Wooden Window

THE LERAY MANSION

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The LeRay Family

The story of the LeRay Mansion begins in France with the LeRay family. Jacques Donatien LeRay de Chaumont, the head of the family, was a staunch supporter of the American revolutionary effort. Not only was Jacques the single largest financial supporter of the American Revolution from France, he also coordinated introductions between many of our Founding Fathers and high-ranking French officials and dignitaries. Among these American visitors were John Adams, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, the latter of whom had an incredible influence on Jacques’s son, James.

Journey to New York

But how did the LeRays arrive in upstate New York? Most of Jacques’s financial contributions to the American effort came in the form of loans. Having nearly bled the family fortune dry in support of the Americans, at the conclusion of the war, Jacques sent his son James to the new government in New York to request the reimbursement of their family’s loans. However, the Continental Congress had limited funds, and even a personal letter from Benjamin Franklin was not enough to secure the family’s finances.

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The Mansion

The mansion that stands today is the second mansion that was built on the LeRay estate. The first mansion was built in1806. However, in the early 1820s, a fire damaged the original mansion, leading to the construction of a second mansion, which we use today. The home was constructed from 1826-1827 and is built in the Classical Revival style and follows designs based on the Golden Principle or Golden Ratio.

As LeRay was one of the first Europeans to settle in the area, his estate functioned like a model home in a new subdivision. A large farm sprawled out across the mansion grounds and showed new European and American settlers the best practices for farming in the upstate’s temperamental climate. LeRay tried his hand at citrus farming and silk farming, and he was one of the first to bring Merino sheep to America, from which we get Merino wool.

Changes in Ownership

The home remained in the possession of the LeRay family for two generation. James’ children, Vincent, Therese, and Alexander, all visited, with Vincent inheriting the house when his father filed for bankruptcy. Then, Vincent sold the estate to another French family, the Payens. The mansion remained with the Payens for four generations, often passed on from mother to daughter, until the final family, the Andersons, defaulted on a loan and the property was taken over by the New York State Land Bank.

In the late 1930s, the property was purchased by Harold and Margaret Remington, by which point the mansion was in dire need of renovations. The Remingtons restored the property and upgraded many of the amenities, including the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning.

 

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The Mansion on Fort Drum

 The Remingtons only owned the mansion for a few years before the property, as well as the land of five surrounding villages, was purchased by the government for the expansion of Pine Camp (now Fort Drum), in preparation of World War II. Since then, the mansion has operated as housing for high-ranking officers, a bed and breakfast for visiting dignitaries, and now operates as the offices of the Fort Drum Cultural Resources team, as well as an event venue and educational facility.