Glenclyffe, Garrison-on-Hudson, Putnam County, New York
This house is best associated with...
Jean-Joseph-Eugène Dutilh, Silk Importer & President of the Phoenix Bank, N.Y.
Stuyvesant Fish, of New York & Newport; President of the Illinois Central Railroad
In 1861, the Dutilh house and further land was purchased by Senator Hamilton Fish I. He was named for his parents' friend, Alexander Hamilton, and like his namesake he too became a political heavyweight. He was the 16th Governor of New York and at the end of the Civil War he was appointed Secretary of State in the cabinet of President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885). He is considered by scholars to have been one of the most successful to hold that post due to his efforts towards reform and diplomatic moderation. His wife, Julia, was known for her "sagacity and judgement" and grew up at Liberty Hall in New Jersey. They enjoyed a long happy marriage and were the parents of eight children.
The House & Estate
Having recently returned from a two-year tour of Europe, when Hamilton Fish enlarged his new house to 21-rooms (at a cost of $30,000) he stuck to the original Italianate style. Standing on the opposite bank of the river from West Point Academy, his mansion enjoyed sweeping views from the south-facing piazza across the lawns and down to the Hudson. The entrance to the estate was guarded by a gate lodge and the house (that he named Glenclyffe) was approached by a long carriage drive that passed through woods, expansive gardens, and finally up past the fountain pool planted with water lilies.
The principal reception rooms then included a drawing room, dining room, billiard room and library. Fish kept the majority of his extensive collection of books at Glenclyffe, ranging from old leather-bound sets of the classics to an always increasing number of new biographies and history books. Except for the works of Sir Walter Scott, Hamilton didn't care so much for poetry or fiction. The majority of his library was sold off at auction in 1925, but several individual books can still be found on the open market today.
Fish kept a notebook of the dinner parties he held and aside from a great many society names (Livingston, Duer, Astor, Schermerhorn, Cadwalader, Belmont etc.) he frequently enjoyed the company of the leading minds of the day, with men such as: Joseph Hodges Choate (1832-1917); Whitelaw Reid (1837-1912); Lloyd Stephens Bryce (1851-1917); Abram Stevens Hewitt (1822-1903); and, William Maxwell Evarts (1818-1901). If Hamilton found himself glued to his desk in Manhattan, in the country his life was the polar opposite:
At Glenclyffe, where he had more leisure, he kept much outdoors. In 1877, his farmer and superintendent broke down, and not wishing to discharge the man, he assumed the work himself... He grew enough apples and small fruits to be liberal to his neighbours; he cut enough hickory wood for the fireplaces in Stuyvesant Square. He was proud of his flowers, and especially of his roses (he kept a large greenhouse on the property). Some bushes which he imported from England in 1878 proved the most beautiful he had ever seen, and he was greatly gratified when his neighbour Osborn - of Castle Rock - remarked, "Well, heretofore I have been ahead of you in roses, now you have beaten me".
He walked, drove, blistered his hands with a pitchfork, and talked with the stream of visitors. When the day's work was done he delighted to sit on the south piazza enjoying the resplendent view down the river in the rich sunset light and watching the "Mary Powell" as she throbbed northward to Albany. On the north piazza hung a thermometer which he made it a rule to examine thrice daily, the last time just before going to bed; and he neatly entered the temperatures in red and black ink in large volumes.
Murder followed by a Mammoth Expansion
Stuyvesant and Mamie Fish had then recently completed Crossways in Newport where she held court as one of the leading three society hostesses of her day. Owing to her position, she felt Glenclyffe was too small and in what must have been in or soon after 1902, the house was literally doubled in size to 32,000 square feet. The latest extension continued the original Italianate theme, but the interior - except for the library - was completely remodelled. Outside, the stables were expanded to hold 25-carriages.
Glenclyffe was the favorite of Stuyvesant's three mansions. Though amused by his wife's antics, he himself cared little for high society and preferred the tranquility of his country estate, keeping it open year-round. He tended to avoid Crossways if he could and he even banned his sons from spending more than only a few days of "the season" at Newport. When Stuyvesant had guests at Glenclyffe, he took a hardy pleasure in showing them the plain, old-fashioned bedroom without running water that as a boy he had shared with his brothers: "None of the maids will sleep in it... it's not good enough for them; yet I spent some of the happiest hours of my life here"!
Both Mamie and Stuyvesant Fish died at Glenclyffe, the latter outliving his wife until 1923. That year, their children sold the estate to the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order for $150,000 and by the following year Glenclyffe had been transformed into a high school run by them. Towards the end of the 1920s, an east wing was added to the mansion containing a gym, chapel and further dormitories. In 1930, a west wing was added to house the nuns who cooked and cleaned for the school. A further vast extension was made to the house (now almost unrecognizable except for the front entrance) in 1961, before the school closed its doors in 1974.
From 1975 to 1988, it served as a convent to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. In 2001, for $7.4 million, the Open Space Institute purchased the estate which by then included both the former mansion and "The Friary" erected as a subsidiary building in 1932. Today the Glenclyffe estate and buildings is operated by the Garrison Institute.
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