This we promise: your first visit to the estates that make up the Hudson River Historic District won’t be your last. We live here, and the allure of these spectacular and privileged places never fades. They’re a must for anyone who really wants to know the region we hope you’ll call “home.” And they’ll draw you back in time…and into repeat visits, time and again.
The ancestral home of generations of Livingstons, Clermont began as a Georgian mansion built between 1730 and 1750 by Robert Livingston Jr. Occupied by Livingstons (and the Van Rensallears and Schuylers they married) for well over two centuries, and once the county seat, it was transformed over time due to changes in style and circumstance (including being burned by the Brits during the Revolution). The early Georgian “bones” are still evident at what, in the 1840s, the great landscape designer A. J. Downing praised as “showplace of the last age.” Made over in a sort of French-chateau style – its current guise – the superb interiors run the gamut from Empire to Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts. Enjoy its walled gardens and historic carriage roads (and an annual Sheep & Wool Showcase, among other events).
Montgomery Place, Annandale-On-Hudson
Framed by black locust trees, offering superb views of the Hudson and distant Catskills, Montgomery Place was Janet Livingston’s tribute to her late husband, General Richard Montgomery, who died during the American Revolution. It was conceived in the Federal style, and twice redesigned by A. J. Davis, who added balustrades and wings to offset the austerity of the original form. Today, Montgomery Place is the only surviving neoclassical country house by Davis. The landscape design by A. J. Downing’ emphasized the “natural” – what are now centuries-old trails through woodlands to waterfalls, and the oldest oak forest in the Hudson Valley. Twenty two miles of carriage roads, an arboretum, fabulous flower and herb gardens and productive orchards bordering the estate (stop in at the nearby farmstand on your way home), and five outbuildings combine to offer an accurate glimpse of what was once Hudson Valley estate life.
Currently the private home of financier and preservationist Richard Jenrette, Edgewater was designed in 1820 by Robert Mills in the colonnaded, classical style. True to its name, it sits a mere fifty yards from the river on land originally owned by – who else? – a Livingston. Soaring Doric columns frame exquisite views of the riverbend, Two gatehouses designed by A.J. Davis stand guard. On the rare occasions when the home is open to the public, the experience is magical (despite the railroad, built in 1851, roaring past just yards behind the house). If you’re lucky enough to visit, expect huge windows, a raised piazza, a spectacular, skylit, octagonal library with 26 foot ceilings. And, Mr. Jenrette’s museum-quality, Federal and American Empire furniture, decorations and period paintings. So keep an eye out for a chance to experience the splendor.
Mills Mansion, Staatsburg
The country home of Ogden Mills and wife Ruth Livingston Mills is a prime example of the opulence of the Gilded Age (1876-1917). Ogden’s dad, Darius Ogden Mills, made his fortune in banking, railroads and mining. His son, a financier and philanthropist, obviously enjoyed the trappings of great wealth, engaging McKim, Mead and White to transform a twenty-five room Greek Revival into a Beaux-Arts mega-mansion of 65 rooms. The interior, reimagined in the French taste of the 17th and 18th century, still includes architectural features of its earlier incarnation. The Mr. and Mrs. had five homes, and made this one their fall headquarters. The home, along with 192 acres, was donated by descendants to New York State as a memorial to the family.
Wilderstein (translation: wild man’s stone) was the home of Thomas Suckley, who named the estate for an ancient Indian petroglyph found nearby. Yet another Livingston descendant, he’d purchased the site in 1852, bent on creating a naturalistic setting. What was once an Italianate villa was enlarged in 1888 by Suckley’s son and wife (a Montgomery) and reimagined as a fanciful Queen Anne. Elaborate interiors include designs by Joseph Burr Tiffany, and opulent Revival and Aesthetic Movement décor. And that naturalistic landscape design? It was by none other than Calvert Vaux, in the American Romantic style. Wilderstein’s last resident, Margaret Suckley, was a cousin and traveling companion of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; his famous terrier, Fala, was a gift from her. Upon her death at 100, Daisy, as she was known, left a treasure trove of private letters from FDR packed in a suitcase. The house is equally packed with artifacts that paint a vivid picture of a century and a half’s worth of fascinating lives.