Historic Hyde Park, New York, in Dutchess County is a perfect day trip offering visitors much to explore and discover as it was the birthplace of Franklin D. Roosevelt the 32nd President of the United States, was home to Frederick William Vanderbilt and his wife Louise, and is the home of The Culinary Institute of America (The CIA) one of the premier culinary schools in the United States.
"Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life." Exploring Hyde Park
Hyde Park, population of 20,851, settled in 1742, is conveniently located 90 minutes south of Albany, the state capitol of New York, and 90 minutes north of New York City, and is easily accessible by Metro North trains departing New York City from Grand Central Terminal making it a perfect day trip for visitors who want to experience the beauty of the Hudson River area.
New for 2015, visitors from New York City can take advantage of The Roosevelt Ride, a free daily shuttle service that meets Metro North trains in Poughkeepsie, and delivers passengers to Hyde Park to visit the FDR Home, the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Top Cottage, Eleanor Roosevelt's Val-Kill, and the Vanderbilt Mansion.
Take the 8:46 am Metro North train from Grand Central in New York City to Poughkeepsie. The National Park Service shuttle will be in the bus pick-up area in front of the train station waiting for you. Return service departs the Wallace Visitor Center at 5:00 pm in time for visitors to return to New York on the 5:34 pm Metro North train. More information, please call the National Park Service at 1-845-229-5320 or visit the website: www.NPS.gov/hofr
During its heyday, Hyde Park attracted wealthy industrialists and philanthropists who built summer homes there along the Hudson River, including Frederick William Vanderbilt (1856-1938).
On a beautiful sunny day in late April 2015, we set out to rediscover a few of the many highlights of this historic city. Our first stop of the day was to the Vanderbilt Mansion, located on 211-acres, built between 1896 and 1898 by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White in the Beaux Arts style for Frederick and his wife, Louise.
The impressive Indiana limestone mansion is an opulent display of wealth and style of the Gilded Age with its half-round portico facing the Catskills Mountains and its 54-rooms, however when compared to George Washington Vanderbilt's 250-room Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, the largest privately owned residence in the United States, Cornelius Vanderbilt's mansion 70-room The Breakers, and William K. Vanderbilt's 50-room opulent Marble House, both of which are located in Newport, Rhode Island, it is quite modest.
Frederick's marriage to Louise Anthony Torrance (1844 - 1926) was not initially accepted by the family who deemed her an inappropriate choice as the wife of the grandson of Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt and the son of William Henry Vanderbilt, both the richest men in America in their time, as she was not only divorced from one of his cousins, but she was also 12 years older than him. Although he did not have his family's blessing to marry Louise, Frederick followed his heart and married her anyways, and despite the fact that upon his father's death he inherited the least amount of money of his siblings, he increased his $10 million inheritance to $70 million at the time of his death.
The house was built in 26 months and is splendidly lavish; the Entrance Hall features a commanding fireplace, a hand-cut Italian marble mosaic floor, and dark imported Russian walnut wood. Frederick and Louise would spend only a few months of the year in the spring from April to June, and in the autumn from September to November, and would spend the rest of their time at one of their many homes in New York City, Newport, Bar Harbor, Maine, or travel on their yacht to Europe.
The Dining Room features an intricate wood ceiling purchased from a mansion in Europe, dismantled, shipped to the United States and then reassembled. Gold sconces grace the walls, and there is an ornately carved fireplace. Architecturally interesting, visiting the Vanderbilt mansion requires that you notice not only the larger details, but the smaller ones as well.
Frederick and Louise lived life on a grand scale, and their bedrooms indicate their royal leanings. Frederick's bedroom is darkly masculine with expensive tapestries stretched to cover the walls; a gold crown embellishes the royal red velvet hanging behind the intricately carved wood bed that features an ornately carved half tester wood canopy with columns on either side of the bed.
Back of the Vanderbilt Mansion
Louise's spacious and feminine bedroom was inspired by Marie Antoinette's chamber at The Palace of Versailles and features antiqued sage green walls accessorized with inset paintings in gold frames, a half tester canopy over the bed, and a very unusual birthing rail around the bed as was the custom for European royalty, for which the Vanderbilt's patterned their decor. The birthing railing was to maintain distance between the ladies in waiting and the others in attendance during royal births.
Louise died in 1926, and when Frederick died 12 years later in 1938, his will included 57 people, none of which included the Vanderbilt family as the family did not like Louise, and Frederick thought that the family would squander the money. Of those listed in the will, 53 of them were servants whose inheritance was based on the number of years that they were employed by the Vanderbilts, and Louise's niece, Margaret Van Alen, was also listed in the will, and it was she who inherited the estate. She tried to sell the house in 1938 as she already owned a home in Newport, however this was during the Depression, and at $350,000 there were no buyers. By 1939, the price had dropped to $250,000 for the land and still no one was interested. In 1940 she donated the 211-acre estate to The National Parks, and since 1940, the house has remained open to the public.
The guided tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion is a 45-60 minute walking tour, including the first floor, second floor and a portion of the basement. There are approximately 100 steps during the tour. The Vanderbilt Mansion is accessible. Please call ahead to check availability.
View of the Catskills
After the tour, we strolled through the impressive grounds, and visited the gift shop where we made several purchases from their diverse collection.
The Vanderbilt Mansion is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm by Guided Tour only. Tours are 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. From November through March tours of the Vanderbilt Mansion are limited, call ahead to confirm times. The Mansion is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Admission is charged for the Vanderbilt Mansion Guided Tour. Adults: $10 Children 15 and under: Free. The grounds open daily year-round from sunrise to sunset and there is free access.
