicitor in London, his steward, &c. &c. He lives quite a secluded life.

  • 1811 July 14:

Marriage at Bloomingdale reformed church (New York) between Eliza Bashwod and William How, two of William’s servants. [Noted by Hopper Striker Mott, The New York of yesterday, p.447.]

  • 1811 London monthly magazine, The European Magazine, September:

New York Papers to the 4th ultimo [4 August 1811], have been received […]. Other American Papers state, […] Lord Courtenay has taken some ground about six miles from New York, on which he is erecting a splendid mansion. He has launched a grand carriage with a suitable equipage, but sees no company.

  • 1811 Irish daily newspaper, The Freeman’s Journal, November 4:

Lord Courtenay, it would appear, intends to sojourn constantly in America, as he is finishing a house on a large scale, and is improving the grounds adjacent; he lives quite secluded; his principal companion is an elderly foreigner, who went with him from this country.

  • 1812 British aliens living in or near New York City, as recorded in return by Federal marshal to Department of State July 20-25, with note by US Navy Department from 1813:

Courtney, Lord Vincent [Viscount], age 43, 1 year & 4 mos. in U.S., Claremont, gentleman;

[1813, US Navy note] 5 ft. 7½ in. [1.71 metres], age 44, fair complex., grey hair, fair eyes, Bloomingdale, gentleman.

  • 1812 [New York] Evening Post, December 28:

FOR SALE–The house and improved grounds at Bloomingdale, belonging to the subscriber and lately occupied by Lord Courtenay. The Grounds consist of five acres in fee, and seven acres on Lease, of which eighteen years are unexpired. The situation is healthy and beautiful–there is a very good garden with abundance of fruit on the place; also a number of fine young forest trees, which form very agreeable shady walks in the summer season.

The House and out Houses have been built within a few years and are spacious and convenient.–The distance from the city by the present road is four miles and a half, but by a new road intended to be made by the corporation next summer it will be reduced nearly one mile.–For further particulars apply to the subscriber No. 7 Beaver-st. New York. JOHN WILKES.

Immediate possession can be given if required. Dec. 26

  • 1813 US daily newspaper, New York Evening Post, April 23:

For Sale–The house and improved grounds at Bloomingdale, owned by the subscriber and lately occupied by Lord Courtenay. | The Grounds consist of five acres in fee, and seven acres on Lease, of which eighteen years are unexpired. The situation is healthy and beautiful–there is a very good garden with abundance of fruit on the place; also a number of fine young forest trees, which form very agreeable shady walks in the summer season. | The House and out Houses have been built within a few years and are spacious and convenient.–The distance from the city by the present road is four miles and a half, but by a new road intended to be made by the corporation next summer it will be reduced nearly one mile.–For further particulars apply to the subscriber No. 7 Beaver-st. New York. | John Wilkes.

  • 1813 US daily newspaper, New York Evening Post, May 15:

For Sale, or To Let, the House and improved Grounds of the subscriber at Bloomingdale lately occupied by Lord Viscount Courtenay. | For further partiulars [sic] apply at No. 7 Beaver-street | Ap 30 John Wilkes.

  • 1814 February 6:

William, his cousin Edward Robert Clack and Ann Armstrong are sponsors at the baptism at St. Michael’s Episcopal church in Bloomingdale (New York City) of William George Woods, born on 13 December 1813 the son of Hester and George Woods. [Record in register confirmed 16 March 2020 by Jeannie Terepka, Archivist of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in New York City.]

  • 1814 copy of letter (136) from William at Poughkeepsie (New York state) to US Department of State in Philadelphia, March 19:

[…]  I also think that the Marshal has no authority to prevent my going to Claremont [William’s house on the Hudson] sometimes in order to look after my property there, which I would very much wish to do in the Course of next Month, in order to give directions about taking down all the furniture and arranging matters there to leave the house in a state of safety before I bring my family from thence to this place, where I perhaps may be compelled to remain during this war if it lasts, or untill it suits the Caprice of this Gov.t to let me depart – I have therefore to hope you will have the goodness to attend to these things for me and you will confer great favor on your most Obedient & Obliged Humble Ser.t, Courtenay

  • 1814 New York evening newspaper, Commercial Advertiser, 9 November 1814. [Benson John Lossing reported that William’s furniture and plate ‘were sold at auction; the latter is preserved with care by the family of the purchasers‘. There is no mention of plate in this notice, so it must have been sold at another auction. A coachee was an American carriage shaped like a coach but longer and open in front.]

