Since Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon up the Hudson River in 1609, great men and women have been drawn to the Hudson Valley's bounty and beauty. Politicians, artists, businessmen and socialites built fabulous estates up and down the river's banks, each adding their own unique contributions to the area's collective history. As members of the American aristocracy, these modern settlers were able to hire the best architects, landscape artists, and decorators to build their palaces.
Their legacy includes some of the finest examples of several historic styles of architecture, landscaping, and interiors, from the early Federal period to the numerous revival styles of the late 19th and early 20th century. It is our great fortune that many of these estates have been meticulously restored and lovingly maintained to recreate each home's historical and cultural significance, as well as personal character. The estates along the river recreate a history not only of the Hudson Valley, but of the United States, contained in a many layered contextual experience.
There is a rich history wrapped around the men and women who settled along the Hudson River. Statesmen and politicians called the Valley home, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose estate at Hyde Park was both his refuge and his final resting place. Several estates in the Mid-Hudson region are connected with various branches of the Livingston family, whose members included war heroes, political figures, and one of the five authors of the Declaration of Independence (who, incidentally, swore in George Washington as the first president of the United States).
The Mills and Vanderbilt families were at the center of New York society life at the turn of the last century, their estates redolent with the opulence of the American Renaissance. The Hudson Valley's lush landscapes drew artists to its beauty, inspiring the Hudson River School of Painting. Some of the finest known examples of this artistic movement are on display in Olana, home of Frederick Church.
The estates in the Valley are as varied as the people who built them. From Clermont's Federal austerity to Lyndhurst's Gothic castle, popular trends in American living over the course of our history are represented here, in their finest state. Unparalleled architecture in a diversity of styles, exquisite landscaping and gardening, and superior collections of artwork, furnishings, historical archives, china and silver, textiles and other treasures are maintained in their period condition. The residences are replete with familial details and personal possessions that convey a sense of home, a memory of having been lived in, and a deeper understanding for the people who lived there. At times, it feels as though the family has just stepped out for a walk, giving the visitor a chance to poke around the house before they return.
Several organizations oversee the estates of the Hudson Valley, providing the attention to detail and dedication to preservation that allows these wonderful estates to flourish in modern times. Historic Hudson Valley, a nonprofit organization started by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., oversees the Sleepy Hollow region estates of Sunnyside, Philipsburg Manor, Kykuit, and Van Cortlandt Manor, as well as the Montgomery Place estate in Annandale-On-Hudson.
New York State's Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation maintains Clermont, Olana, and Mills Mansion, while estates such as the three Roosevelt homes known as Springwood, Val-Kill and Top Cottage, plus Locust Grove and Lindenwald are operated by the National Park Service. Others are supported as National Trust Historic Sites, or maintained privately.
If you are planning a visit to one of these sites, it is recommended that you call ahead to confirm the day and time of the visit, as well as to make reservations if necessary. During the summer weekends, and during fall foliage season, some sites may sell out for the day early on. As well, school and group tours may restrict public access at certain times. With many of the homes clustered near each other, a day trip can easily include more than one site. Bring a picnic with you, as many of the sites offer spectacular grounds but no food services. Cameras and video cameras are welcomed on the grounds, but indoor photography may be restricted. Most of the homes and grounds offer wheelchair access to some extent, call ahead with specific needs. Music and art festivals, horticultural tours, and historical programs are among the special events offered at many of the estates, enhancing the experience while educating and entertaining the visitor. Whether looking for a scenic afternoon stroll, an architectural tour, or a step back into American history, a wonderful experience awaits at the estates of the Hudson Valley.
Originally built in Crugers, NY in 1804 by States Morris Dyckman, a British Loyalist who returned to the area after the Revolutionary War was over. When threatened by extinction in the early decades of this century, this Federal Domestic style mansion was dismantled, stored, and finally reassembled piece by piece in its current location. The house is filled with a comprehensive collection of American Federal period antiques and art. The well appointed grounds include a rose garden with scores of different varieties. Many special events and performances are held every year at Boscobel, including the renowned Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, held every summer on the front lawn of the estate. 1601 Route 9D, Garrison, NY 10524, 845-265-3638 http://www.boscobel.org Admission fee.
Clermont has been occupied by seven generations of the influential and affluent Livingston family, including Robert R. Livingston, Jr. One of the five men who authored the Declaration of Independence, Livingston swore in George Washington as the new nation's first president. His first mansion, a brick Georgian, was burned by the British troops advancing up the Hudson in 1775. The home was rebuilt soon after, and remodeled in the 1920's to the Colonial Revival that now stands. The interior boasts the intact belongings of the Livingston family, including a collection of portraiture of a great variety of styles and media, and sculptures from near and abroad. The roster of special events at the site include croquet tournaments on the lawns, antique shows, and the Heritage Blues Festival. 1 Clermont Ave. (Off of Route 9G), Germantown, NY 12526, 518-537-4240, http://www.friendsofclermont.org. Admission fee.
