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Clermont State Historic Site

Clermont was the Hudson River seat of the politically and socially prominent Livingston family of New York for more than 230 years. Seven successive generations of the family left their print on the architecture, room interiors, and landscape at Clermont. Today the 485-acre historic site appears much as it did in the early twentieth century, when the estate was the home of the last two generations to occupy the property: Mr. and Mrs. John Henry Livingston and their daughters, Honoria and Janet.

The Clermont estate was established in 1728 when Robert Livingston, Jr. (1688-1775) inherited a tract of 13,000 acres along the Hudson River from his father, Robert Livingston (1654-1728), first Lord of Livingston Manor. The Manor of Livingston, which comprised the southern third of modern Columbia County, was the second largest private landholding in colonial New York. Robert of Clermont, as he was known, began construction of his brick, Georgian-style country seat, perhaps incorporating an existing seventeenth-century house, between 1730 and 1750. Visible across the Hudson River from the house are the high peaks of the Catskill Mountains that inspired the estate's name: Clermont means "clear mountain" in French.

Robert of Clermont's only child, Robert R. Livingston (1718-1775), added to the family's landholdings when he married Margaret Beekman, heir to immense tracts of land in Dutchess and Ulster counties, in the 1740s. Clermont's second owner was known to his contemporaries as Judge of the Admiralty Court and Judge of the Supreme Court of the Province of New York. Judge and Margaret Beekman Livingston's eldest son, Robert R. Livingston Jr. (1746-1813), was Clermont's most notable resident. A member of the Committee of Five responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence, he also served as the first United States Minister of Foreign Affairs (Secretary of State) and, as Chancellor of the State of New York, he gave the oath of office to George Washington as first President of the United States.

 

Because of the Livingston family's prominent role in support of independence, Clermont was burned by British troops under the command of General John Vaughan during a foray up the Hudson River in the autumn of 1777. Margaret Beekman Livingston, who managed the estate during most of the war years, rebuilt the family home between 1779 and 1782. After independence was won, Chancellor Livingston began developing Clermont as an agricultural showplace. His experiments with sheep breeding and methods for increasing the yield of crops, while retaining the fertility of the soil, received national attention. In 1792 the Chancellor began construction of an elaborate new mansion just south of the original house as the centerpiece of his experimental farm. Built in the shape of a capital "H," this house was also called Clermont. It was destroyed by fire in 1909, but its ruins are still visible and indicate its size and grandeur.

Chancellor Livingston concluded his public career as Thomas Jefferson's Minister to France between 1801 and 1804. While in Paris, he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and entered into a partnership with Robert Fulton, a Pennsylvania-born painter and inventor who shared Livingston's fascination with steam navigation. Their creation, which they called the North River, is known to history as the Clermont. Their steamboat embarked on its maiden voyage between New York City and Albany in 1807, setting off a transportation revolution in the United States.

Chancellor Livingston died at his Clermont estate in 1813. The original Clermont residence, which had remained the home of Margaret Beekman Livingston until her death in 1800, was willed to the Chancellor's eldest daughter. The Chancellor's heirs initiated a series of additions and alterations to the house during the nineteenth century.

The last significant changes to the old Clermont residence were made in the 1920s, when John Henry Livingston (1848-1927) and his wife, Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston (1872-1964), remodeled the home in a Colonial Revival style. After Mr. Livingston's death, Alice Livingston continued to reside in the house until the onset of the Second World War, when she relocated to the nearby gardener's cottage (known as Clermont Cottage). Thereafter, the mansion was only opened for special occasions during the summer months. In 1962 Mrs. Livingston deeded most of her family's historic estate to the State of New York. An additional seventy-one acres of the property were given to the People of New York in 1991 by her daughter, Honoria Livingston McVitty.

Clermont was designated a United States National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Clermont is also an anchor in the Hudson River National Landmark District (designated in 1990), a twenty-mile stretch of riverfront land in northern Dutchess and southern Columbia counties. Restored to its early twentieth-century appearance, Clermont's furnishings and airy pastoral landscapes and vistas reflect the continuum of a unique and vanishing way of life along the Hudson River.

Visiting Clermont

The visitor center and mansion are open between mid April and Labor Day; Wednesday thru Saturdays from 10AM until 5PM and Sundays Noon until 5PM. From Labor Day until the end of October: Wednesdays thru Sundays Noon until 5PM.

The visitor center and mansion are also open on Monday holidays during the season from 10AM until 5PM.

The last tour of the day is offered at 4PM.

Group tour reservations (twelve persons or more) are accepted year-round on a daily basis between 9AM and 4PM. Garden tours are offered between mid April and the end of September, Monday thru Friday. Reservations are accepted for the current calendar year only, and must be made at least two weeks in advance. Allow a minimum of one and one-half hours at the site.

Clermont's visitor center and comfort station are fully accessible to people with mobility limitations. Access to the first floor of the historic house is provided by a wheelchair lift. Designated parking areas are provided for the convenience of visitors with mobility limitations. New York State Access Passes are accepted.

Directions

FROM THE TACONIC STATE PARKWAY: take the Red Hook/Rhinebeck exit onto Route 199 west. Continue west on 199 through the Village of Red Hook. At the intersection with Route 9G turn right (north). Drive six miles north on Route 9G to the entrance sign for Clermont.

FROM THE NYS THRUWAY: From the south take Exit 19 (Kingston). Cross the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge to the east side of the Hudson River. At the second traffic light turn left (north) onto Route 9G. Proceed north ten miles to Clermont's entrance sign. From the north take Exit 21 (Catskill). Cross the Hudson River on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, then bear right (south) onto Route 9G. Take 9G south for ten miles to the entrance sign for Clermont.

Specifics on visiting Clermont State Historic Site were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
 
 
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