This is the final installment from my Hudson Valley excursion: Staatsburgh. The first home on the site was built in 1795 by Gertrude Livingston and her husband, Gen. Morgan Lewis. The home, according to one family member, was “ugly but comfortable.”
That home burned in 1832, and was replaced by one with Doriccolumned porticos. The home that now stands is a result of descendant Ruth Livingston Mills’ (1855-1920) vision, along with her husband, Ogden Mills (1856-1929). She inherited the home (one of five that they owned) in 1890, and with the means to hire one of the best architects of the day, she employed Stanford White to take a Greek Revival mansion with 25 rooms and presto! created a 65- room Beaux-Arts mansion. Other accoutrements were the 14 bathrooms and 23 fireplaces, and central heating and electricity. All totaled, the renovation cost $350,000—a small part of the $60 million estate Ogden had inherited from his father. With a staff of 24, I’m sure it ran like a dream!
While the exterior resembled the country home of landed gentry, the interior was clearly inspired by the French with English touches. Like the set one envisions for Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, the decoration is a balance between gold-leaf furniture, tapestries, priceless works of art and potted topiaries and palms all underscored by magnificent oriental carpets.
The grounds, which totaled more than 1,600 acres by 1920, were and still are regarded as some of the most magnificent in the Hudson River Valley. If a day on the links was your fancy, a nine-hole golf course was there for the playing. Extensive greenhouses were used to grow the many plants and flowers that supplied the mansion for décor and parties. There were, of course, tennis courts, walking paths, riding trails and plenty of room at the river to moor your yacht!
There were three children: twin girls Gladys (1883-1970) and Beatrice (1883-1972), and one son, Ogden (1884-1937). Gladys inherited the estate at the death of her brother, and in turn, donated the property and its contents to the State of NewYork. The home is open for tours (nysparks.com).
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NYS OPRHP