Part of the Hudson River Museum of Westchester complex, which includes the Hudson River Museum and the Andrus Planetarium. The restored Victorian mansion, completed in 1877, is a restoration work in progress. Glenview is recognized as one of the best examples of Eastlake interior styling, including extensive stenciling and woodwork inspired by motifs of nature. Thus far, four rooms have been restored to their turn of the century condition, including the magnificently tiled Great Hall. Visitors can also experience the five galleries of exhibits in the Hudson River Museum, and the regular schedule of events held at the Andrus Planetarium. 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10701-1899, 914-963-4550, http://www.hrm.org. Admission fee.
One of the Rockefeller family homes, Kykuit's imposing granite Georgian mansion rises above a series of stone terraces and formal gardens. The Beaux Arts landscape is home to Governor Nelson Rockefeller's extensive collection of 20th century sculpture, which includes works by Calder, Picasso, and Noguchi. Separate tours of the gardens and sculpture are offered to highlight this collection. In addition to the furnished home and formal gardens, a Coach barn houses the Rockefeller's antique automobiles and horse-drawn carriages. Tours of Kykuit begin at Phillipsburg Manor on Route 9 in Sleepy Hollow. 914-631-8200, www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/12/42/. Admission fee.
Born in Kinderhook, Martin Van Buren, the Eighth president of the United States, retired there to Lindenwald at the end of his presidency. Van Buren purchased an existing estate in 1839 and immediately had it remodeled from the "old fashioned" Federal style to the popular Italianate revival style. The home and furnishings are restored to its condition during Van Buren's stay there. Lindenwald hosts an extensive museum collection, including textiles, furnishings, and a large collection of historic wallpaper. Several archeological sites on the property have produced artifacts that are on display. 1013 Old Post Road, Kinderhook, NY 12106, 518-758-968, http://www.nps.gov/mava Admission fee.
Samuel F.B. Morse, an accomplished artist and inventor, is best known for inventing both the telegraph and Morse Code. In 1847, Morse purchased an estate complete with a Georgian-style mansion he quickly converted to a Tuscan Villa with the help of architect A.J. Davis. Later owners added to the structure and interiors, while striving to preserve its 19th century flavor. Collections of art and furnishings of both families fill the home, including the Morse Exhibition Room, which features a copy of the original telegraph model. 150 acres of grounds surround the house, landscaped largely by Morse himself. A haven to wildlife, the property includes miles of walking trails, spectacular river views, and stands of trees that have stood since Morse walked the grounds. 370 South Road (Route 9), P.O. Box 1649, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601, 845-454-4500 http://www.morsehistoricsite.org, Admission fee.
With turrets, battlements, and a majestic tower, Lyndhurst stands as a Gothic castle guarding the Hudson. Commissioned in 1838 by the mayor of New York City, General William Paulding, architect A.J. Davis constructed a Greek Revival fortress of massive proportions. Subsequent owner George Merritt hired Davis again to add a four story tower and other additions to the castle. Railroad Magnate Jay Gould purchased the estate years later, making his own changes to the house and grounds. Now a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Lyndhurst is surrounded by classic estate landscaping that includes a magnificent greenhouse and aviary. 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, 914-631-4481 http://www.Lyndhurst.org. Admission fee.
When the nouveaux riche Ogden Mills married the aristocratic Ruth Livingston, a fortune and legacy was born. The estate they left behind is a monument to the Gilded Age of society and wealth at the turn of the last century. Built around an existing inherited mansion in 1895, the 65 room Autumn Residence of the Mills family showcases Beaux Arts neoclassical styling and elaborate French and English furnishings. The Mills were the center of New York society, and the opulence of their surroundings echoed their position. The interior boasts lavish furnishings, largely in the 17th and 18th century French style, combined with paintings and artifacts that reflect the family's deep pride in its American heritage. Old Post Road, Staatsburg, NY 12580, 845-889-8851. Admission fee. www.nysparks.state.ny.us/historic-sites/25/details.aspx
Established in 1804-1805 by Janet Livingston Montgomery, widow of Revolutionary War hero General Richard Montgomery, and descendent of the legendary Livingston family. Noted architect A.J. Davis created this magnificent Federal mansion, while Mrs. Montgomery established a profitable nursery. Montgomery Place features elaborate gardens, a restored greenhouse, and an orchard where visitors can still pick their own fruit. Trails wind through the estate, creating enchanting views at every turn. The interior offers original family furnishings and artworks, artifacts of this great family's history, and an intimate look at the working side of a flourishing estate. River Road, off Route 9G, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY 12571, 845-758-5461, or contact Historic Hudson Valley at 914-631-8200, http://www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/16/46/ Admission fee.
