I love visiting the Hudson River Valley so any event or tour that I can go on is an excuse to come up here. I had visited all the sites that I wanted to see on a trip two weeks earlier but wanted to see them in more detail plus I wanted to take some pictures. The weather finally broke, and it was a much more pleasant 83 degrees as opposed to the 96 degrees the trip before. That makes the trip much nicer.
I asked my aunt along so that we could share in the experience, and I could use her phone to take pictures of the all the sites. It is a much nicer trip when you have someone along who enjoys these things. The one nice thing about traveling to the Fishkill, New York area is that it is only an hour away and a straight run…
On a recent trip to the Hudson River Valley for Fall events I took a tour of Bard Campus to visit their campus and tour Montgomery Place which the college bought from the Hudson River Historical Society in 2016. It is now part of the campus and you can tour the grounds but not the inside of the house.
Montgomery Place on the Bard College Campus
Before 2016 when the house was owned by the Hudson River Historical Society who used to have tours of the mansion. When the family sold the mansion and all its contents to the Society, they left the house untouched when they moved out you got to see how the Livingston family lived not just in current times but with all the historical furniture that came with the house. The former tour used to take you through each room that had antique furniture and decorations but much of the house had been modernized over the years. Older furnishings had either been conserved or slipcovered because of age. Since the house has been sold to Bard College, you can only tour the house by appointment only through the college.
The grounds are still impressive. During the Spring, the formal gardens next to the house are in full bloom and the last time I had taken a tour there, the gardens were being maintained by a local garden club. There were flower beds, herb gardens and cutting gardens on top of the flowing lawns from the house to the river.
The Montgomery Place Gardens are changing from Summer to Fall
In the Fall on a recent visit, most of the gardens had been cut back with a few seasonal flowering bushes still showing color. The trees surrounding the house were turning a gold hue while the lawn that had been freshly cut was still emerald green. The house while a little worn from the outside still looked like it was ready to receive guests for the Fall season in the Hudson River Valley. The views from the back of the house are breathtaking from the window views of the Hudson River and the paths leading to it.
There are all sorts of hiking trails to the Sawkill River and through the forests, a trail down to the Hudson River and tours of the property. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk and there is plenty of parking by the Visitor’s Center along with a history of the estate.
The property had been home Native Americans for at least 5,000 years as a seasonal hunting ground. The Dutch settled in the area in the late 18th century using the Saw Kill River for various mills.
In the late 1770’s, Janet Livingston Montgomery purchased from Abraham Van Benthuysen 242 acres of land on the Hudson River after the death of her husband General Richard Montgomery at the Battle of Quebec. She moved into the home they built after the Revolutionary War. She later had plans made for a Federal style mansion on the riverfront property she bough and moved into her new home, Chateau de Montgomery, in 1805. She established a working farm with the help of friends who gave her tree samples (Wiki).
Upon her death in 1828, the mansion was inherited by her brother, Edward Livingston. He had spent his summers vacationing here with his wife, Louise. They renamed the estate ‘Montgomery Place’. He died the next year and his wife, Louise hired Alexander Jackson Davis to convert the mansion into a more ornate villa. Two wings and exterior decoration were added at this time of the renovation. With the help of Andrew Jackson Downing, a friend of Louise’s and mentor to Davis, she developing the landscapes. Her daughter, Cora Barton worked with the architect on designing garden and conservatory (Wiki).
Upon Louise’s death in 1860, Cora and her husband hired Davis again to build some the earlier outbuildings including Coach House, Swiss Cottage and farmhouse and then extended the landscaping to turn the estate into more ‘pleasure grounds’ and have a separation from the farming operations. The house then passed on to another relative in 1921, John Ross Delafield who added heating and modern plumbing to the house. He and his wife also extended the gardens on the estate as well (Wiki).
Upon his death, his son John White Delafield inherited the house and they opened two corporations to own and operate the property. In 1981, the estate was sold to the Historic Hudson Valley, the historical society. After an extensive renovation, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992 and it was bought by Bard College in 2016 who is its current owner (Wiki).
I have visited the Philipsburg Manor House and Estate many times over the years. During the “Headless Horseman” Halloween activities, the house is open for tours. You are able to tour the rooms and see the home in a spooky environment. The house was lit by candles and the tour guides lead you through the house.
The Manor House from the bridge over the creek
During a special event at the holidays, the house had seasonal decorations, lit by a combination candles and open hearth fires in the fireplace and tour guides explained a Colonial holiday season.
