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Lyndhurst

Designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, Lyndhurst remains one of America's most outstanding examples of early Gothic Revival domestic architecture. Through the tenancy of three prominent families, Lyndhurst evolved its distinctive asymmetrical plan becoming a statement of changing 19th century aesthetics.

Originally built and owned by General William Paulding, former New York City mayor, the estate consisted of 184 acres, purchased at about the same time Washington Irving purchased Sunnyside, and was known as "The Knoll." The house sits on a promontory overlooking the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee, just south of Tarrytown, and upon completion gathered favorable comments from leading taste setters of the day. Of the estate, Phillip Hone described the house as, "resembling a baronial castle or rather a Gothic monastery, with towers, turrets and trellises; archways, armories and air holes; peaked windows and pinnacled roofs, and many other fantastics too numerous to enumerate."

In creating "The Knoll", Paulding worked closely with Davis on every aspect of the home. Davis not only designed and oversaw the creation of the house, he also designed the interiors and furnishings. Every aspect of the home was under Davis' direct aesthetic control. He designed everything as if it belonged in the room or the spot, as a necessary part of the whole composition. The furniture was not considered as being viewable outside of the context of its location, surroundings and setting were critical to each piece. This concept of a totally integrated design preceded Frank Lloyd Wright by 50 years. Wright is considered the innovator of this idea of architect as environment designer.

During Paulding's residence, there was significant traffic between Lyndhurst and Sunnyside as the Paulding and Irving households were close friends. At one point, Paulding's son, Phillip Paulding Rhinelander, was engaged to Irving's niece, Julia. The engagement was broken and a rift formed between the two families ending the carriage and foot traffic between the two estates.

In 1864 George Merritt, holder of a railroad car spring patent and successful merchant, bought The Knoll and renamed it Lyndenhurst. He hired Alexander Jackson Davis and set about nearly doubling the size of Lyndhurst by adding a new dining room, two bedrooms, expanded servants quarters and a four story tower, turning the home into a grand country residence.

Merritt also purchased additional land greatly expanding the holdings and had landscape designer Ferdinand Mangold transform the grounds. Mangold drained the swamps and created broad sweeping lawns. He planted specimen trees and erected the 390 foot long Moorish style greenhouse on the north side of the property. The results of this labor was a landscape in the Hudson River Romantic Style: planned vistas and a controlled romanticized experience of the natural surroundings.

The Romantic Movement had its roots in 18th century Europe and was adopted wholeheartedly by 19th century America. It was a reaction against the structured and restrictive Neoclassicism and emphasized the appreciation of untamed nature, imagination and emotion. It promoted the freedom of the individual in their expression and encouraged the individual to explore aesthetics through the lens of the natural environment.

The Hudson Valley became the center of this movement in America and the most important proponents and artists came to live within its confines. The two factors of proximity to New York City and the unique character of the Valley itself drew these visionaries north where they created the purest expressions of this new aesthetic in stone and landscape. Lyndhurst, because of its nearness to New York City and the prominence of its owners, became a primary example of the Romantic ideal.

 

In adding to the house, Merritt probably had two complimentary reasons. First, he and his wife had four children so the original structure was simply too small for their needs. Secondly, he wanted to own a house that would emphatically express his position as a wealthy man.

The North Wing addition caused a complete transformation of the structure into a large imposing stone edifice. The most important visual element was the imposing tower, over four stories in height, built next to the original staircase tower. A new porte-cochere was added and the old one transformed into a glass walled vestibule. The new dining room, bedrooms and servants quarters occupied the remainder of the North Wing.

In designing the addition, Davis created interiors on a grander and considerably more elaborate scale. He made extensive use of molded plaster, wood paneling and stone detailing. During this period of construction two gate lodges, two cottages and impressive stone walls on the Broadway (Route 9) frontage were erected and the stables were enlarged.

Unfortunately, Merritt's enjoyment of his new grand residence was very short lived. He died in 1873 of a kidney ailment, only six years after completion of the remodeling. Mrs. Merrit put the house up for sale.

Enter Jay Gould, the well known railroad magnate and Wall Street tycoon and inside trader. He purchased Lyndenhurst for the amount of $255,000 in 1880 and shortened the name to Lyndhurst. By this time the Hudson Valley had lost its allure and prominence in New York City society to places like Newport, but this suited Gould completely owing to his unpopularity in society stemming from his financial dealings and manipulations. He and his family happily resided at Lyndhurst during the warmer months and on special occasions.

 

The Goulds changed little during their ownership except for completely redecorating the Parlor in the then fashionable Aesthetic Style and the replacement of much of the simple wooden flooring to parquet.

