They Are Among Us
You expect to find castles in Europe. Here, a local author introduces us to five majestic castles right in the Valley
(page 6 of 6)
Standing before the Lyndhurst castle, I am hit by the same stark silence I experienced at Olana. But Lyndhurst — which was designed as a country home by famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis in 1838, and named for the many linden trees on its 67-acre property, which were planted by second owner George Merritt in 1864 — speaks to an intense, stoic power not found in all of the castles I visit.
Three families eventually called Lyndhurst home — former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould — before it opened to the public in 1965. Known for its asymmetrical outline and fanciful turrets, Lyndhurst is considered one of the greatest examples of early Gothic revival architecture in the country.
Within Lyndhurst’s thick walls, the main floor boasts a superb entrance hall, with vaulted ceiling sections, stone archways, and historic busts. The parlor room is comprised of a star-shaped vaulted ceiling, tea-service table, sofa and chairs, tall plants, paintings, and statues. But it is the dining room that is the grande dame of Lyndhurst’s main floor, with its central chandelier; intricately carved wooden alcove awnings; and long dinner table, resplendent with silver plate settings and crystal glassware. The high ceiling is of a stout wooden cane-pattern construction, and an ornate bay window allows in plentiful light at the head of the room. All the furniture here was also designed by Alexander Jackson Davis. “One of the fascinating things about the Davis-designed furniture is that he used a lot of the same vocabulary as the decorations on the outside. He’d reduce it in scale, and apply it to his furniture,” says Catherine Anders, assistant director of Lyndhurst. The wave-like wooden corbels Davis built along the roofline can also be found on the back of the chairs in the drawing room.
Upstairs where the families lived there are also several interesting rooms. The art gallery, bathed in white and accented in gold, still has the artwork that was purchased for Lyndhurst by Jay Gould — a rare example of a 19th-century collection intact. As you might expect, the Duchess’s guest bedroom is an exercise in opulent comfort and tasteful luxury, all geared to produce an atmosphere of light, delicacy, and tranquility. Featured in the room is a four-poster, canopied bed of dark, rich woods; a faceted, sky-blue ceiling; and an ensemble of chairs and writing desks, combining artistic design with everyday practicality.
Lyndhurst Castle is located at 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown. 914-631-4481.
If the Valley’s castles have captured your imagination, be sure to check out Scott Ian Barry’s book Hidden Castles of New York, to be published by SUNY Press in September 2010. Barry, author of Wolf Empire, will act as your tour guide, exploring the many fantastical structures of New York State and offering in-depth historical and architectural context. For more information visit www.scottianbarry.com.