Newburgh, Orange County, New York
This house is best associated with...
William Averell Harriman
W. Averell Harriman, 48th Governor of New York; Ambassador to United Kingdom
No Ordinary Site
In 1886, E.H. Harriman acquired the Arden estate at auction for $52,500. It was then comprised of 7,863-acres and had previously been in the possession of Peter Pearse Parrott (1811-1896). Parrott had named it for his wife, Mary Antoinette Arden (1822-1896), who grew up at Ardenia. The Parrott family invented the Parrott Guns & Cannon, and as a boy, Harriman had worked in the iron foundry that belonged to Peter's brother, Robert. E.H. Harriman grew up to make his own fortune in the railroad business and after acquiring Arden he added a further 20,000-acres to the estate, including the land on which the foundry had stood that would later become part of the Harriman State Park.
The railwayman was quite unperturbed by the logistical difficulties of building such a house 1,300 feet above sea level: Doing what he did best, he built a cable railway by which workmen and materials could easily be taken to and from the site. A deep artesian well was drilled to supply the estate with water, the forest was cleared and the granite (with which the mansion was built) was blasted to create a 50-acre plateau on which the house and gardens would stand. Carefully overseen by the Harriman, the plans and construction of the house were completed by the celebrated architects, Carrère & Hastings.
A wide corridor of colored marbles led into a giant room with a marble floor softened by rugs and bearskins... A fireplace (as tall as a man was) flanked by sofas, easy chairs, and two of three tables with stacks of magazines and newspapers. All the rooms at Arden were cavernous and bordered a central court with a fountain, shrubbery, and some statuary. Vases and tubs of flowers lined the corridors and spilled over into every room. A grand stairway of unpolished white marble led (guests to their) bedroom.
The dinner was delicious... the servants well-trained and unobtrusive... The organ room was about the size of the Episcopal Church in Medina. Another huge fireplace dominated one end, and a giant loft concealing the organ stood at the other beneath a high, vaulted ceiling... The room could seat at least two hundred people. An immense bas-relief of an Indian hunting buffalo, done by Mary's son-in-law, Charles Cary Rumsey, loomed above the fireplace.
The Harrimans carefully oversaw every detail of design to ensure its place: Murals by (Barry) Francis Barrett Faulkner (1881-1966) lined the corridors around the inner courtyard; a bas-relief of Harriman by James Earle Fraser (1876-1953) stood over one of the fireplaces; the Harriman's son-in-law, Charles Cary Rumsey (1879-1922), created a fountain of the Three Graces; corbel carvings of bighorn sheep in the music room; and, at least two marble fireplaces, one of which featured a caricature of the architect Thomas Hastings (1860-1929). There were tapestries by the Herter Brothers that told the story of the creation of the estate; and, photographs by Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) of the Alaska Expedition of 1899 in which Harriman participated lined the "Indian Corridor".
The Harriman State Park
W. Averell Harriman
Convalescence to Conferences
In 1966, Arden was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, according to The New York Observer, Arden and its remaining 450-acres was purchased by the Open Space Institute for $4 million. They had intended to sell the (protected) land to the State of New York, but the plan did not materialize. In 2011, Arden was sold again for $6.5 million, becoming the headquarters of the nonprofit organization Research Center on Natural Conservation, backed by the Beijing-based real estate company, Soufun Holdings. Today, "The Arden House" is billed as one of the country's premier conference centers.
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