Mount Gulian Historic Site
145 Sterling Street
Beacon, NY 12508
Open: May 5th-October 27th Tours are every hour 1:00pm-5:00pm on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Special Wedding tours are by appointment.
Fee: Adults $8.00/Seniors $6.00/Children (6-18) $4.00/Members are free
My review on TripAdvisor:
On my last trip to the Hudson River Valley to visit the great houses of the Hudson, I came across Mount Gulian, a Dutch manor that I never heard of in all my visits. This smaller Dutch manor house is actually a reconstruction of an 18th century home that burned to the ground by arson in 1931. The original house had been built between 1730 and 1740 and added onto over the next two centuries.
Mount Gulian at Christmas in 2021
The house officially had closed for the season at the end of October and was decorated for the holidays for the weekend between December 14-16th to represent the Dutch celebrations. There had been a Children’s tea the Monday before the New Year, so the house was closing down for the season. As the ladies that worked there were taking down the garlands, mistletoe and trees, the curator Amy, let me wonder the rooms as long as I did not get in their way.
The beautiful garland and lights adorn the house
The house is very unique. You would have never known it was a reconstruction. The house really looked its age. The funny part of the house is that is at the very back of an old estate that had been developed with townhouses from the main road to almost the border of the house’s property, so it was strange to drive through to find the house. Once in the semicircular driveway, you plunge back into time.
Mount Gulian Homestead in the summer months
The large porch in the front of the house looks over what’s left of the lawn and the housing developments. Once inside you enter the foyer and long hallway with rooms on each side. Each room was or had been decorated for the holidays with garland, mistletoe, fruits and a Christmas tree in one room, a kind of mixture of old Dutch meets Victorian Christmas. Still the effects were nice and it was very festive.
Mount Gulian’s Dining area decorated for the holidays in 2019
The Dining Room decorated for Christmas in 2021
What I enjoyed is that in each room, there were stories of the Verplanck family and the role that they played in the formation of the community and in the nation as well.
The Dining Room set for Christmas dinner in 2021
All of the rooms had artifacts that the family keeps donating the house as most of the original furnishings were destroyed in the 1931 fire. Still the furnishings are vintage to the time period.
The entrance hall to Mount Gulian at Christmas in 2021
Here and there are stories of the house, the people that lived here and about the family in their daily lives. There were also stories of the Revolutionary War and its headquarters of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. There was also a display on the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati, a Veterans group.
The Order of Cincinnati at Mount Gulian
The history of Mount Gulian and the surrounding area
The history of Mount Gulian and the surrounding area
The downstairs was the kitchen area and was still set up for a Dutch Christmas. There was also an interactive game that the room was set for and the gift shop for the site is there as well.
The Mount Gulian kitchen in 2019
The kitchen decorated for Christmas in 2021
When I left the house, I visited the grounds over-looking the Hudson River. On the property behind the house was a ‘A frame’ Dutch barn. The barn was closed for the season but fit very well into the landscape of the estate. The view of the Hudson River was beautiful.
The Dutch Barn at Mount Gulian
The view to the Hudson River from the house in the Summer
I will have to visit again in the Spring when it opens in April. Because of COVID, I never returned to the house again until December 2021 where my aunt and I took a tour of the Christmas decorations.
The grounds of Mount Gulian with a view of the Hudson River at Christmas 2021
What an interesting tour of the house, we started the talk on the porch where you would have received guests for the holidays. The house was so beautifully decorated for Christmas.
My aunt waiting by the front door to be greeted on our tour
We went into the dining
The foyer between the rooms and the back door were decorated to the hilt
We toured the Dining Room first and discussed what would have been served on a proper Victorian table for dinner on Christmas. Until the Victorian Age, things had been kept very simple. You would have decorated the house before Christmas Eve and then on Christmas Day, there would have been an afternoon church service and a nice lunch. Gift giving did not come into play until after the Civil War.
The Victorian Age made things more elaborate
The Sitting Room was off to the side of the Dining Room and that was decorated as well with family heirlooms and a small library. There were also lots of family portraits of relatives.
The Sitting Room was decorated with all sorts of garlands and wreathes
The Sitting Room decorated for Christmas in 2021
The main room was decorated with the family’s coat of arms as well as the history of the house. Since this was a recreation of the original house that burned down in 1931, you got to see pictures of the house at all stages.
The family portraits in the main room
We also toured the kitchen again where all the magic of the holidays was performed. There was an open hearth for cooking and a bake oven. This is where all the family meals would be produced and the weekly baking done for the family.
The Colonial kitchen decorated for Christmas in 2021
Unlike most of the homes that line the Hudson River Valley, Mount Guilian looks more like a home than a country estate or a seasonal mansion. This was once a working farm with goods that would be sold down in New York City.
