Editors’ note: This article has been corrected. The Rip Van Winkle Bridge is visible from this site, not the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, as previously stated.
Named both a State Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, this Persian-style building and its 250-acre grounds overlook the majestic Hudson River, offering spectacular views of the Catskills, the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, and the surrounding landscape year-round. While its unique style and aesthetic beauty certainly contribute to its stature, the site is perhaps most distinguished by its rich history.
It all began when the property was purchased in 1860 by an artist who earned international acclaim through his instrumental involvement in the famous Hudson River School. As a landscape painter, he chose the property for obvious reasons — namely, its panoramic views of the Hudson. After taking an extended tour of Europe and Asia, he was profoundly impressed by the architecture he discovered overseas.
Determined to create a new home incorporating Middle Eastern elements and designs, he hired architect Calvert Vaux — famous for his work on New York City’s Central Park — and spent the next two years collaborating to personally design and build his individualized residence.
When the construction was complete, the painter and his growing family moved into the second story of their home while he continued decorating the ground floor. Using his own stencil designs to cover the walls and ceilings, and filling the house with hand-picked eclectic furnishings from around the world, he transformed the space into something truly original.
The artist continued to repair, improve, and expand the house until his death in 1900. The estate was willed to his youngest son, Louis, and remained in the family until 1966 when it was purchased — with the help of New York State funds — by a nonprofit preservation group. Today, the grounds are owned and operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; the house still contains the furniture, tapestries, rugs, bronzes, paintings, sculptures, and other objects collected by the artist throughout the 30 years in which he called the site home. The painter’s famous works are displayed at countless museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and the Scottish National Gallery.
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