Visitors to Hyde Park, NY will enjoy a tour of the Vanderbilt Estate. In addition to the 54-room mansion, the Pavilion, the grounds and gardens are open to explore. National Park Pass holders will receive free admission. Tours of the house are guided and visitors gather in the Pavilion. The number of guests on each tour is limited so be sure to arrive early for the time you would prefer to enter the house. Check the website for details about tour times and size.
The house is decorated for the holidays from the end of November through the end of December and is open every day except Christmas, New Year and Thanksgiving.
The Vanderbilt Mansion is one of the remnants of the Gilded Age in the Hudson River Valley. Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife Louise used it as a summer cottage. Kim, Mead & White was America’s number one architecture firm of this era and they designed this home for the Vanderbilts. Built in the neo-classic beaux arts style, it is the only one of this design in the Hudson River Valley.
Frederick Vanderbilt purchased the estate in 1895 and the pavilion was constructed on the site of the former coach house. The family stayed here during the construction of the mansion which took three years. After the death of the Vanderbilts (Louise died in 1926 and Frederick in 1938) their niece, who inherited the estate, tried to sell it. The age of these great homes had ended and it didn’t sell. FDR convinced her to donate it to the National Park Service and the rest as they say, is history.
What visitors will see here is not the life of the Vanderbilt family but rather the life of the American aristocracy and how they lived during the time period portrayed. It is representative of the times. You will see how they entertained on the main floor, how they lived on the second floor and how the staff made this life possible in the basement. In order to visit here you need to be able to climb stairs, there are approximately 100 steps during the tour. Another fact to keep in mind is that the house is not air conditioned and can be quite warm in the summer.
Frederick Vanderbilt was born into wealth and privilege but unlike some of his siblings, he earned a fortune of his own. He was a very private person and was beloved by his staff. Most of the people who worked for him continued to work at the estate for their entire life. They were very loyal and they were rewarded in Frederick’s will.
You will be guided on your tour of the mansion by one of the park rangers and they are very knowledgeable. By the time you leave you will have a great appreciation for the life that was lived here. The tour of the house lasts about an hour. Our visit was in December when the gardens have little appeal but at other times they warrant a visit. Of particular interest is Louise’s bedroom on the second floor which is modeled after Marie Antoinette’s at Versailles.
The Pavilion, which served as bachelor quarters after the house was completed, was decorated and is quite lovely. The Vanderbilt Mansion also has a wonderful gift shop and the rest rooms. For stunning views of the Hudson River, there are great photo opportunities on the grounds.