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Would You Live Like an Astor at the Ferncliff Gatehouse?

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Photos and illustration courtesy of Stan Lichens

The original gatehouse for the Astor Estate, Ferncliff, hits the market in picturesque Rhinebeck as a one-of-a-kind home.

The Details

Address: 239 River Road, Rhinebeck
Asking Price: $2.5 million
Beds/Baths: 10 beds/5 baths
Year Built: 1879
Square Footage: 8,364 sq. ft.
Acreage: 5 acres
School District: Rhinebeck School District
Estimated Taxes: $27,806
Listed by E. Elizabeth Peters, Heather Croner Real Estate, Sotheby’s International Realty

A charming entrance

In the market to own a piece of history? Look no further than the Ferncliff gatehouse, part of Ferncliff Farm, the former Astor Estate on River Road in Rhinebeck.

In its original state, Ferncliff Farm was primarily used as a farm; dairy and beef cattle were produced on its grounds, and William Backhouse Astor Jr. bred horses in its stables.

The property was unique for its time; in 1902, Ferncliff became home to one of the first indoor pools in the United States. Ferncliff was passed down through the Astor family following Astor Jr.’s death, and eventually, the estate was broken up and sold as separate properties, including the gatehouse.

Ferncliff Farm — an estate well over 100 years old — is home to many historical buildings, like a staff quarters, teahouse, and the gatehouse. After the death of Vincent Astor, some of these buildings became private homes. In 1964, the Astors donated 200 acres of the estate to the Rhinebeck Rotary, thus creating Ferncliff Forest, a nature preserve full of hemlock trees.

Ferncliff Farm — an estate well over 100 years old — is home to many historical buildings, like a staff quarters, teahouse, and the gatehouse. After the death of Vincent Astor, some of these buildings became private homes. In 1964, the Astors donated 200 acres of the estate to the Rhinebeck Rotary, thus creating Ferncliff Forest, a nature preserve full of hemlock trees.

The gatehouse previously operated as a location for guests of the estate to freshen up before arriving at the main property, before current owners Stan Lichens and Lois Guarino renovated it into the estate it currently is.

The sprawling five-acre property consists of five structures: The main gatehouse is the three-bedroom centerpiece of the estate, equipped with two Italian-tile baths, a wood-burning fireplace and a basement. Fern cottage offers another three bedrooms, as well as a bathroom and kitchen; a greenhouse, art studio, and pool house round out the compound.

Additions to the property, designed by Lichens, “honor and refer to” the original 19th century Romantic architecture, without attempting to be a carbon copy, according to Guarino. (In the 1990s, Lichens and Guarino received the annual preservation award from the Rhinebeck Historical Society for their additions.)

Inside ferncliff

The lucky homeowners will feel immersed in the rich history of the grounds, thanks to unique features such as Gothic Revival windows, ashlar block walls, a root cellar with marble steps, and the aforementioned original Victorian glass greenhouse. “There is a feeling to the property that people mention consistently when they come here, that is inspiring and kind of otherworldly,” says Guarino.

“When you come here, you don’t feel like you’re in 2021,” says Lichens. “You are a part of an experience.”

 

A living room with a wood-burning fireplace was added to Fern Cottage. On the grounds, you’ll find the estate’s original 3,000 sq-ft greenhouse, imported from England and fitted with Victorian glass.

A living room with a wood-burning fireplace was added to Fern Cottage. On the grounds, you’ll find the estate’s original 3,000 sq-ft greenhouse, imported from England and fitted with Victorian glass.

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