The estate during the day
The Manor House as it was explained to me was a place where the Philipse family stayed when they were away from the main family mansion and was doing business on the estate. So the home was comfortable and workable and functional but not luxurious as the main manor house where the family lived.
The back gardens are used during the Spring and Summer to grow fruits and vegetables
The kitchen, common room and bedrooms were nicely furnished at the time for the owners visits but was not elegant in the form of the main manor house. This was full working estate at all times. The Mill is located near the manor house and their are walking paths around the house.
The kitchen at the manor house was functional but not elaborate
During the Halloween season, both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow are busy with activities with readings, cemetery tours, ‘haunted events’ and other activities. Please check out the Historic Hudson Valley website for the roster of events. Things have changed since the era of COVID.
a recreation of the bedroom at the Philipsburg Manor
During the Christmas holidays, the house in the past was decorated for Christmas but in the post-COVID time, the house was just open for tours. In December 2022, I got to visit the house the week before Christmas before it closed for the season. Like most older historical homes and sites will be closed until the Spring so this was the last opportunity to see the house and grounds. Unlike the past, the house was kept in regular touring state. We got to tour the kitchens and bedrooms of the home and heard a talk on how the how was run when Mr. Philispe was not in residence. This was strictly a working farm and mill for the family with the main residence being closer to the City.
The estate at the close of winter
Most of the action was outdoors with tours of the mill, the outside ovens used for the family’s bakery business and outdoor gardens that were cleared out for the winter months.
The Mill is where the process of converting wheat grown on the estate was made into flour for the New York market
The Milling wheel to process wheat to flour
The History of the Philipsburg Manor House:
(WIKI/Historic Hudson River Valley Society)
The Philipsburg Manor House is an historic house in the Upper Mills Section of the former sprawling Colonial-era estate known as Philipsburg Manor. Together with the water mill and the trading site the house is operated bas a non-profit museum by the Historical Hudson River Valley. It is located on US 9 in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, NY. (Wiki)
The Philipsburg Manor House and Mill area of the estate
The Manor House dates from 1693 when wealthy Province of New York merchant Frederick Philipse was granted a charter for 52,00 acres along the Hudson River by the British Crown. He built this facility at the meeting of the Pocantico and Hudson Rivers as a provisioning depot for the family Atlantic sea trade and as headquarters for a worldwide shipping operation. For more than thirty years, Frederick and his wife, Margaret and later his son Adolph shipped hundreds of African men, women and children as slaves across the Atlantic. The manor was tenanted by farmers of various European backgrounds and operated by enslaved Africans (Wiki).
Recreation of the baking operations on the estate
The baking oven
Baking hardtack at the ovens. This would have been used for shipping voyages.
At the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the Philipses supported the British Crown and their landholdings were seized and auctioned off. The manor house was used during the war, most notably by British General Sir Henry Clinton during the militaries in 1779. It was there that he wrote what is known as the Philipsburg Proclamation, which declared all Patriot-owned slaves to be freed and that blacks taken prisoner while serving in Patriot forces would be sold in slavery (Wiki/Hudson River Valley History).
Touring the Dutch barns for wheat seed processing
The processing of wheat and straw
A National Historic Landmark in 1961, the farm features a stone manor house filled with a collection of 17th and 18th Century period furnishings, a working water-powered grist mill and millpond, an 18 century barn, a slave garden and reconstructed tenant farm house (Wiki/Hudson River Valley History).
During the season when the estate is open for visitors, there are costumed interpreters who reenact life in pre-Revolutionary War times doing various chores around the estate. During the Halloween season, the home is open for haunted tours of the manor during the “Headless Horseman” event. During the Christmas holiday season, the home is open for seasonal activities. Please check the website during COVID for activities (Historic Hudson River Valley).
Fee: Adults $22.00/Seniors (over 65) $14.00/Current Students with ID $13.00/Free to Members and Children under 12 accompanied by a parent. Free on Friday Nights from 7:00pm-9:00pm. Discount for people with disabilities $13.00-Caregiver Free.
What I love about the Morgan Library & Museum is the level of sophistication and quality of their exhibitions. The museum really makes you think when you tour their galleries and attend their lectures and gallery talks. Their docents and curators bring an exhibition to a whole new level. I always feel like I am taking a college course and will be graded afterwards. They really make you think about the work or what the author or artist is trying to say.
Two of my favorite exhibitions were the “150th Anniversary Celebration of Alice in Wonderland”, which is why I joined the Morgan Library & Museum. I loved the novel and I wanted to get some ideas for our library’s own celebration. They had the original manuscript written by Lewis Carroll, some original prints and memorabilia from various times including posters, books, artwork and decorative items.
