August 11, 2019 – Rhinebeck, NY
Length: approximately 3 miles
Route type: Circuit
Trail Guide: Wilderstein Trail Map
Trailhead parking: Wilderstein Trails Parking – Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Wilderstein is a not-for-profit house museum in Rhinebeck, NY. The 19th-century Queen-Anne-style country house on the Hudson River, was the home of Margaret Suckley, a cousin and confidante of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and is widely regarded as the Hudson Valley’s most important example of Victorian architecture.
The Wilderstein Historic Site is located on a wooded bluff overlooking the Hudson River. The estate consists of 40-acres created over a century ago in the American romantic style by landscape architect Calvert Vaux. During his career, Vaux enjoyed an important association with Frederick Law Olmsted.
At Wilderstein, Calvert Vaux created an intricate network of carriage drives, walks, and trails adorned with specimen trees and ornamental shrubs. The landscape plan entails well-chosen prospect points marked by rustic gazebos and sheltered garden seats.
The trail system that traverses the property is approximately three miles long and takes about one hour to hike. Vaux’s reverence for nature, always clearly and thoughtfully expressed in his work, is still evident.
Wilderstein’s grounds are open year-round, daily from 9am until 4pm. There is no charge to walk the grounds and trails. Parking for the trails is available off Morton Road near Wilderstein’s Gate Lodge during hours the mansion is not open for tours.
Some of the structures that can be viewed at Wilderstein Historic Site:
The original Italianate country home designed by John Warren Ritch in 1852 was remodeled and enlarged in 1888. Poughkeepsie architect Arnout Cannon was hired to transform the two story villa into an elaborate Queen Anne style mansion. The renovated structure soared upward with the addition of a third floor, multi-gabled attic and a dramatic five story circular tower with commanding views of the surrounding landscape.
The fanciful, asymmetrical roof line of the house was complimented by the addition of an imposing porte cochere and an expansive verandah.
- Carriage House
Designed in the Queen Anne style by Arnout Cannon, the first story of the Carriage House is constructed of brick ornamented with bands of rusticated brownstone. Above it rises the shingle-clad second story, enhanced with decorated gables. A large onion-shaped dome, the fanciful capping of one of the ventilators, dominates the massive roof. The first floor was designed for horses with stables, a tack room, and carriage wash. On the second floor was a hayloft and space to store sleighs in the summer and carriages in the winter. After the invention of the automobile, the Suckley family used the Carriage House primarily as a garage for their many motorized vehicles.
- Ice House
During the winter, blocks of ice were cut from the Hudson River and Morton’s Pond. The ice was stored both above and underground and in the Ice House. The underground ice was in reserve for the summer. This was the first building constructed on the property and was filled with ice for the first time in January of 1853.
- Root Cellar
The Root Cellar was a cool dry place used to store fruits and vegetables that were grown at Wilderstein. In the woods near it, you may notice locust posts. This is what remains of the barrier used to keep grazing animals off the lawn and away from the gardens.
- Potting House
An important element in the design for Wildenstein’s landscape was the Potting House and adjoining Greenhouse manufactured by the Lord and Burnham Company of Irvington, NY. These buildings were constructed in 1890 and placed on the southern edge of the estate, where there were extensive gardens for both flowers and vegetables. American Colonial in character, the Potting House’s plan is square with its front door marked by a small portico framed in Doric columns. This building served as the entrance to the 82 ft. long Greenhouse, which survives today as only a brick foundation.
Delightful Hudson River Valley views can be experienced from different areas of the grounds.
- The Lawn
- Cove Point
- Umbrella Point
In addition to house tours and walking trails, special exhibitions are featured annually. A variety of activities and events are also scheduled at Wilderstein throughout the year.
- Thursday to Sunday – The first tour of the day begins at noon and the last tour begins at 3:30 pm. Tours start approximately every half-hour.
- Admission Fees: $11 adults, $10 students/seniors, children under 12 free. Reservations are not necessary.
- There is no charge to walk the grounds and trails.
- Wilderstein’s grounds are open year-round, daily from 9am until 4pm.