Nestled among leafy green trees in the extensive gardens that surround it, this brick alcove reveals a graceful sculpture — which just happens to be one of the most photographed features at one of the most frequently visited National Historic Sites on the Hudson’s eastern shore.
Carved from white marble by sculptor Antonia Galli in the mid-19th century, this semi-nude nymph was purchased in Italy and installed in this garden between 1904 and 1910. Though she was fondly nicknamed “Barefoot Kate” by garden workers, a closer look shows that a pair of sandals adorn her “feet.”
Kate’s owner, who acquired a considerable fortune via his family’s connection with the American railroad industry, was a passionate gardener who had a degree in horticulture from Yale. In 1902, he enlisted the help of the well-respected landscape architect James L. Greenleaf to revamp his estate’s original garden beds, which were first laid out in the early 1800s.
The owner worked closely with Greenleaf and two additional landscape architects to create several formal gardens on his property — including the Italian-style site dominated by this statue. His interest in plants and shrubs also extended outside of his gated property: He and his staff were renowned for the impressive vegetables and perennial flowers they exhibited each year at the Dutchess County Fair.
Stretching from Fifth Avenue to Newport, this family owned more than a few palatial properties; they used this manse as their summer house. As a result, garden workers were instructed to plant only flowers that bloom from the spring into the early fall. These days, the gardens are maintained by a volunteer association devoted to preserving the plantings and statuary so they look as they did during their Gilded Age heyday.
Do you know on which estate this chiseled beauty resides? Submit your answer in the form below; the first reader with the correct response wins a prize. Good luck!