You are invited to join us for an exclusive one-day excursion to visit two extraordinary historic houses overlooking the majestic Hudson River near Rhinebeck, New York.
WILDERSTEIN is the country home near Rhinebeck that we will visit in the morning. Built in 1888 in the Queen Anne style for Robert Bowne Suckley and his wife Elizabeth Philips, the house greatly enlarged an 1852 Italianate house constructed for Suckley’s father Thomas. One could refer to the somewhat similar history of Ventfort, the Italianate Lenox “cottage” built in the 1850s for Ogden Haggerty and his family, and replaced by Ventfort Hall in 1893.
The renovated Wilderstein was the design of Poughkeepsie architect Arnout Cannon, soaring to include a third floor, multi-gabled attic and a dramatic five-story circular tower with commanding views of the surrounding landscape. The fanciful asymmetrical roof line of the house was complimented by the addition of an imposing porte cochere and a generous verandah (again, Ventfort Hall could be brought to mind). Five of the principal rooms on the first floor were designed by Joseph Burr Tiffany, a younger cousin of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The books, letters, photographs, furniture, paintings, art objects and china amassed by three generations of Suckleys are of great interest to both scholars and visitors. The last resident of Wilderstein was Margaret (Daisy) Suckley. A distant cousin and confidante of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Miss Suckley traveled extensively with FDR during his presidency, gave him his famous Scottish terrier Fala and helped to establish his library in Hyde Park. The letters they exchanged, which were discovered in a battered suitcase at Wilderstein, provide one of the best resources for understanding Roosevelt’s private life.
EDGEWATER at nearby Barrytown dates from 1825 and combines classical architecture with a dramatic setting, built on a small peninsula facing the Hudson and the Catskill Mountains beyond. With its Doric columns, high ceilings and tall windows, the mansion seems more suited to a Southern climate than the Hudson Valley. The design of the house may possibly have been provided by Robert Mills, Charleston’s leading architect at the time.
Early owners included a Livingston, a name that resonates with many country houses lining the river. After sitting empty for several decades, Edgewater was purchased in 1950 by the writer Gore Vidal, who found inspiration there by writing such best sellers as The Judgment of Paris (the proceeds of which paid for improvements to the house) and Myra Breckenridge.
By 1969, Vidal was living in Rome when the late Richard Jenrette, co-founder of the Wall Street securities firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, took a serious liking to Edgewater and a quick sale ensued. Aided by a group of friends who took on the title of the “Empire Mafia,” Jenrette painstakingly researched, located and reintroduced many of the Livingston furnishings. Today the house is under the care of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust established by Jenrette in 1993, a collection of seven architecturally significant houses that he had acquired.
Ventfort Hall has made arrangements for the excursion with a private motor coach leaving from the mansion, 104 Walker St. in Lenox, at 9:00 am and returning by 5:30 pm. All-day parking at Ventfort Hall is arranged. The cost of the tour is $165 and includes comfortable transportation, private tour admissions and a $50 fully tax-deducible donation to Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum. Participants will select from the menu and pay for lunch separately. Lunch will be in The Tavern at the Beekman Arms, since 1766 providing “culinary expertise” in a charming historic setting.
Call us at (413) 637-3206 to reserve your spot. Trip is limited to the first 25 people to reserve.