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
“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.