Written by NJ Historian
The land on which the Dey Mansion was built was purchased on October 9, 1717 by Dirck Dey (b. 1687, d. May 8, 1764). Dirck was the third generation of his family to live in the colonies, settling in this area of New Jersey as early as 1707. Dirck served as a freeholder of Bergen County and as a member of the New Jersey Assembly between 1748 and 1752. It is believed that the main block of the home was constructed sometime between 1740 and 1750. The east wing of the home (right side) was built by Dirck, a carpenter by trade. The west wing (left side), including the center hall, was completed by Dirck's son, Colonel Theunis Dey, born October 29, 1726. Family correspondence written by Hester Dey, Colonel Dey's daughter, refers to the property as "Bloomsburg Manor" while Dey refers to it as "Bloomsbury" in a letter to George Washington dated April 22, 1777 , but neither name survived into the nineteenth century.
The mansion is five bays wide with a central door and wide center hall. The center hall measures twelve feet across, a considerable size for that period. Each side of the hallway contains a double-pile room layout, typical of a Georgian style home. However, unlike other Georgian homes of this period, the central staircase is not located at the rear of the the center hall, but off to the western (left) side of the house, concealed from view by a wall. Consequently, the western side's rear room is considerably smaller to accommodate the staircase and is not a mirror image of the front room.
|Colonel Dey's bedroom at the Dey Mansion, Wayne, NJ.|
General George Washington used the mansion as his headquarters in July 1780. He arrived at the home on July 1 from Morristown with approximately four thousand soldiers and placed them along the Passaic River and the Singac Brook that ran along the outer border of what was then a six hundred acre property. The home was a logical headquarters because it was in the Preakness Valley, surrounded by mountains which offered great protection, but close enough to the British in the Harlem area. Theunis Dey, who owned the home during the Revolution, lived there with his wife Hester Schuyler (married in 1749) and their ten children. Dey was a Colonel of the Bergen County Militia, a member of the New Jersey Assembly and the New Jersey Provincial Council, and served as a trustee of Queen's College (now Rutgers University). Thus, it would be no surprise that Dey's large house and sympathetic feelings toward the revolution would encourage Washington to stay in his home. Washington maintained his headquarters at the Dey Mansion until July 29. At least two letters, dated July 22, 1780 "To the President of Congress" and July 27, 1780 "To the Marquis de Lafayette" mention "Head Quarters, Pracaness [Preakness]". "Preakness" is another name for the area surrounding the Dey Mansion. Other letters from earlier in the month simply say "Bergen County", of which this section of present-day Wayne was once part of.
|The large center hall of this Georgian-style home, which served as a formal dining hall during Washington's stay.|
|Dey Mansion, circa 1930 before restoration.|