Thursday, May 16, 2024

Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park


 A trip along the Hudson River offers a lot to see and do. From the old river towns to the hikes along the water, there is something for everyone. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the historic mansions that served as vacation homes to rich and powerful of New York City. The Vanderbilt Mansion, in Hyde Park, NY, is one of the best examples of these homes.


Frederick Vanderbilt by NPS uploaded by Jillian Jack

Louise Vanderbilt - Photographer Unknown


In 1894, Frederick Vanderbilt (1856-1938) and Louise Vanderbilt (nee Anthony, 1878-1926) purchased this 800+acre estate from Dorothea and Walter Langdon, daughter and son-in-law of John Jacob Astor. Like many of New York’s richest families, they were attracted by the beauty of the Hudson River Valley. The opening of the New York Central Railroad, which was owned by the Vanderbilt family, made travel to Hyde Park from the city, an easy trip. The Vanderbilts hired the firm of McKim, Mead and White to design their 56 room mansion, which was finished in 1898. 

Visitors Center

Frederick and Louise used their Hyde Park estate as a spring and fall vacation home. They turned the estate into a private park, with carriage roads and walking paths on the 200 acres closest to river, west of the Albany Post Road. The 600 acres to the east were a functioning farm. The fact that they only lived in Hyde Park for a few months out of the year didn’t stop Frederick and Louise from decorating their country estate in the style to which they were accustomed. Paintings, sculptures, and furniture were shipped from Europe. In fact the Vanderbilts had four different interior decorating firms working on the house at the same time.

Entrance Hall

Women's drawing room


One interesting fact about how NPS runs and maintains the estate. Over the mantle-piece there is an Italian tapestry, made for the Medici family, that has become almost totally faded. The park service has decided to leave it alone, as the amount of work needed would move from restoration to recreation, something they don’t want to do.


Louise Vanderbilt died in 1926, and Frederick in 1939. The estate was left to Louise’s niece, who had no interest in owning or running it. She put it up for sale, and Franklin Roosevelt, president at the time, and owner of a large estate just to the south of the Vanderbilt home, took an interest in the land. Roosevelt arranged for the National Park Service to acquire the land along the river, and all of the buildings. This means that the Vanderbilt mansion is one of the few period homes that moved directly from the family that owned it, into historic preservation. As a result, the house has all of the original artwork and furniture that the Vanderbilts purchased and installed.

Butler's Pantry




Today, the land is a public park, open to all who wish to walk the grounds and enjoy the views. Tours of the house are available several times a day for a fee of $10/person, free for NPS pass holders. 

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