New Jersey estate owned by Napoleon's elder brother is set to become a state park.
After his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, British forces sentenced former emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to live out the rest of his days on a remote island in the South Atlantic, in spartan accommodation.
Comparatively, Napoleon’s older brother Joseph had an easier time in exile. After the French emperor’s downfall, the elder Bonaparte, who’d briefly served as king of Spain and Naples, headed to the United States, where he settled on a bluff overlooking the Delaware River in New Jersey. Between 1816 and 1839, Bonaparate lived at a property dubbed Point Breeze, spending the remainder of his years in resplendent luxury.
At Point Breeze, Bonaparte constructed one of the marvels of 19th-century America: a magnificent estate that featured decorative gardens, 12 miles of carriage trails, a number of brick bridges, underground tunnels for transporting luxury goods from the docks and a man-made lake. According to NJ.com, the self-exiled ruler hoped to recreate the luxury of Château de Mortefontaine, his former home in France.
At the heart of the estate stood a palatial three-story mansion, the largest building in America save for the White House. There, Bonaparte displayed his extensive collection of fine art and allowed townspeople to take tours of his library, which held more volumes than the Library of Congress, making it the biggest collection in the country at the time.
Today, few traces of this sprawling 60 acre estate remain standing today. Soon, though, history lovers will be able to explore the ruins, including a gardener’s house dated to about 1820, for themselves, as the State of New Jersey purchased the estate for $4.6 million. Officials plan to turn the majority of the land into a state park and museum.
In 1838, Bonaparte left Point Breeze for the final time. He suffered a serious stroke in 1840 and died four years later, at the age of 76, in Florence, Italy.