After Jay Gould's death in 1892, the house was purchased by his daughter Helen Miller Gould from the heirs. Like her father, Helen Miller Gould lived a quiet live at Lyndhurst. Possibly to compensate for some of her father's perceived wrong doings, Helen became a world-renowned philanthropist. She made few changes to the house except for the addition of several small structures on the grounds and another redecoration of the Parlor prior to her wedding, at Lyndhurst, to Finley Shepard, a railroad executive.

Helen Gould's sister, Anna, married Paul Ernest Boniface, Comte de Castellane, in 1895 and had gone to live in France. Despite their three sons, the marriage ended unhappily in 1905 when it was annulled. Anna remained in France and in 1908 married Boniface's cousin Helie de Talleyrand-Perigord who had the two titles of Prince and Duc, and they had two more children.

After the death of her husband in 1937 and her sister Helen in 1938 and with the outbreak of war in 1939, Anna, Dutchess of Talleyrand-Perigord, returned to America and took up residence at the Plaza Hotel. She became the last private owner of Lyndhurst. She kept the home staffed and periodically visited. Anna was a prolific collector of French antiques and furnishings, but did little to the interiors of Lyndhurst, except for her complete redecoration of her private suite and the guest room immediately adjacent. These rooms, filled with European furniture and textiles, are known today as the "Dutchess's Suite."

In 1961 Anna died and left Lyndhurst, all its land, and an endowment fund for maintenance to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Her French heirs contested the will and after a number of years an agreement was reached granting Lyndhurst and 67 acres of it's land to the National Trust and the endowment to the heirs.

Today Lyndhurst is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open to visitors.

Visiting Lyndhurst

Lyndhurst may be visited from mid-April through October except Mondays, from 10am to 5pm. The last tour of the house begins at 4:15pm daily.

From November through mid-April the house and grounds are open on weekends only from 10am to 4pm. The last tour of the house begins at 3:30pm.

Lyndhurst is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days.

There is a small admission charge to the grounds and another for a tour of the house. There is a museum shop and cafe located in the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Visitor Center in the Carriage House Complex.

Special Tours for groups of 10 or more can be arranged by contacting the main office at (914)631-4481, press zero.

Lyndhurst is located approximately one half mile south of the New York State Thruway (I-87) interchange at the Tappan Zee Bridge and Route 9. Lyndhurst is accessible from Manhattan via Metro-North Commuter Railroad service to Tarrytown.

Accessibility

Parking: A limited number of Handicap Parking spaces are available by the visitor center. Please indicate to our Gate Person that you are in need of a handicap parking space and you will be directed to these spots.

Mansion: The first floor is accessible, both via wheel chair and walking apparatus. The second floor can only be reached by stairs. Ask your guide for a book that contains pictures of the second floor.

Grounds: The Arnold and Marie Schwartz Visitor Center in the Carriage House Complex offers accessible restrooms, café, gift shop and an introductory video and exhibit. You may follow the drives around the property and use the audio tour to visit the bowling alley, north-west cottage, rose garden and greenhouse.

Lyndhurst Tour Options

There are a variety of options for touring the property. Reservations are not required for any Lyndhurst tour for groups of less than 10.

Self-guided audio tours of the mansion and grounds are available from 10:30 am to 3:45 pm. After you arrive, stop in the Museum Shop to pick up an audio player which will lead you through the mansion and grounds. Audio tours last from 45 minutes to three hours, depending on your pace.

Guided tours of the the mansion are offered Tuesday - Friday, 10:30, 11:45, 1:00, 2:15. 3:30 and 4:15 pm and Saturday - Sunday, 10:30, 11:45, 12:30, 1:15, 2:00, 2:45, 3:30, and 4:15. After you arrive, check in at the desk in the Museum Shop and sign up for a tour time. Guided tours of the mansion take approximately 45 minutes and are included in admission. (Space is limited.)

Self-guided brochure tours of the mansion and grounds are offered in Lyndhurst's complimentary Visitor's Guide which you will receive when you purchase your ticket, one per family. The Lyndhurst Guide to the House and Landscape, Lyndhurst's official guide book, and the complimentary Lyndhurst Historic Landscape Tour Brochure are also available in the Museum Shop and offer expanded in-depth information about the estate.

Admission

Reservations are not required for regular daytime visits to Lyndhurst. Admission is Adults: $10.00, Seniors: $9.00, Students 12-17: $4.00, Children under 12: Free, Grounds Fee: $4.00. Admission fees may vary for special events.

Carriage House Cafe

Open May-October, Wednesday - Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Located in the Carriage House. The Carriage House Cafe serves a variety of salads, soups, sandwiches, desserts, wine and beverages. Reservations are not required for groups of 10 or less. Relax indoors or outdoors, or order a picnic lunch to take with you onto the grounds!

Lyndhurst Museum Shop

Open during regular estate hours. Located in the Carriage House. The Museum Shop offers a variety of unique gifts and reproductions. Gift certificates also available.

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