THE HISTORY

Burn Brae Mansion was built in 1908 by Margaret MacKenzie Elkin as part of the estate of George Ross MackKenzie, third president of the Singer Sewing Machine company, who made his fortune as confidant and advisor to Isaac Merritt Singer, the company's founder.

The following excerpt is from the obituary of George Ross MacKenzie published in The Jersey City News, January 7, 1892. It also appeared in the Journal of Domestic Appliances, February 1, 1892.

“ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE MEN OF THE CENTURY”
GEORGE ROSS MACKENZIE (1820-1892)

“George R. MacKenzie died at his home, 46 Mercer Street, at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon. The immediate cause death was sciatic rheumatism. He suffered from the malady for several years, but always rallied from the attacks until after the death of his wife, nearly two years ago. Since that time his health has been precarious, the disease gained strength, and he was weaker after frequent relapses. It was not until a couple of weeks ago that it assumed an alarming form, and only a few days that his condition became critical. All the members of the family were present when the end came, and Mr. MacKenzie passed away without much pain.

Mr. MacKenzie was born in Rothiemurchis, Parish of Duthal, Inverness-shire, Scotland, on May 12, 1820. He was early brought face to face with the serious problems of life, and while a mere boy he not only supported himself by his own exertions but contributed to the support of his widowed mother. When still a boy he engaged in the business of for- warding game to the London market, displaying a talent for trade quite remarkable in one of his years.

He came this country in 1846, and a few years later secured employment with I. M. Singer. He held a subordinate position at first, but his business capacity was soon recognized. By diligence and a strict attention to business, he raised himself from one position to another until he became President of the Singer Manufacturing Company. When he was made Vice-President and General Manager in 1863, the affairs of the company were in a deplorable state. It had a large indebtedness which could not be met, its credit impaired, and its sales were extremely limited. By his energy and good judgment, Mr. MacKenzie revolutionized the business within a year. The debts were paid, dividends were paid to the shareholders, and the business established and extended in such a in manner that it has been a continually increasing source of wealth ever since. Branches of the parent works were established under his direction in every civilized county in the world, the factories and other buildings required were all erected under his supervision, and many of them from designs drawn by himself. In pushing the foreign trade he made many tours to distant lands. He crossed the Atlantic fifty-five times, nearly every trip being made for business. A few years ago he retired from the presidency of the company, after holding it for many years, but he still retained his interest as one of its largest stockholders.

Mr. MacKenzie was married in 1847 to Miss Rebecca Elsey, who died about two years ago after a married life of about forty-two years. Mr. MacKenzie had then completed the three score years and ten and her loss preyed upon his mind. The two years of borrowed time he has lived since then has been one of frequent suffering from the malady which at last overcame his hardy constitution. The union was more than ordinarily blessed. Twelve children were born, six sons and six daughters, [including Margaret, wife of Mr. Charles Elkin the original owners of Burn Brae Mansion.]

Mr. MacKenzie was very liberal both in private and public charity, though he was averse to having his good deeds known. Many of gifts were made anonymously; others were known only to the recipients and himself.

The funeral will take place on Saturday afternoon, at 1 o’clock, from the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Mercer Street, which church Mr. MacKenzie attended while residing in his city home. The body will be placed in the receiving vault of the Jersey City Cemetery until spring, when it will be removed to Glen Spey, where Mr. MacKenzie had a country residence.”

Rich in history, Burn Brae Mansion was recently restored for its 100-year anniversary.
Following the renovations, the original servants' quarters, now named the Singer Suite and Elkin Room, and the adjoining guest rooms, now named the MacKenzie Suite, were opened to the public. Shortly after reopening, overnight guests began reporting mysterious sights and sounds during their visit. Further research revealed a history of such reports, and subsequently spurred curiosity about the previous occupants of Burn Brae.