What was nice was at the end of the tour the tour guide had refreshments for us with cookies, small cakes and hot cider. It was a nice way to end the tour of the house. The tour guide and the three of us on the tour had visited so many homes in the past we ended up conversing about our experiences at other decorated houses and our time visiting them. It was a great way to start the Christmas holidays.
We were served refreshments in the foyer after the tour.
Please check the website for times that the home will be open for touring.
Don’t miss visiting the downtowns of Beacon and Wappinger Falls while visiting the area. Taking Route 9D is an interesting and scenic way to tour the area.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas in 2021
History of Mount Gulian:
The land where the house stands was purchased by two fur traders Francis Rombout and Gulian Verplanck on August 8, 1683. In exchange for 85,000 acres of land, they paid about $1,250 in goods. The Rombout Patent which formally granted the land to Francis Rombout and Gulian Verplanck was issued by King James II of England on October 17, 1685. After Gulian Verplanck’s death, his estate was eventually divided among divided among his heirs. Julian Verplanck II, a merchant from New York City, received 2880 acres, 400 of which were on a slope overlooking the Hudson River.
He named his estate Mount Gulian, in honor of his grandfather and had the first house on the site built between 1730 and 1740. The building was a small structure with an a-roof. Archaeological evidence suggests it was probably enlarged around 1767 and the characteristic gambrel roof as well as two porches were added between this year and the American Revolutionary War.
Mount Gulian in an early picture
The Revolutionary War years:
During the war, Gulian Verplanck’s son Samuel stayed at the house, while his wife, Judith Commerlin remained at the family mansion at 3 Wall Street in Manhattan. In early 1783, Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben made Mount Gulian his headquarters. At the same time, George Washington had his headquarters in Hasbrouck House, Newburgh on the opposite side of the Hudson River.
On the morning of May 13, 1783, a group of officers of the Continental Army met at Mount Gulian to found the Society of the Cincinnati. Mount Gulian is headquarters of the Society’s New York State branch. The building was extended by in 1804 by Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, the grandson of Gulian Verplanck II, who also laid out the garden. When Marquis de Lafayette visited the house on his return to America in 1824, he stayed in the new addition.
The Gardens of Mount Gulian at Christmas in 2021
In 1803, upon the death of Judith Commerlin Verplanck, the family mansion at 3 Wall Street was closed and much of its furnishings moved to Mount Gulian. In 1849, construction of the Hudson River Railroad cut off access to the Verplanck boat and bathhouse at the end of the property at the shoreline.
The view to Hudson River from Mount Gulian
The Restoration of the House:
The original mansion was destroyed in a fire laid by an arsonist in 1931. After this, the house laid in ruin and was left unattended until 1966, when Bache Bleecker, a descendant of the Verplanck family and his wife, Connie, founded the Mount Gulian Society, as a nonprofit private organization. The goal reconstructed the house to the state it was when it served as von Steuben’s headquarters. The interior contains artifacts related to the Verplanck family. The 18 century Dutch barn was moved here as well.
(This information came from Wiki and I give them full credit for the information)
History of the Verplanck Family:
Mount Gulian is the Hudson Valley colonial homestead of the Verplanck family. Between 1633 and 1638, a Dutch entrepreneur named Abraham Isaac Verplanck arrived in New Netherlands Colony (now New York and New Jersey) from Holland. He originally came to purchase land for a farming settlement and trading post.
The trading post would enable him to trade Dutch goods with the local Native Americans in exchange for beaver and other furs, Indian tobacco and trade goods that were rare in Europe. New Amsterdam was a thriving port and frontier town, filled with Dutch settlers, Indians and traders from all over Europe, Africans, both freemen and slaves, as well as French Huguenots seeking to escape from religious persecution in Europe and Jews fleeing the Inquisition in South American came to a relatively tolerant and busy New Amsterdam.
Abraham Issac Verplanck settled in the growing city and became a prosperous businessman. he married Maria Vigne Roos by 1635, they had Abigail and Gulian (Gulyn is Old Dutch for William), Catalyna, Isaak, Sussanna, Jacomyntje, Ariaentje, Hillegond and Isaak II Issak II moved to Albany and established the Verplanck line in that city, which exists today.
In 1664, an English nave appeared off the coast of New Amsterdam and demanded the city’s surrender. The Dutch surrendered their colony, swore loyalty to the British Crown and saw the city renamed New York. The Verplanck’s spoke Dutch but were now English citizens. By the 1680’s, Gulian Verplanck was sailing up the Hudson River looking for land to increase his wealth.
In 1683, with partners Francis Rombout and Stephanus Van Cortlandt, Gulian Verplanck bought 85,000 acres of land from the local Wappinger Indians for approximately $1200 worth of goods. About 75 miles north of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River for miles and going inland into rich meadows and forests, encompassing nearly one-seventh of modern Dutchess County, NY in today’s Fishkill-Beacon area, the purchase was quite a bargain. In 1685, the Deed of Sale was approved by King James II of England and is known as the Rombout Patent.