Another wonderful and interesting exhibition was on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” which was a celebration of her life, her works and of the novel through the ages in both context of the novel and in Hollywood. There were various copies of the books in the exhibition as well as the history of the author’s life.
The Frankenstein print
The exhibition showed the clips of the original silent version of the film, the 1931 version with Boris Karloff and the modern version “Young Frankenstein” with Gene Wilder from 1974. I learned from the exhibition that the set used in the 1974 version of the film was from the original 1931 film and it had been in the director’s basement all those years.
Another exhibition that was very interesting was the recent American artist Al Taylor with an showing of his drawings. The works were unusual but really stood out was his time in Hawaii and the drawings that inspired him.
Duck Bondage Study by Al Taylor
Untitled by Al Taylor
American artist Al Taylor
A YouTube video on the “David Hockney” Exhibition:
The recent David Hockney Exhibition that I missed
It is nice to walk among the permanent collection of prints in the lower level and to visit the former private areas of Mr. Morgan’s home. It adds to who he was as a financier and as a homeowner. The home was not as elaborate as you would have thought.
I also enjoy the Morgan Cafe on the main level of the museum in the courtyard area of the first floor. The food is a little pricey and a limited menu but the service is wonderful and the quality of the food is very good. You will enjoy the meal and I have heard from other patrons that the Afternoon Tea is very nice as well.
They also have a Dining Room in the Library area that I have heard is very nice as well.
They have a nice selection of books, cards and gifts in their Gift Shop just beyond The Morgan Dining Room. I really like their selections at the holidays and their theme books to the exhibitions especially for the “Alice in Wonderland” exhibition.
It is a nice place to take a gallery talk, then a light lunch in the main hall and then a lecture at night. It’s a great way to spend the day.
The History of the Morgan Library & Museum:
(from the Morgan Library & Museum website)
The Museum is a complex of buildings in the heart of New York City and began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. As early as 1890, Mr. Morgan had begun to assemble a collection of illuminated, literary and historical manuscripts, early printed books and old master drawings and prints.
Mr. Morgan’s library was built between 1902 and 1906 adjacent to his New York residence at Madison Avenue and 36th Street. Designed by Charles McKim of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, the library was intended as something more than a repository of rare materials. Majestic in appearance yet intimate in scale, the structure was to reflect the nature and stature of its holdings.
The result was an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo with three magnificent rooms epitomizing America’s Age of Elegance. Completed three years before McKim’s death, it is considered by many to be his masterpiece. In 1924, eleven years after Mr. Morgan’s passing, his son, J.P. Morgan Jr., known as Jack, realized that the library had become too important to remain in private hands. It what constituted one of the most momentous cultural gifts in the United States history. He fulfilled his father’s dream of making the library and its treasures available to scholars and the public alike by transforming it into a public institution.
Over the years, through purchases and generous gifts, The Morgan Library & Museum has continued to acquire rare materials as well as important music manuscripts, early children’s books, Americana and materials from the twentieth century. Without loosing its decidedly domestic feeling, the Morgan also has expanded its physical space considerably.
In 1928, the Annex building was erected on the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street, replacing Pierpont Morgan’s residence. The Annex connected to the original McKim library by means of a gallery. In 1988, Jack Morgan’s former residence, a mid-nineteenth century brownstone on Madison Avenue and 37th Street was added to the complex. The 1991 garden court was constructed as a means to unite the various elements of the Morgan campus.
The largest expansion in the Morgan’s history, adding 75,000 sq ft to the campus was completed in 2006. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, the project increases exhibition space by more than fifty percent and adds more important visitor amenities, including a new performance hall, a welcoming entrance on Madison Avenue, a new cafe and a new restaurant, a shop, a new reading room and collections storage. Piano’s design integrates the Morgan’s three historical buildings with three new modestly scaled steel and glass pavilions. A soaring central court connects the buildings and serves as a gathering place for visitors in the spirit of an Italian piazza.
The Morgan Library & Museum Mission:
The mission of The Morgan Library & Museum is to preserve, build, study, present and interpret a collection of extraordinary quality, in order to stimulate enjoyment, excite the imagination, advance learning and nurture creativity.
A global institution, focused on the European and American traditions, the Morgan houses one of the world’s foremost collections of manuscripts, rare books, music, drawings and ancient and other works of art. These holdings, which represent the legacy of Pierpont Morgan and numerous later benefactors, comprise a unique and dynamic record of civilization as well as an incomparable repository of ideas and of the creative process.
(From the Morgan Library & Museum website and history)