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
Hyde Park, New York 12538
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, NY on January 30, 1882 and was the only President to serve 4 terms (March 4, 1933 until his death of April 12, 1945). He married his 5th cousin, (Anna) Eleanor Roosevelt (born in 1884) in 1905, and the couple resided at "Springwood" with his mother Sara, and their 5 children.
We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, which is "America's first presidential library - and the only one to be used by a sitting president" and provides insight into his life, his contributions, and features diverse collections. The library and the museum was designed by FDR on the grounds of the Roosevelt Estate and opened in 1941.
FDR Library and Museum
In addition to the permanent exhibits, of particular interest was the special temporary exhibit, "The Spirit of the Gift - Gifts of State and Affection" (runs until December 31, 2015), with over 100 gifts on display from governments, organizations, and private individuals. Rare, exotic, and handmade gifts from the heart are all part of the exhibit.
When FDR died in 1945, he was buried at Springwood, as was Eleanor, who died in 1962. When asked what he thought was his greatest accomplishment during his presidency, he replied, "the creation of Social Security."
The Museum is open November through March from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, April through October from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm, and is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Edward announcing his candidacy
The New Deal Museum Store, located in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, is open daily and closes thirty minutes after the Museum. Visit their website or call them re: special events. The FDR Home, Museum, and Visitor Center are wheelchair accessible.
Admission is charged. The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt Guided Tour also includes admission to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
The FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt (operated by the National Park Service) offer an $18.00 joint admission ticket. The Home tour is guided by a park ranger and the Library tour is self guided. These tickets are valid for 2 days. A ticket to visit only the Presidential Library and Museum is available for $9.00. The Library offers a special senior rate of $6.00 for visitors age 62 or over. Children 15 and under are always free. The grounds and the Rose Garden, where Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are buried, are free and open from sunrise to sunset.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
4079 Albany Post Road, Rt. 9
Hyde Park, New York 12538
Our last stop of our Hyde Park day was to the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site Val-Kill, the Roosevelt's weekend retreat. Eleanor Roosevelt, called the "First Lady to the World" was a "journalist, diplomat, activist, and a force in the Democratic Party." When she entered the White House in 1933, it was during the Great Depression and she was determined to make a difference in the lives of Americans.
In 1946 after President Roosevelt's death, President Woodrow Wilson enlisted Eleanor as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She thrived in this role, and later went on as a "good will ambassador" traveling the world. Her story is inspiring and the tour highlights her life and provides insight into this intriguing woman.
Cozy corner of sitting room
A few Eleanor Roosevelt quotes provide insight into her extraordinary life:
"The greatest thing I have learned is how good it is to come home again."
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
"Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life."
"One of the blessings of age is to learn not to part on a note of sharpness, to treasure the moments spent with those we love, and to make them whenever possible good to remember, for time is short."
Val-Kill is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Guided tours offered throughout the day with the last tour at 4:00 pm. Check the website for any changes. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The grounds are open daily, year round from Sunrise to Sunset.
Beautiful views surrounding Val-Kill
Admission ticket is $10 per person. Tickets and visitor information are available in the Visitor Center located on the grounds of Val-Kill. Children 15 and under are free. If you purchase a ticket to the FDR Home/Library for $18 and a $10 ticket at Vanderbilt Mansion, Val-Kill or Top Cottage you will receive free admission at your choice of a third site (Vanderbilt, Val-Kill or Top Cottage). If you choose to visit all 4 sites, the 4th site is the regular admission of $10.
The Interagency Annual, Senior, Access and Military Passes are sold and honored for free admission at all the National Park Service sites in Hyde Park. The FDR Presidential Library and Museum admission is $9.00 for everyone except Access Pass holders and children 15 and under. Please see the fee collector for more information on the passes.
Please visit the website www.Nps.gov/elro or call 1-845-229-9422 for additional information.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
Rt. 9G, Hyde Park, New York 12538
Where to Dine:
We had an excellent lunch at the American Bounty Restaurant at The Culinary Institute of America where the focus is on the seasons and products of the Hudson Valley, with contemporary and traditional regional dishes.
Debra and Edward at The Culinary Institute of America
Highlights of our lunch included Pan-Roasted KNK Farm Duck with Barley Risotto, Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Glazed Baby Beets, and Merlot Sauce, Macaroni & Cheese - housemade Ricotta Cheese, Wild Mushrooms, Smoked Chicken, Fresh and Aged Goat Cheeses, Braised Short Ribs with Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes, Herb-roasted Root Vegetables, and Merlot Sauce, and Organic Quinoa-Filled Whole Wheat Crêpes, Quinoa Chili, Cilantro Rice, Guacamole, Sour Cream, and Pico de Gallo.
Organic Quinoa-Filled Whole Wheat Crépes
"All the award-winning restaurants at the CIA in Hyde Park are part of our students' educational experience. Each student spends time in both the front and back of the house to learn and master the full scope of restaurant operations. Under the guidance of our expert chef-instructors and maîtres d'hôtel, students execute the meal and service to the exacting standards set by the CIA."
Braised Short Ribs
For additional information and program schedules, or to make a reservation at American Bounty Restaurant please visit their website at www.AmericanBountyRestaurant.com. To make a reservation at one of their other restaurants, please visit The Culinary Institute of America website at www.CIAChef.edu or call them at 1-800-888-7850.
Macaroni & Cheese
American Bounty Restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch from 11:30 am until 1:00 pm, and for Dinner from 6:00 pm until 8:30 pm. The Bounty Lounge is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 am until 1:00 pm, and from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm. The restaurant and lounge is closed on Sunday, Monday, and major holidays
American Bounty Restaurant
The Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, New York 12538
Dutchess County with its close proximity to New York City and Albany is a perfect day trip for exploration and discovery in any season.
For information on Dutchess County, please visit the website: www.DutchessTourism.com or call them at: +1-845-463-4000 or Toll-free in the United States at 1-800-445-3131.
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