VANDERBILT MANSION NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
4097 Albany Post Rd. (Rte. 9), Hyde Park, Dutchess County, NY
Opulent example of Beaux Arts architecture. Country home of Frederick Vanderbilt, a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and his wife Louise Vanderbilt; original furnishings.
Dr. David Hosack, who had gardens where Rockefeller Center now stands in New York City, was a previous owner. He began planting exotics on the grounds in 1828.
This was the summer home of Frederick William Vanderbilt, a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. When Cornelius Vanderbilt died in 1877, he left most of his estate to just one of his offspring, William Henry. When William Henry died in 1885, control of the bulk of the Vanderbilt empire was split between two of the four sons, Cornelius and William Kissam. Cornelius received $67 million dollars and William Kissam $65 million dollars, while the other two sons received $10 million dollar each.
Frederick William only received $10 million because he had angered his father by falling in love with Louise Anthony Torrance, who was twelve years older than Frederick William and married to his first cousin. The father ordered the young man to break off the affair, but the son pursued the relationship anyway. In 1878, following the father's death and Louise's divorce, the two married.
In 1876 Frederick William graduated from Yale's Sheffield Scientific School and then worked in the various departments of the New York Central Railroad. By the time of his death in 1938, he held directorships in 22 railroads.
In 1895 he bought the old Langdon place, which is not far from the FDR home in Hyde Park. Colonel Walter Langdon's wife was Dorothea Astor, daughter of John Jacob Astor. Vanderbilt hired the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to remodel the house into a three-story Italian Renaissance mansion with columns on all sides of the building. While the mansion was under construction, the workers erected a temporary house for the owner and his wife. This pavilion was later used by male guests. Also in the pavilion were the servants' quarters.
Frederick William was able to quadruple the $10 million dollar he had inherited through hard work and a frugal life (at least by Vanderbilt standards). He was an introvert, often sneaking out of the house when his wife entertained. The industrialist's only real luxury was his love of yachting. He financed several entries in the America's Cup races.
He and his wife would usually stay at their Hyde Park mansion from Easter until the Fourth of July. On winter weekends the couple stayed in the pavilion. Sometimes they would have Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt over to visit. They also invited the naturalist John Burroughs to their home. Burroughs lived just on the other side of the Hudson, in West Park.
Visitors' center, Italian gardens, outbuildings. Open daily year-round, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $8, free under 17. Grounds open year-round, dawn to dusk.
The 8.5 mile long Hyde Park Trail links the three National Historic Sites -- Vanderbilt Mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt's home (Springwood), and the home of Eleanor Roosevelt (Val-Kill). The trail is marked by white and green markers with a tulip-tree leaf emblem.
There are a lot of exotics planted here.
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Catalpa sp. (catalpa)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Quercus spp. (oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) grove
Shrubs and sub-shrubs:
Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)
Vaccinium sp. (a low-bush blueberry)
Vinca minor (periwinkle)
Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern)