Searching for your own “Downton Abbey”? Let the estates of the Hudson Valley inspire you
- Last Updated: 11:11 AM, May 16, 2012
- Posted: 3:47 PM, May 14, 2012
The English are known for their grand country estates, but they hardly have a corner on the market. North of the city, along the east bank of the Hudson, are our very own versions of “Downton Abbey”: opulent mansions set on acres of manicured grounds with spectacular river and mountain views. They’re the legacies of old-money families like the Astors and Livingstons, the nouveaux riche Goulds and Vanderbilts, and celebrated painters like Frederic Edwin Church. Here are six properties worth checking out.
Castle-like with its stone spires and turrets, and equally fantastical inside — vaulted painted ceilings, stained glass, Rococo-style furnishings — Lyndhurst wouldn’t look out of place in the new “Dark Shadows” film. (In fact, two movies based on the horror series were shot here in the early ’70s.) The 1838 Gothic Revival wonderland designed by A.J. Davis was home to several powerful New Yorkers: NYC mayor William Paulding, its first owner; inventor George Merritt, who bought and doubled its size in 1864; and lastly, railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who made it his summer retreat. Most impressive is the cavernous dining room, which calls to mind a church with its soaring ceilings, wooden arches, intricate stained glass accents and Gothic wood detailing. Coolest detail? The room’s very real-looking faux-leather wallpaper. Guided tours Fri. to Sun., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; lyndhurst.org.
This charming Federal-style house can’t compete with the grandeur of other Hudson River estates, but it makes up for it with a gorgeous, 68-acre setting that includes a Beaux Arts-style rose garden, apple orchard, orangerie and front lawn with open river views. Built as a farmhouse in 1808 by States Morris Dyckman, a British Loyalist who returned to the area after the Revolutionary War, the home was nearly bulldozed in the 1950s, but Lila Acheson Wallace (of Reader’s Digest fortune) swooped in to the rescue, relocating it up river to Garrison and creating the gardens. It’s been completely restored and period furniture has been added, but original details include carved wooden swags on its façade, and astonishingly, many of the windows. Guided tours Wed. to Mon., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., free admission to the grounds Saturdays; boscobel.org.
Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park
Will you be a lowly kitchen girl like Daisy, or luck out as a privileged valet, a la Mr. Bates? “At Your Service: Behind the Scenes at Vanderbilt Mansion,” a tour of the “Downton Abbey” variety, is authentic from the get-go. You’ll enter via the servants’ door,and won’t get so much as a peek at the grand home’s public spaces there. An assigned card describes your responsibilities: At the bottom, laundresses — who endlessly scrubbed and ironed in a dark basement. What about the butler? You’re in the pantry, guarding the valuable china and silver. Head housekeeper? You get your own private apartment (the only member of the staff to have one). See all these rooms, as well as surprisingly state-of-the-art refrigeration and clothes drying systems, and be ready to climb a lot of stairs. At Your Service tour, Fri. to Sun., 2 p.m., May 19 through Oct. 28. Reservations: 845-229-7770; nps.gov/vama.