81 Carnwath Farms Lane, Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County, New York
This house is best associated with...
William Henry Willis
William H. Willis, Merchant, of New York City & "Obercreek" Dutchess Co, N.Y.
Francis Robert Rives
Francis R. Rives, of "Carnwath" New York; Secretary to the U.S. Minister, London
Reginald William Rives
Reginald W. Rives, Whip & Horseman, of New York & Montecito, California
In the Spring of 1855, the Willis' sold their 'old' home to George Barclay who was not a General as he is often referred to, but being a grandson of Peter DeLancey he did count among his family many of the leading names in old New York society. Barclay had retired from business life in the city in 1854 and lived between here and his townhouse in Manhattan that adjoined that of 'Commodore' Vanderbilt's at 10 Washington Place.
It was the Barclays who named the house "Carnwath". George's English wife, Mrs Louisa (Aufrère) Barclay, was the maternal grand-daughter of a distinguished Scottish soldier and Count of the Holy Roman Empire, General James Lockhart, of Lee and Carnwath in Lanarkshire. Her uncle, Sir Alexander Lockhart, succeeded to the estates of Lee and Carnwath (held by the Lockhart family since the late 17th Century) and was created a Baronet in 1806. The Scottish village of Carnwath occupies a similar situation above the River Clyde as that of its American namesake above the Hudson and perhaps this shared geography made "Carnwath" the natural choice of name for their new country home.
Arrival of the Rives
The house as designed by Andrew Jackson Downing was originally covered in white stucco and was similar in style to Nuits at Irvington-on-Hudson. The Barclays doubled the size of the estate's acreage to 200-acres, built two new barns, and employed 100-farmhands to make it a viable farming concern. George survived his wife and died at Carnwath in July, 1869. He had just one daughter Matilda, and the estate now passed into the ownership of her husband, Francis Robert Rives, a native of Virginia who became a lawyer in New York after having served as Secretary to the U.S. Legation at the Court of St. James in London.
From the very get go, Francis, Matilda and their children had been as much a regular part of life at Carnwath as Matilda's parents: their fourth child, Maud, was born here in July, 1855, only a handful of months after her grandfather had purchased the property.
Francis also inherited his father-in-law's previously mentioned townhouse at 8 Washington Place and the family continued to divide their time between the two homes. In 1873, Francis employed George Browne Post to make several improvements to Carnwath, also now referred to as "Rives Hill," adding: an ice house; a 3-story carriage house in the French Second Empire style that had reached the peak of fashion in the 1870s; and, enlarging the main house through the addition of an east wing, servant's quarters, and a large kitchen wing on the south side. A 2-story bowed addition was added next to the entrance and the stucco was stripped off to give it its uniform brick finish.
In 1872, Francis had reached the pinnacle of the American aristocracy when he was invited to join "The Patriarchs," an exclusive group of 25-men who deemed themselves to be the most important in society, joining the likes of John Jacob Astor III, William Backhouse Astor, Jr., Lewis Rutherfurd etc. Accordingly, life at Carnwath became equally glittering and relatives frequently wrote about the parties hosted here. Francis was also Vice-President of The Coaching Club of New York and during the season Carnwath became a favorite stopover point as the club members dashed their way up to Lenox, Massachusetts.
Unravelling of the Rives
Francis died at Carnwath in 1891 leaving an estate estimated at $3-million to be divided between his five surviving children - Carnwath was part of his estate, not the whole of it as is sometimes erroneously claimed. It was, however, specifically bequeathed to his youngest son, Reginald W. Rives, who was already living here with his first wife.
Reginald also inherited his father's passion for coaching and for 15-years was President of the Coaching Club and General Manager of the National Horse Show Association in America. He was recognized as a leading four-horse coachman and at Carnwath, "he became an ardent farmer and devoted himself to the development of his property on a business basis... maintaining a noteworthy stable of harness and saddle horses".
In 1909, Reginald, President of the Dutchess County Agricultural Society and Vice-President of the State Agricultural Society, found himself in the embarrassing position of being sued by his gardener - William Wilson - for false arrest and slander. Carnwath had been burgled and Rives immediately laid the blame on Wilson: "Wilson, I'm not going to mince matters. You did this, and I want you to confess". But, the case was quickly thrown out of court in Wilson's favor who then sued his former employer for $20,000 damages.
On To Untermyer
It was perhaps not entirely surprising when news broke in May, 1914, that Reginald had sold Carnwath and its 200-acres and was moving to Santa Barbara, California. At the sale, the estate was described as having, "nearly a mile front on the river and a 25-room brick dwelling with stables, lodge, cottages, greenhouses etc.". The new owner was the controversial New York attorney Isaac Untermyer who shot into the limelight as the defence lawyer for Mayor "Boss" Tweed, the famously corrupt leader of Tammany Hall.
Untermeyer (along with his brother, Samuel) retired in 1912 from the law firm that had previously been known as Guggenheimer, Untermyer & Marshall and Isaac then divided his between Carnwath and 300 Park Avenue with his wife and sons. He bred Guernsey cattle here and raced his powerboat "Carnwath" at Palm Beach.
Carnwath Farms Historic Site & Park
The Untermyer family remained here until 1925. In the year before Isaac died, he sold the estate to Order of the Brothers of Hermits of Saint Augustine. They moved into the main house, added the Chapel in 1950, and played basketball in the Carriage House. In 2003, the house, outbuildings, and 99.7-acres of parkland was renamed "Carnwath Farms" and the dormitory erected by the monks in 1927 is now the Frances Reese Cultural Center that since 2005 has been home to the Sports Museum of Dutchess County. Today, the picturesque parkland and the Reese Cultural Center (the Sports Museum) are open to the public but the manor remains closed - boarded up, and a shell of its former self.
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