Noted Hudson River painter Frederic Church's magnificent Persian palace stands as one of his greatest works of art. Influenced by Church's extensive travel in the Middle East and Europe, coupled with his aesthetic appreciation of the Valley, Olana is a masterpiece of both architecture and landscape. All of the original possessions of the family have been placed as they were in Church's day. Exquisite paintings by Frederic Church, and his teacher Thomas Cole, are juxtaposed with worldly artifacts in an interior whose stencil-work and paint make it an artwork in itself. The grounds reveal devout attention to the property's stunning natural beauty, made all the more wondrous with carefully designed landscaping in the Romantic style. RD 2, Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534 518-828-0135, http://www.olana.org. Admission fee.
This early 18th century farm and trading center was once part of a 52,000 acre estate owned by the Philipse family who had emigrated to New Amsterdam from Holland. The property includes a Dutch-style stone manor house, barn and a restored gristmill. Tours and demonstrations are offered, as well as special events throughout the year. Route 9, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591 (914) 631-8200. http://www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/14/44/.
America's 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was born here, lived much of his life here, and was buried here after his death in 1945. His mansion, known as Springwood, was built in the Georgian Colonial style in the early 1800's, with several renovations since bringing it to its current state. The burial site of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt is graced with a simple monument in a lovely rose garden. Formal busts of FDR and contemporary sculptures are tucked into scenic spots throughout the landscape. Also on the site is the F.D.R. Library and Museum, which contains many historic documents and belongings of the President and First Lady. Special educational and historical programs are offered. 519 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538, 845-229-9115, http://www.nps.gov/hofr. Admission fee.
Author Washington Irving immortalized the Hudson Valley in his tales of Sleepy Hollow. He also settled here, in his Dutch Plantation style home, Sunnyside. Built around an existing cottage in 1835, the house evokes the Dutch architecture of his native New York City, but with a fanciful touch. The entrance is framed in wisteria planted by Irving, as was the English Ivy that covers much of the structure. Sunnyside is filled with an eclectic variety of furnishings and decorations, including Irving's intact study complete with his two-sided writing desk. The grounds are landscaped in the Romantic style, flowing out of the surroundings. Special events are frequent and include 19th century style picnics, art events, and of course, good old-fashioned storytelling of Irving's works. West Sunnyside Lane, off of Route 9, Tarrytown, NY 10591, 914-591-8763 or contact Historic Hudson Valley at 914-631-8200 http://www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/13/43/. Admission fee.
Part of a group of historical estates that includes Springwood and the Vanderbilt Mansion, Val-Kill's charming Dutch Colonial cottage was built for Eleanor Roosevelt on a favorite streamside spot on the Roosevelt estate. Built in 1926, this fieldstone home was to become her sanctuary from the hectic pace of the presidency, as well as refuge from the formality of the main house on the estate. No small share of dignitaries passed through its doors, including Khrushchev, Winston Churchill, and Haile Selassie. The property includes Eleanor's Rose Garden, a Cutting Garden, and the furnished cottage. Historical programs serve to educate visitors about this most influential first lady. 519 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538, 845-229-9115, http://www.nps.gov/elro. Admission fee.
Purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the 1940's, Van Cortlandt Manor is preserved as it was in the earliest years of the United States. The stone manor is flanked by a rebuilt tavern, and restored tenant house. Demonstrations of period activities including cooking, spinning, weaving, and brickmaking bring the site alive with activity. Tours of the manor by costumed guides include many original period furnishings and a spacious kitchen with a traditional open hearth and beehive oven. Riverside Avenue, Croton-On-Hudson, NY 10520, 914-271-8981, or contact Historic Hudson Valley at 914-631-8200, http://www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/15/45/. Admission fee.
Built by the third generation of Vanderbilt millionaires, this neoclassic style mansion was completed in 1899. Long accustomed to wealth, Frederick Vanderbilt had his home designed by the best architects in New York, and furnished it in fabulous artifacts from abroad mixed with period reproductions. The estate, inside and out, offers a great perspective of the wealth and excess of the Gilded Age and one of its most prominent families. From the columned porch at the rear of the mansion, one can view one of the most majestic river views in the area. Several species of enormous, old trees grace the grounds, and formal gardens on the property have been recently restored to their former splendor. 519 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, NY 12538, 845-229-9115, http://www.nps.gov/vama. Admission fee.
Built originally in the Italian villa style, this stunning Victorian was remodeled to a Queen Anne in the 1880's. Its circular tower soars five stories above a landscape created by noted American Romantic landscape artist Calvert Vaux. The library is host to incredible stained glass pieces by J.B. Tiffany. Long time home to the Suckley family, Wilderstein's charm is not only in its looks. The last member of the Suckley family to call Wilderstein home, known to friends as "Daisy" was a cousin and lifelong confidant of Franklin D. Roosevelt, serving as his archivist and companion. Her papers and memorabilia, along with that of her family, create an intimate and social history of past times. Morton Road, PO Box 383, Rhinebeck, NY 12572, 845-876-4818, http://www.wilderstein.org. Admission fee.