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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.