On Friday, I took a tour of Lyndhurst, a Gothic Revival country house that overlooks the Hudson River in Tarrytown. According to the web site, the house was decorated for “A Very Dutchess Holiday,” so I was curious.
Lyndhurst was owned by three families: the Pauldings, the Merritts, and the Goulds, before it was turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Unlike Philipsburg Manor or the Rockefellers’ Kykuit which are part of the Historic Hudson Valley, a local historic organization, Lyndhurst was turned over to the National Trust upon the death of Anna Gould, the Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigord, in 1961.
The most famous–or notorious, depending on your viewpoint– residents were: William Paulding, the New York City mayor who had the original house built and named it Knoll; George Merritt, who had the original architect A. J. Davis double the size of the house in 1864-1865 before he moved in, renaming the house Lyndenhurst after the linden trees on the property; and Jay Gould, railroad magnet and robber baron, who also expanded and remodeled the house. Gould would use the house as his country retreat until his death in 1892. Helen Gould Shepard, Gould’s daughter, inherited the house and continued to live in it until her death in 1938 when her sister, Anna, inherited the house. She would occasionally visit and maintain the estate. The house was kept as it was when the Dutchess lived.
The attempts to link the United States with the ancient Roman Republic was reflected in the way the busts of Washington and Lafyette were dressed–in togas. This linking with the past was very popular in the early United States, to stress the link with Rome’s greatness as well as the recreation of a better form of government than the monarchies then the norm. Unfortunately, our guide made the mistake of confusing a republic with a democracy, which is done constantly. Rather than go into it here, perhaps I’ll write a short entry on the difference between a republic and a democracy.
Anyway, Lyndhurst was beautiful. We learned from our guide that Gould had the house remodeled. He had the wood and plaster walls painted to look like marble and stone as well as the plaster ceilings resemble wood. This painting cost so much more than Gould just having rebuilt the house in marble and stone, but he did this to show off that he could and how much he was really worth. This is an oxymoron to what the nouveau riche trash today do: look for every way to save pennies then pretend that they are worth more than they really are. At least Gould was honest.
The other rooms on the first floor we visited were the waiting room, the library, the dining room, and Gould’s office. On the second floor, were the bedrooms and what had been the old library but Gould had turned it into the art gallery. This room had a vaulted ceiling and skylights. The walls were covered with paintings as an upside down tree near the windows displayed many of Anna’s hats.
The remaining rooms on the second floor were bedrooms, decorated in different ways. The windows in many of the rooms were either painted or stained glass and were beautiful. It really is more a country house than a mansion, but it was really nice. I could see myself living in such a place–if I was wealthy or married someone über-wealthy. (It’s not going to happen, but one can dream.) It was a tour that I really enjoyed.