Lyndhurst, a National Historic Landmark, is widely acknowledged as one of the finest Gothic Revival mansions in America. The sprawling estate is emblematic of the enormous financial and maintenance challenges faced by historic sites across the nation.
Lyndhurst, designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, began as a country villa in the "pointed style." During the Civil War, Davis was commissioned to double the size of the mansion, creating the massive residence that survives today. Throughout its history, the house has been enhanced and enriched by three families: the Pauldings, Merritts, and Goulds.
- Explore new business and programmatic opportunities to transform Lyndhurst into a financially stable and growing destination, while initiating needed capital improvements.
- Lyndhurst Site Council
Written by David J. Brown, Chief Preservation Office, National Trust for Historic Preservation
While standing on the tower roof at Lyndhurst last month, the view of Manhattan – some 20 miles downriver from this extraordinary historic place – reinforced once again for me the opportunities and challenges of the National Trust’s stewardship responsibilities at one of the country’s most significant Gothic Revival residences.
I happened to be standing on the roof with several trustees of the National Trust. These volunteer leaders had traveled to Tarrytown and devoted the day to working on-site with Trust president Stephanie Meeks and our senior staff, focusing on the work of charting a sustainable future for Lyndhurst.
As Cindi Malinick noted in her previous update, the history of Lyndhurst is inextricably tied to Manhattan and the Hudson River. The influential American architect A.J. Davis designed the outstanding Gothic Revival manse in 1838 for William Paulding, Jr., twice the mayor of New York City. Eventually the home of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, the house and its landscape today reflect nearly 175 years of life on the river. The site's 67 park-like acres include 16 historic structures, such as a Lord & Burnham steel-framed greenhouse complex and the oldest regulation bowling alley in the United States. Also, the site contains a spectacular collection of more than 4,000 objects, including priceless furniture designed specifically for the house by A. J. Davis.
But even a National Historic Landmark such as Lyndhurst – which has been operated as a house museum since the Trust acquired it in the 1960s – is challenged to thrive amidst the changing habits of tourists and the competition for support in the greater New York City market.
The priority of our campaign at Lyndhurst has been to set a path for success, developing a master use plan that ensures the long-term sustainability of the site. At the same time, we have worked to support our current efforts in ways that will help us bridge to the future. With changes last year, the Trust began to create a new organizational structure that was flexible and forward-looking. Under the direction of our historic sites staff, we have initiated capital improvement priorities that demonstrate our ongoing commitment to stewardship of this National Treasure. As the plan takes shape, we will re-engage local, regional, and national leaders in the work leading to the site’s transformation.
The challenges facing many of the country’s historic sites are seen at Lyndhurst. By committing to the long-term work to reimagine – and reinvigorate – this National Treasure, the National Trust can play an important leadership role for stewards of special places all across America.
Written by Cindi Malinick, Project Manager
My name is Cindi Malinick. I'm the Louise B. Potter senior director of sites stewardship in the National Trust's Historic Sites Department. It is my honor to serve as the project manager for the next phase of National Treasures work at Lyndhurst, a National Trust Historic Site.
Located on the Hudson River just 20 miles north of Manhattan, Lyndhurst is an extraordinary historic place because, across the ownership of three families and the National Trust, all changes to the property have been deeply respectful of the exceptional quality of what already existed.
The influential American architect A.J. Davis designed the outstanding Gothic Revival manse in 1838 for William Paulding, Jr., a brigadier general in the War of 1812 and twice the mayor of New York City. Eventually the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s arch nemesis, railroad tycoon Jay Gould, the home and its landscape today reflect nearly 175 years of life on the river. The site's 67 park-like acres include 16 historic structures, such as a Lord & Burnham steel-framed greenhouse complex and the oldest regulation bowling alley in the United States. Also, the site contains a spectacular collection of more than 4,000 objects, including priceless furniture designed specifically for the house by A. J. Davis.
The National Trust's goal is to transform Lyndhurst into a vibrant, sustainable, and well-maintained historic site. Moving forward, we will focus on four primary values that have shaped and guided Lyndhurst throughout its history: unity, artistry, community, and rejuvenation.
Guided by these values and the corresponding principles that carry them forward into new uses and partnerships, the next chapter in Lyndhurst’s story will be one characterized by both a renewal of the site’s vitality and a respect for its history. The conservation of the buildings, landscape, and collections will exemplify mindful preservation and will inform all new uses. The exceptional quality of design, art, and craft found throughout the estate will inspire new work in architecture, landscape architecture, decorative arts, and fine arts. Lyndhurst’s historic connections with and service to surrounding communities will be celebrated and expanded by strengthening existing partnerships and developing new ones with educational institutions, other nonprofit organizations, and local governments. Finally, the property’s historic use as a retreat where people took pleasure in natural beauty, sports, and the arts will be more fully realized through new ventures.
Transforming Lyndhurst will take time and tenacity. The National Trust's team looks forward to the coming months as we continue our relentless focus on this stunningly beautiful and potential-filled historic site.
Matthew McMinn on October 15, 2012
I lived there on the estate as a child the first 10 years of my life. This place holds such a special meaning to my heart. It will forever be my HOME. It's beautiful, historical and mythical; down to the founding stone. I pray that this magnificant estate prospers and is enjoyed by more in many years to come.
Dave Forster on September 20, 2012
Lyndhurst is a beautiful piece of history & architecture but needs the help of the experienced staff of the National Trust and MONEY! My visit was in 2010. Maintenance of the grounds was limited to the most visible areas. Signage & staff were limited, likely due to limited funds. But, what a beautiful treasure. Money is apparently an urgent matter and consultants, experienced in house museum management is urgentlyneeded. Observation during my guided tour and comments from dedicated, concerned staff lead me to beieve there was a great concern on all levels that if Lyndhurst remains open, it may be on a very limited schedule, Lyndhurst has as much, and in some areas more to offer than many other successful sites.The economy was suffering in 2010 and continues to suffer. Yet, with improvements in the operation and maintenance along with proper promotion through every affordable vehicle,at times in conjunction with other properties, and over time, attendance could soar. Members & non-members of the National Trust must contribute whatever they can, volunteer if able, visit this unique property, and allow those who are experienced to make the right decisions.
Rena Zurofsky, Stockbridge, MA on June 09, 2012
At Lyndhurst, one is struck immediately by the beauty of the architecture and the grounds. Familiarity only increases admiration. I like the stories of the last three families who inhabited this property, including two daughters of Jay Gould who used the property to do creative “good works,” whether to expiate their name or because the great robber baron instilled them with his better side, which no one outside the family ever saw.