Public Sales by Blecker & Bibby. To-morrow, 11 o’clock precisely, at Clermont, late the residence of Lord Courtney, all the elegant furniture belonging to that Nobleman, consisting of superb gilt chairs and sofas, with silk bottoms and cushions, gilt window cornices, with suitable curtains, drapery and fringe, various mahagony tables, some with marble tops, several superb large looking glasses tastily framed, Brussels, Venetian and stair carpets, an elegant Grecian bed with matresses, blankets and coverlets, a variety of vases, chimney ornaments, flower-pots and jars, a magnificent table set of French china, several wardrobes, commodes and chests of drawers, andirons and fire furniture, a grand pianoforte of first quality, also a square piano, a pair of excellent carriage horses, large travelling coachee, travelling coach, 2 light waggons, a variety of farming utensils, 2 sleighs, 3 cows, dairy apparatus, kitchen furniture, &c.

Also a large collection of green-house plants, in fine order and bloom.

  • 1815 US weekly newspaper published in Lancaster (Pennsylvania), The Intelligencer and Weekly Advertiser, October 14:

It now appears that Joseph Bonaparte (Ex-King of Spain), after his late tour through Philadelphia and Baltimore to Ellicott’s Mills, has returned by the way of Lancaster, to New York, and taken up his residence at the house near that city where Lord Courtenay lately dwelt. This house, with handsomely improved grounds, is about nine or ten miles from New York and pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Hudson, and is well calculated for a comfortable retreat from the cares and perils of royalty.

  • 1816 US daily newspaper, New York Evening Post, May 6:

To Let, or For Sale | The House, Out-Houses, and improved Grounds, at Bloomingdale, belonging to the subscriber, formerly occupied by Lord Courtenay.

  • 1816 US daily newspaper, New York Evening Post, December 31:

To Let, Claremont, the seat of Lord Courtenay. Apply to Le Roy, Bayard & Co. Dec 38.

  • 1861 Benson John Lossing, The Hudson, from the wilderness to the sea, part 20 | the illustrations from drawings by the author. Published in London monthly magazine, The art-journal, vol. 7, 1 September 1861, p. 280.

Upon the high promontory overlooking the Hudson, on the south side of Manhattanville, is Jones’s Claremont Hotel, a fashionable place of resort for the pleasure-seekers who frequent the Bloomingdale and Kingsbridge roads on pleasant afternoons: at such times it is often thronged with visitors, and presents a lively appearance. The main, or older portion of the building, was erected, I believe, by the elder Dr. Post, early in the present century, as a summer residence, and named by him Claremont. It still belongs to the Post family. It was an elegant country mansion, upon a most desirable spot, overlooking many leagues of the Hudson. There, about fifty years ago, lived Viscount Courtenay, afterwards Earl of Devon. He left England, it was reported, because of political troubles. When the war of 1812 broke out, he returned, leaving his furniture and plate, which were sold at auction; the latter is preserved with care by the family of the purchasers. Courtenay was a great “lion” in New York; he was a handsome bachelor, with title, fortune, and reputation–a combination of excellences calculated to captivate the heart-desires of the opposite sex.

Claremont was the residence, for a while, of Joseph Buonaparte, ex-king of Spain, when he first took refuge in the United States, after the battle of Waterloo and the downfall of the Napoleon dynasty. Here, too, Francis James Jackson, the successor of Mr. Erskine, the British minister at Washington at the opening of the war of 1812, resided a short time. He was familiarly known as “Copenhagen Jackson,” because of his then recent participation in measures for the seizure of the Danish fleet. He was politically and socially unpopular, and presented a strong contrast to the polished Courtenay.

  • 1871 Abram C. Dayton, Last days of knickerbocker life in New York, 1882 | pp. 266-267. [According to the book’s introductory page, Dayton wrote this text towards the end of his life, but it was not published until after his death in August 1877.]

On the Hudson River, at this point, still stands a venerable pile, now and for many years past known as Claremont. This elegant structure was originally reared for a private residence. The spacious building bears witness to the enlarged ideas and ample means of the projector, while his taste in selection of locality is amply testified by the grand view which is afforded from every point. Its rear overlooks the noble Hudson, and the coup d’oeil on a clear day, reaches from the Highlands of Neversink to St. Anthony’s Nose and the Palisades, its equal for extent and beauty rarely met with during extended travel. Thousands have enjoyed the enchanting scene since the house became a public resort, and was made famous as a house of entertainment many years since by the late Edmund Jones.

  • 1875 Matilda Despard, Old New York from the Battery to Bloomingdale, pp. 203-5 | Claremont.

