Its your favorite child travel adviser, Tyler, once again bringing you the best in last minute vacations. Your road trip planner for the weekend getaway to the coolest and strangest places in America. How do I know about them all? My parents are contract workers in the software industry and keep moving the family every 6 months….
Yep, another visit to N.J. The Mad Scientist of the Pines had hired my parents again to develop some software around 2002. On one of our voyages northwest we heard myths of Napoleon escaping to visit his brother in Bordentown.
First you ask, Joseph Bonaparte lived in N.J. The once and not so future king of Spain? Yes. He had a mansion called Point Breeze in Bordentown where the Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River meet. After the defeat of his little brother, no pun intended, he abdicated the Spanish Throne and returned to France.Three years later a French decree banished all Bonapartes from France, so Joseph went from NYC to Philadelphia and then settled across the river in NJ. He had sailed incognito aboard the American brig “Commerce” to New York.In Philadelphia Henry Clay had put him up in a hotel suite. Joseph then bought 211 acres from a sale of some of the Spanish crown jewels he stole. In time his estate would enlarge to 1,800 acres. Good king Joseph would entertain locals and prominent Americans equally amidst his fine collection of books, artifacts, and art from Europe. Guests would be delivered to his estate by a 16 oar barge. An excellent estate with a man made lake with a bridge over it, trees, gardens, several bridal trails, and 12 miles of carriage ways. Plus several tunnels to escape through! John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster had visited him, these men used to walk the smuggler tunnels in Salem, MA also.
In 1820 a fire burned down the original mansion. Locals rushed in and saved most of his artifacts while he was away. Joseph arrived in time to see his roof fall in. It was rumored a Russian lady set it aflame. Then he built an even grander mansion. This one he decorated with paintings by Velasquez, Rubens, Canaletto, Murillo, Rembrandt and DaVinci. In addition, there was a ‘Statuary Room’ containing antique bronze castings from Pompeii. The library, the largest in the country, numbered some eight thousand volumes at a time when the Library of Congress contained only sixty-five hundred volumes.Above the entrance to the new mansion he had inscribed: “Non ignara mali, miseris succurere” (Not unaware of misfortune, I know to help the unfortunate).
Joseph took at least one mistress (whatever that means) named Annette Savage who bore him a daughter. In 1832, Joseph, now the Bonapartist pretender, moved to London to be closer to France. In 1844 Joseph died in Florence. Then Point Breeze was inherited by his grandson Joseph Lucien Charles Napoleon who held two spectacular auctions of the furnishings before selling the property in 1847. He sold it to who sold it in 1847 to a Thomas Richards. Afterwards Point Breeze was purchased by the son of a former British consul at Philadelphia who had the house razed and replaced by an Italianate villa. A son of a British consul endowed him to hate all things French. He was dubbed “Beckett the Destroyer” by local residents.There were several other houses on the estate, one that housed daughter Zenaide and her husband Prince Charles Lucien. (Daughter Charlotte also stayed on the estate at times, but there is no record of her having her own house). Another housed Bonaparte’s trusted secretary Maillard and served as a gatehouse. In 1958 Becket’s mansion burned down. In 1970, the property was bought by the Divine World Seminary who had built the current building on the site.
So that was another weird location I had found when once again my parents were working for the weird scientist of the Pines…
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