For the next forty-five years, Verplanck, Rombout and various partners and heirs sub-divided, sold off and rented portions of this huge tract of land, while logging, hunting and planting crops on the land.
During the English colonial period, the Verplanck’s became quite prosperous and built a fine home on Wall Street in Manhattan. The Verplanck’s were civic minded and participated in the development of the business and banking industry in New York City and were among the Trustees of Kings College, now known as Columbia University. Around 1730, a colonial-style fieldstone house was built in Fishkill Landing on the Rombout Patent land.
This rough frontier home was gradually surrounded by a working plantation, a dock on the Hudson that facilitated the New York-Kingston-Albany trade and many service buildings for servants and crop production. This homestead was called “Mount Gulian”, and it was used as a summer retreat for the family and a working plantation but it is not believed that any family member lived at the site year-round until the early 1800’s. Other Verplancks at this time lived in Albany and Verplanck Point in Westchester County, NY.
The hallway and Dining Room decorating for Christmas 2021
The Verplancks were prominent citizens in colonial New York while maintaining correspondence with their Dutch relatives in Holland. Young Samuel Verplanck was fortunate enough to take “the grande tour” of Europe in 1761. As businessmen of that era, it must be noted that the Verplancks of Manhattan and Mount Gulian owned slaves during the mid-1700’s and into the early 1800’s, most likely house servants and skilled laborers.
Before the Revolutionary War, Samuel Verplanck became involved with anti-British groups and joined “the Committee of Safety of One -Hundred” in Manhattan. This patriot group was poised to take over the city in the event of rebellion, which occurred on April 19, 1775 at Lexington & Concord.
Later during the War for Independence, Verplanck turned over Mount Gulian to the Continental Army because of its strategic location on the Hudson near the Fishkill Barracks and across from Washington’s Headquarters at Newburgh. In late 1782, through the summer of 1783, Mount Gulian was the Continental Army headquarters of patriot General Fredrich Von Steuben. After the American victory at Yorktown, upon learning of the Treaty of Paris, General Von Steuben and other Chief American officers created at Mount Gulian on May 13, 1783, the Society of the Cincinnati, America’s first veterans’ fraternal organization.
In 1804, Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, a member of Congress moved from Manhattan to permanently occupy the home at Mount Gulian, which underwent extensive expansion with the addition of a large frame house attached to the original homestead. An ornamental “English Garden”, all the rage in Europe at the time, was laid out by him and his daughter, Mary Anna to supplement the 6 acres “kitchen garden” and the fields filled with salable crops. More permanent structures were built on the property, still thousands of acres, including barns, smokehouses, storage buildings and structures to facilitate brick making from clay taken from the Hudson.
The Verplanck family grew and eventually married into many prominent families in New York such as the Schuyler’s, the Johnsons, the Delancey’s and the Bleecker’s. Daniel’s son, Gulian C. Verplanck, also a member of Congress, ran for Mayor of New York in 1834, losing what many believe was a fixed election. Other Verplancks were judges, businessmen and wealthy farmers.
With slavery abolished in New York in 1827, the conservative Verplancks, along with many upper-class Northerners, gradually sided with the abolitionists, even hiring and assisting James Brown, an escaped slave who worked for the family for forty years. Brown’s diaries, written at Mount Gulian, provide a detailed record of daily life there.
During the Civil War, Robert Newlin Verplanck volunteered in the Union Army’s United States Colored Troops, training and fighting alongside black troops until the victory at Appomattox. His battlefield letters to his mother and sister have been preserved by Mount Gulian.
The Victorian era at Mount Gulian was a grand time, as the family associated with the local Livingstons, Roosevelts and Vanderbilts. Many Verplancks achieved fame in the professions, in arts and letters and as sportsmen. Verplanck Colvin was a topographical engineer who extensively surveyed the Adirondacks. Virginia E. Verplanck was a celebrated gardener and hostess. John Bayard Verplanck was an early seaplane flyer, racing World War I era veteran and banker.
The history of the area around Mount Gulian
Mount Gulian was occupied by the Verplancks until 1931, when the house was destroyed by fire. Many of the furnishings and valuable were saved by family members, neighbors and firemen who cleared the house before it was fully engulfed. Prior to the American Bicentennial of 1976, Mount Gulian was beautifully restored with the assistance of Verplanck descendants, local history lovers and members of the Society of the Cincinnati. In 1998, Mount Gulian sponsored a well-attended family reunion, which included an updated version of the family genealogy book originally from 1892. Today Ms. Charlotte Verplanck Willman is one of the Mount Gulian Historic Site’s Board of Trustees.
The Order of Cincinnati
(This information was taken from the Mount Gulian Society website and I give them full credit for the information.)