The Palmer and Devereux Families

Edgar Palmer, Princeton Class of 1903, and Zilph Hayes


When Edgar “Pedlar” Palmer, a 1903 engineering graduate of Princeton, purchased the Jay Estate in 1911, he undoubtedly knew that he was buying a home with Princeton associations.  Sarah Jay’s uncle Peter Van Brugh Livingston had been an original trustee of “The College of New Jersey” the precursor of Princeton. Other alumni known to Palmer like Junius Spencer Morgan II or J. Frederick Talcott, both Class of 1888 had also lived or spent significant time at the Rye residence.

As avid and accomplished sailors, both Edgar and his wife Zilph were now occupying the waterfront home of one of the founders of New York Yacht Club, complete with its own miniature Station 10 styled cottage with views of Milton Harbor. The parcel which included Hen Island was conveniently located across from American Yacht Club, where Edgar would soon serve as Commodore.

Sailing

Palmer ordered one of the first classic NY 40s designed by Nathanael Herreshoff – he named the boat Zilph after his wife and daughter and raced it with brother-in-law James E. Hayes, also a Princeton graduate. Zilph was victorious in the very first race of these new one-design 40 foot yachts in May 2016.

Gardens and Grounds Improvements

The Palmers enhanced the buildings and grounds according to 1917 plans surveyed by Brinley and Holbrook. It is likely that at this time the Indoor Tennis House was built. The gardens at the Jay Estate during this period were lush and beautiful. A young Zilph took a photo of a woman, possibly her mother, sitting under a long rose arbor. The gardens were opened to the public on many occasions:

Rye Chronicle, June 7, 1924
Today only one garden will be shown by the Westchester County S.P. C. C. but that one is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar L. Palmer, “Alansten,” on the Post Road in Rye, a beautiful old Colonial mansion, formerly the old Jay estate and, if tradition is true, the place where J. Fenimore Cooper wrote the major portion of his novel, “The Spy.” Near by is the old family burial plot of the Jay family, surrounded by guardian trees, and visitors of historic bent may go to that as well. The garden visitors of previous years cherish memories of the inclosed garden of Alansten with sundial and paved paths and roses and shrubbery, of the stately trees and of one majestic elm in particular which experts claim is one of the finest of its species; of the old, box-bordered gardens, of the low-crowned apple orchard of which Mr. John Connor, the Superintendent, is justly proud; and of that air of quiet serenity which only old long-tended gardens possess, the hedges which only time could bring to such perfection, the lily beds which have spread over many years until they are a thick mat of glossy green and pearly white bells peeping out beneath, the trees which have watched the march of years.  
Those who did not visit “Alansten” when it was shown before have a new pleasure awaiting them, those who have seen it will need no urging to repeat the visit this year.”
Photo: AJ Davis Cottage, gardens circa 1911- Gift of Anne Devereux Bessette