It is a scene of beauty so perfect, that looking at it all the other beautiful places of our rambles and researches fade in remembrance, and the views from the beginning of Bloomingdale seem to be only studies for this finished landscape – preludes to this theme of perfect harmony of form, color and atmosphere. The high bluff where we stand drops to a plateau, where a foreground of busy life goes on. Men are working at some railroad or street-opening labor, with great beams and wheels and derricks: that is Manhattanville. Across the river the Palisades begin to raise their stern, straight front; the tiny village at their foot looks like a handful of toy houses dropped into the green hollow. The water is blue and serene, and the sky and air – ah! we cannot find any words at all to praise them. We need but say it is a perfect day of Indian summer — the glory of, autumn is spread like a royal mantle over hill and stream and shore. Nature, with folded hands, rests, and her smile of glad contentment glorifies her completed work. The sky is so soft, that only as we look up to the zenith can we say it is blue; but the tints become less and less transparent, till, when it meets the woods on the Jersey side, it is like a diaphanous gauze thrown over the dead gold of the topmost boughs. The bronze, crimson and maroon of the lower branches throw a shade so deep, it is black as it falls on the dun-colored fields. Just a ripple keeps the river from perfect stillness; there is nothing moved by the restless giant of steam in sight. A few boats with tall white sails rest lightly on the water; it is only the branches of the trees through which we look that measure their almost imperceptible progress. All around

“Grand trees rise up, like praises
From the glad earth, satisfied .”

And whoever has seen the foliage of American trees in its full ripeness, would not think the most rich and splendid word -painting too glowing for its description. Here on the right is a great maple, a mass of gold where the sun falls full; green, bronze, and burnished copper where the shadow dulls it. Rising straight against the deep blue of the sky is one giant – an oak so ablaze with color, that the deepest crimsons, cardinals, and scarlets of dahlia and salvias could not outglow it. Who could apply the word Fall to such tints? It is the ripening of every kiss of the sun, every breath of the air, every generous sap of the liberal earth, which the tree has absorbed and transmuted through the long, magnificent days, the lustrous, dewy nights of the fructifying summer months. All along the shore and far up the heights of the Palisades these ripened oaks and maples make intense points of color, which start out from the soft, delicate plains of violet-gray and aërial blue. Common objects, rude masses of rock and earth, are lifted up and spiritualized by the wondrous change which passes on the world when autumn breathes over it her spell of enchantment.

The picture of Claremont is a landscape pure and simple, and we would hardly bring a hint of a human habitation to mar its idyllic beauty, were it not that this house where Lord Courtenay lived is of itself remarkable: of noble proportions and ample space, with portico, halls and windows, where there is ever abundance of light and air admitted. Some of the fixtures in the house — the mantels, mirrors, and candelabra — are of the style used in fine English residences in the last century. It was built by the elder Dr. Post of New York, and called Claremont. Lord Courtenay, who was the son and heir of the Earl of Devon, occupied Claremont while he lived here. It was kept in true lordly style. Felix Chaudelet’s father was the chief cook of the establishment, and crowds of company came and went. Lord Courtenay had probably little to do for the adornment of the grounds — the natural beauties would always eclipse the art of the landscape gardener. On the river front there is a succession of grassy knolls and hollows down to the water’s edge; tulip-trees, oaks, maples, and immense pines and hemlocks stand in picturesque groups about the lawns. There are two relics of its former life preserved: one is a figure-head of a vessel, the wreck of which drifted to the shore below the house; it is a great wooden bust, an effigy of Louis le Grand or English Charles I., and has been placed high amid the branches of a tall pine; the other is a tombstone, at its head a marble slab and carved urn, with the inscription, “Erected to the memory of an amiable child, Le Claire Pollock, who died 15th July, 1797, in the fifth year of his age.” It is placed at some distance from the house, under the restful shadow of the trees. Whether this little grave was here before Lord Courtenay built the house, we do not know; but it was a pretty thought to place the baby’s tomb so close to the fresh heart of nature. The English lord left the country at the threatening of the war of 1812. Joseph Buonaparte resided in Claremont for a time. After him it was occupied by the Post family, but for some years it has been a place of public resort; and it will well repay the fatigue of a long walk to stand on the extreme point of the grounds and look northward up the Hudson, if it appears to other eyes as it did to ours to-day — as beautiful a landscape as ever rose before us in all our wanderings in this great land, or in the countries beyond the sea.

  • 1908 Hopper Striker Mott, The New York of yesterday | A descriptive narrative of old Bloomingdale, pp.26-27. The story that Michael Hogan named the house ‘after the royal residence at Surrey of Prince William, Duke of Clarence, afterwards King William IV’ cannot be wholly true as the Claremont in England was not Clarence’s house and he did not live there.

