October 22, 2011

Opulence and Modesty

Our visit to the Hudson River Valley has been an immersion in history and architecture.  There are so many historic house museums in this area that it would take a month to see them all.  Instead, we narrowed our focus to those that are units of the National Park Service.  That was an easy way to pare down the list.

Tim and Kitty at Our Campsite Last Night at Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park
Yesterday we visited the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and today we toured Eleanor Roosevelt’s home, Val-Kill, as well as the Vanderbilt Mansion.  What a contrast between the two families’ houses.

We started at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, one of the grand “cottages” of the Gilded Age.  This was the home of Frederick Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and his wife Louise.  By Vanderbilt standards, this is a modest home.  Compared to FDRs home, however, it is huge, opulent and showy.  Like FDR’s home, it was occupied only during the spring and fall months. 

Vanderbilt Mansion

Entrance Drive to the Vanderbilt Mansion

View of the Vanderbilt Mansion from the Hudson River
It is an amazing house, although I prefer the exterior to the interior.  Both Tim and I did admire the beautiful green marble in the entrance hall, however.  The property includes one mile of frontage on the Hudson River, and the views from the grounds are incredible.

Tim and Sarah at the Vanderbilt Mansion

Hudson River View from the Vanderbilt Mansion
The Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, known as Val-Kill, could not have been more different than the Vanderbilt Mansion.  Val-Kill is a modest home that reflects Eleanor Roosevelt’s personality.  It is very homey, with low ceilings, paneled walls and comfortable furniture.  Photographs that tell the story of her life, as well as photos of visitors to the home, decorate the walls.

This house was her retreat, and it was in this house that Eleanor spent her days working.  It was also her residence after FDRs death until her own death in 1962. 

The Stone Cottage, the Original Residence on the Property Adjacent to Val-Kill
I left Hyde Park, New York, feeling that I now have a real understanding of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, their lives and contributions to the world.  I probably learned more from visiting these historic sites than I have from most others that I’ve been to.

Tim and I drove north from Hyde Park, through Rhinebeck, and we stopped at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson to see the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and somewhat reminiscent of his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.  It was not open for tours, but the exterior was worth the visit.

Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College

We Stopped Here for Apple Cider Doughnuts, Apple Crisp and Apple Cider
The day was slipping away, so we crossed the Hudson River and turned south.  We are staying at a decrepit campground south of Kingston that seems to be falling apart.  The hookups and bathrooms have been somewhat updated, but that’s about it.  It almost reminds me of a campground junkyard, with all of the discarded and broken items lying around.  Oh well, we needed hookups tonight, the campground was open and the location was good.  We’ll survive one night.

1 comment:

  1. Eleanor's home was my favorite; it looks like a place I could be at home in. She was such a fascinating women. It looks like her home was also.