of Wilderstein begins in 1852 with Thomas Holy
Suckley's purchase of the river front site, then a sheep
meadow of the adjacent late 18th century estate, Wildercliff.
Suckley's fortune had been secured through the family
export trade and real estate investments. He was a descendant
of the Beekman and Livingston families whose estate
houses were prominent landmarks in this region of the
Hudson River Valley from the 17th through the late 19th
Thomas Suckley and his wife Catherine
Murray Browne wanted a building site endowed with striking
natural features in the best traditions of the picturesque
aesthetic. The landscape setting for Wilderstein fulfilled
this criteria by virtue of its varied terrain and the
scenic views it afforded of the river and distant mountains
--- the vistas framed by tall cedars and evergreens.
Suckley named the property "Wilderstein"
(wild man's stone) in reference to a nearby Indian petroglyph,
an allusive reminder of a cultural heritage that preceded
European settlements in the region.
In 1983, Miss
Margaret Lynch Suckley, daughter of Robert
and Elizabeth Suckley, donated the house and
35 acre grounds to Wilderstein Preservation,
a not-for-profit educational corporation.
Active since 1980, the organization is dedicated
to preserving and interpreting the architecture,
interior design, collections, landscape and
natural open space of this significant site.
Listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, Wilderstein is a major feature of
the Hudson River National Landmark District.
The original Italinate villa designed
by John Warren Ritch was remodeled and enlarged in 1888
by Thomas's son Robert Browne Suckley and his wife, Elizabeth
Philips Montgomery. Poughkeepsie architect Arnout Cannon
was hired to transform the two story villa into an elaborate
Queen Anne style country house. The structure now soared
upward with the addition of a third floor, multi-gabled
attic and a dramatic five story circular tower with a
commanding view of the surrounding landscape. The fanciful,
asymmetrical skyline of the house was enhanced by the
addition of an imposing porte-cochere and an expansive
The fashionably appointed interiors
were designed by the New York City decorator, Joseph
Burr Tiffany. With the ground floor rooms executed in
contrasting historic revival and aesthetic movement
styles, the interiors at Wilderstein offer a splendid
microcosm of the decorative arts during this period
of American design.
The self-conscious opulence of
the newly remodeled Wilderstein was complimented by the
Picturesque Landscape design of Calvert Vaux who laid
out the grounds at Wilderstein according to the principles
of the American Romantic Landscape style. The Vaux firm
created an intricate network of drives, walks and trails
adorned with specimen trees and ornamental shrubs. The
landscape plan entailed well-chosen prospect points marked
by rustic gazebos and sheltered garden seats. Eclectically
designed out buildings were also erected during this period,
ranging form a turreted carriage house to the Shingle
style gate lodge and Colonial Revival style potting shed.
Until 1991 three generations of Suckleys
occupied Wilderstein, amassing personal and ancestral
effects that attest to the lively social history of
the estate, its family and their relationship to the
Hudson Valley. The books, letters, photographs, furniture,
paintings, art objects and china - some ordinary and
some exquisite - are intriguing to the scholar and the
casual visitor alike.
Miss Margaret Lynch Suckley was the
last family member to live in the house. Born at Wilderstein
in 1891, she called it home until her death in 1991.
Serving as archivist in the FDR Library, she worked
with the President on his papers and often kept him
company at Hyde Park, in Washington and on train trips.
This quiet, good humored distant cousin whom he called
"Daisy" was his close companion during WWII. She gave
Roosevelt his famous Scottie Fala who usually accompanied
the President when he came to Wilderstein for tea. Fala
sired two puppies born to Button (Heather of Wilderstein),
Daisy's dog. "The True Story of Fala",
written by Margaret Suckley, describes Fala's life as
the presidential dog. Daisy was with FDR when he was
fatally stricken at Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. She
died at Wilderstein in 1991, her 100th year. Shortly
thereafter friends cleaning her cluttered bedroom found
a battered black suitcase beneath her bed. Inside the
suitcase were Daisy's diaries and the letters which
she and Roosevelt exchanged. They have been edited by
Geoffrey C. Ward in his book "Closest Companion".
landmark landscape in HV/Net's new panorama image!
From the center of Rhinebeck, proceed
south on Route 9 to first right, Mill Road. Turn onto
Mill Road, East, and proceed 2.2 miles to Morton Road,
(County Route 85). Turn right onto Morton Road and proceed
one-quarter mile. Wilderstein entrance is on left.