By Jose Morales
Lyndhurst Mansion, one of America's finest Gothic Revival mansions, is located only miles from New York City in the quaint village of Tarrytown.
New York City – The Gilded Age, the critically acclaimed HBO television series created and written by the mastermind behind Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, has sparked the interest of millions regarding this fascinating era in the history of the United States, especially of New York City. The Second Industrial Revolution, dated between 1870 to 1914, was a period of rapid economic growth (and wealth disparity) thanks to scientific discoveries, industrialization, and mass production. This Gilded Age gave birth to powerful and affluent businessmen and socialites who built mansions and summer homes to rival the beauty of European palaces and served as a means for flaunting their wealth. An example of such a place is Lyndhurst Mansion, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions located only miles from New York City in the quaint village of Tarrytown. The mansion has also served as a filming location for the HBO series.
Lyndhurst was designed and commissioned in 1838 by architects Alexander Jackson Davis, William S. Paulding, Jr., and his son Philip R. Paulding as a country summer villa. First known as “Knoll” for its location on a mound overlooking the Hudson River, the original home’s Gothic Revival design drew fascination from guests and residents of the region for decades to come. In 1864, the property and its lush lands were sold to New York businessman George Merritt, who rehired Jackson Davis to expand the house as a full-time resident for him and his family. Reflecting the increasing wealth of the times, the house was doubled in size with the addition of a grand dining room, more bedrooms, and a prominent and distinguishing towel. Additionally, Merritt transformed the property’s landscape from open farmland to a country estate, mirroring the beauty of the gardens of European estates, and included a 390-foot-long iron-framed glass conservatory and greenhouse. Merritt renamed the estate ‘Lyndenhurst’ after the Linden trees he had planted around the property.
Merritt died in 1873, and his wife sold the estate in 1880 to railroad magnate, financial speculator, and robber baron Jay Gould, one of the wealthiest men of the period. The millionaire (whose fortune today would be equivalent to $2.17 billion) fell in love with the property after renting it as a family summer home a few years before. Gould renamed the property “Lynhurst” and spent his time between New York City and the property until he died in 1892.
After Gould’s death, his eldest daughter, Helen, became custodian of the estate. Helen added additional buildings to the property, such as a Pool Building and Bowley Alley. She opened the grounds and buildings to the community and used the property for various charitable efforts to help impoverished children and to offer and support programs endowing women’s education.
Helen died in 1938, and her younger sister, Anna, returned from Europe to take ownership of the state. While she kept Lyndhurst as a country home, she also opened it for charitable endeavors. Anna offered the property for the care of WWII soldiers and sailors and auctioned the Lyndhurst Greenhouse’s contents to aid the efforts of the American Red Cross. After Helen’s passing in 1961 in France, Lyndhurst was endowed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Besides its architectural significance, Lyndhurst is home to various collections of art which you can enjoy through one of its multiple tour options, including the Classic Mansion Tour. One of its most important art collections is inside the Grand Gallery on the property’s second floor. This majestic room, boasting a high carved-wood ceiling and an opulent stained glass window, is further beautified by Jay Gould’s collection of exquisite paintings by mostly French and Dutch artists spanning the 16th through the 19th centuries. A majority of the paintings are still in their original elaborate period frames.
Additional to permanent exhibits, Lyndhurst hosts various special exhibitions and events throughout the year. Recent ones include the Women’s Work Exhibition, which explored historic female domestic craft traditions through the work of contemporary artists; the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show; the Holiday Classic Mansion Tour celebrating the Christmas season; and the upcoming Flower Show: Celebrate Spring, which displays floral works of art throughout the mansion for a one-of-a-kind guest experience.
Lyndhurst’s luxuriant gardens remain a must-visit destination of their own. The 67 acres of grounds offer the perfect opportunity to explore various historic outbuildings, specialty gardens, restored Civil War-era pathways, and other trails. You will also find multiple viewing platforms providing a quiet place to admire and relish the mesmerizing beauty of the Hudson River. You can also visit the grounds to enjoy one of the many events held by Lyndhurst Mansion throughout the year, such as the Sunset Jazz Concerts.
If you are a Gilded Age history enthusiast, Lyndhurst Mansion is a must-visit destination. It offers a small glimpse of a bygone tumultuous and controversial era in American history, a period that saw the construction of various buildings of architectural significance. But even if you are not a history buff, Lyndhurst Mansion is a place not to be missed, and your visit will help support the continued restoration work of this historic site and various charitable and art events. – GM
MORE OF LYNDHURST MANSION
Images © BlueAngel Photography for Guild Magazine.
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE TRAVEL ISSUE