North of the old Barrytown Station is Blithewood, the historic country estate of National Guard captain and real estate mogul Andrew C. Zabriskie.
The story of the grounds goes back to 1835, when a North Carolina gentleman, named Robert Donaldson, Esq., purchased the land and named the grounds "Blithewood". He hired architect Alexander Jackson Davis, and landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing to fix up the home and grounds. Sometime after that ownership was transferred to Mr. John Bard. After the death of Mr. Bard the estate was sold to St. Stephen's College.
In 1899, ownership passed to Zabriskie.
Andrew C. Zabriskie was born in New York City to Christian A. Zabriskie and Sarah J. Titus on May 30th, 1853. The Zabriskie family is of Noble Protestant Polish descent, going back hundreds of years when his ancestor, escaping the political and religious oppression of his own land, emigrated to America in 1662. The family became deeply involved in the real estate business. The family is connected in various ways with the history of Bergen County, New Jersey since its earliest days.
After being educated in private schools and Columbia College, he Inherited large real estate properties and began devoting himself to the business connected with those interests. In 1895, Captain Zabriskie married Frances, the youngest daughter of the late Charles F. Hunter, who was President of the People's Bank of New York City. They had two children, Julia Romeyn and Christian Andrew. Julia was married to Captain Edward Powis Jones in 1918.
In 1899, Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie purchased the estate and hired Francis Hoppin, of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, to design a manor house and garden to replace the old house on the property (Not to be confused with Blithewold in Rhode Island which was designed by Francis Hoppin). Hoppin designed a grandiose mansion and Italian style garden that reflected the architectural elements of English mansion design, according to the tastes and trends of the Gilded Age.
The result is the grand Beaux-Arts mansion which you see today.
The house and its traditional Italian garden were donated to Bard College in 1951.
Rumours have circulated that the mansion is currently haunted by the spirit of his daughter who either fell or jumped to her death out the window of their New York apartment.
There seems to be many versions circulating about the haunting. One legend states that before her death, Capt. Zabriskie commissioned a sculptor to create 4 statues of his daughter, for each 3 years of her life up to the age of 12, in the gardens. But, to this day, only three statues are present, along with an empty pedestal for the fourth one. In another version, 4 statues were made, one for each daughter, which would mean he had four daughters. The second version seems less believable as according to my research Zabriskie only had two children.
Today the grounds can be visited and the Mansion and Grounds are considered outstanding examples of the Country Place Era residences of the Hudson Valley’s social and political elite.
Recently, I headed back to Long Island to the shore of the Huntington Harbor to visit a 40 room, 30,000-square-foot medieval French château with cone-shaped roofs built for pharmaceutical magnate George McKesson Brown in 1912.
"Founded as Olcott & McKesson by Charles Olcott and John McKesson in New York City in 1833, the business began as an importer and wholesaler of botanical drugs. In 1853, the name was changed following the death of Olcott and the joining of a new partner, , Daniel Robbins. Today the company is one of the largest in the United States and is a leader in pharmaceutical distribution and healthcare IT. McKesson's descendants also hold a large portion of shares in the company."
Designed by architect Clarence Luce, the estate was originally called West Neck Farms, and was modeled after a chateau in the south of France. The French Chateau style is a mix of late French Gothic and Renaissance Revival style design elements, which was popular in the early twentieth century. Despite having the title as one of the original Gold Coast Mansions with extensive land at 33 acres today, Coindre Hall once boasted fifty-four acres. Brown used it as his summer home for him and his wife Pearl. The estate would operate year round as a farm.
During World War 1, the estate became Brown’s year-round home.
With the stock market crash and the Great Depression, Brown lost ownership after his finances began to suffer.
The home was put on the market and the Brown’s moved into the Gate House which still exists today and is located next door .
The Brothers of the Sacred Heart purchased the estate and renamed it Coindre Hall, in honor of the founder, André Coindre, and operated the property as a boarding school.
Father André Coindre was born February 26, 1787 in Lyon, France and died May 30, 1826 in Blois, France.
Father André Coindre was founder of the Fratres a Sacratissimo Corde Iesu (Brothers of the Sacred Heart), a Roman Catholic religious order primarily devoted to high school and elementary school education; the brotherhood is also a missionary society.
The Brothers of the Sacred Heart named a boarding school Coindre Hall in honor of the order's founder. The school operated in Huntington, New York from 1939 to 1971. he was the founder of the Brothers of The Sacred Heart, who re-founded St Columba's College in St Albans
Citing bankruptcy, the school closed in 1971. The estate sat abandoned for a decade, before given life again with the signing of a lease to the Eagle Hill School, which was a private coeducational boarding school for students with learning disabilities from 1982-1990.
By 1991, the Alliance for the Preservation of Coindre Hall Park was organized to preserve, protect and restore this property. In 1995, the mansion was officially designated “The Museum of Long Island’s Gold Coast”. Today the estate offers tours and is one of only estates in the Gold Coast area that still has a large amount of acreage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.