The land, on which was a house, was transferred in 1803 to John B. Provoost, late Recorder of the city, who in turn conveyed it to Joseph Alston the same year. He was the husband of Theodosia, the only and beautiful daughter of Aaron Burr, whose tragic fate at sea is well remembered. From Alston the property passed in 1806 to John M. Pintard, subject to a purchase money mortgage, and on sale under foreclosure was bid in by Michael Hogan for $13,000. He was a wealthy and important citizen in his day, owned the entire parcel of land west of the Road from 121st to 127th Streets, and built the mansion known as “Claremont,” which was so named after the royal residence at Surrey of Prince William, Duke of Clarence, afterwards King William IV., with whom he had served as a fellow-midshipman in the Royal Navy, and who visited him at his town house in Greenwich Street in 1782. At the time that Hogan was British Consul at Havana, the mansion was occupied by Lord Viscount Courtenay, afterwards Earl of Devon. He was greatly disturbed by the events preceding the war of 181 2, but continued to residethere at least as late as February 6, 1814, on which date he stood sponsor at a baptism according to the records of St. Michael’s Church. It is asserted that shortly thereafter he sailed for England. Joseph Bonaparte, ex-King of Spain and brother of Napoleon, resided there in 1815.

Hogan eventually deeded his property, for the benefit of creditors, to trustees, who in 1821 conveyed “Claremont” to Joel Post, who attended worship at the Bloomingdale Church. He died in 1835 and at the sale in partition the property was bid in by his sons, Alfred C. (M.D.) and Edward Post. This bluff was one of the sites suggested by Washington for the capital of the nation and, as is well known, it now forms a feature of the most beautiful river park in the world. The superb view from the knoll on which the mansion stands is surpassingly lovely. The line of territory along the majestic Hudson is destined to be yet more resplendent than at present. The grand pageants which have heretofore taken place in this neighborhood only foreshadow what is in store for this wonderful portion of our island. More than all, the locality is sacred ground, for here heroes and patriots have battled for their country’s cause. Part of the field on which was fought the battle of Harlem Heights yet lies about as it looked at the time.

1985 Natalie Spassky, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art | Volume II | a catalogue of works by artists born between 1816 and 1845, pp.26-27 | unidentified artist | The Claremont.

Originally a private house before becoming a popular inn and dining spot about the middle of the nineteenth century, the Claremont stood near the Bloomingdale Road, at what is now Riverside Drive and 124th Street in New York.

The building had a long and interesting history. The property was acquired in 1796 from Nicholas de Peyster by George Pollock, a wealthy New York merchant. At that time a house stood near the banks of the Hudson River, but sometime after 1797, when Pollock’s son fell off the cliff and drowned, Pollock disposed of the property. In 1803 it was transferred to john B. Provoost, recorder of the city, and the same year it was acquired by Joseph Alston, husband of Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia. It passed to John Pintard in 1806 and was purchased by Michael Hogan, who either moved the original house or, more likely, built a new mansion on the /// spectacular site with its panoramic view of the river. According to one tradition, Hogan named the house Claremont after the royal residence at Surrey of Prince William, duke of Clarence, afterwards King William IV, with whom he had served as a fellow midshipman in the Royal Navy. The house was at various times occupied by such distinguished tenants as Lord Viscount Courtenay, afterwards earl of Devon; Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain and brother of Napoleon; and Francis James Jackson, onetime British minister at Washington. In 1821 it was acquired by Joel Post, who was a wholesale drug importer, and at his death in 1835, by his sons, Edward and Dr. Alfred C. Post. It became a popular public resort in the middle of the nineteenth century. In a memoir, written in 1871 by Abram C. Dayton, Last Days of Knickerbocker Life in New York (1882), the author reminisces: “what old or middle-aged resident does not with pleasure recall the good cheer dispensed by Edmund Jones, first at the Second Ward Hotel, in Nassau Street between Fulton and John, and subsequently, until his death, at the celebrated Claremont, on the Bloomingdale Road.” Describing the spectacular view from the Claremont, he added: “Thousands have enjoyed the enchanting scene since the house became a public resort, and was made famous as a house of entertainment many years since by the late Edmund Jones.” Edmund Jones, who probably leased the house from the Post family, first appears in connection with the Claremont in the city directory of 1853-1854.

After the city bought the property in 1873 from Post’s descendants, the building was rented to concessionaires as a restaurant, and it continued to be a fashionable rendezvous until well into this century. The building gradually fell into disrepair and, while being demolished in 1951, caught fire and burned to the ground.

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Images (from the top)

  • John Benson Lossing, Claremont. Published in London monthly magazine, The art-journal, vol. 7, 1 September 1861, p. 280.

Page history

  • 26 September 2022: first published online
  • 27 November 2022: 1908, note on the naming of Claremont added.