This is the time of year when Halloween themes are woven into tours and programs of historic house museums. Whether the houses are small or large, rustic or filled with wealth, candlelight and shadows await a chill in the air. One such place is Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York. The Halloween tours of this 19th-century Gothic Revival mansion and surrounding grounds begin Sunday, Oct. 6 through Nov. 3.
The Lyndhurst estate is comprised of 67 acres with several other buildings besides the main house. Those buildings include a carriage house, greenhouse, bowling alley and Rose Cottage. Architect Alexander Jacskon Davis designed this country villa in 1838 for New York City’s former mayor, William Paulding. Davis built several mansions in the Hudson River Valley as well as government buildings in New York and other states. Paulding named his new home “Knoll,” because it was on a hill overlooking the Hudson River.
The architectural style did not resemble traditional post-colonial homes of the time. The fancy turrets made it look more like a castle than a country estate. The asymmetrical shape was also not in the tradition of the time. Critics nicknamed the home “Paulding’s Folly” because the design resembled something out of the Middle Ages.
During the 19th century, many of New York’s upper class had large country estates built on the bluffs along the Hudson. After Paulding died, Lyndhurst was purchased by George Merritt, a wealthy New York merchant. The original architect, A. J. Davis, was hired to enlarge the house. During 1864-1865, he doubled the size of the mansion in accordance with the new owner’s wishes. Merritt changed the name of the “Knoll” to “Lyndenhurst” because of all the linden trees growing on the property.
The last owner was also the wealthiest. Railroad magnate Jay Gould bought it as a summer home in 1880. By 1884, he controlled the Union Pacific Railroad, Western Union Telegraph, and the New York Elevated Railway. After Gould’s death in 1892, Lyndhurst went to his daughters. After the death of the first heir, Helen, it was passed on to her sister, Anna, a duchess who was living in France. Upon her inheritance, she returned to take care of Lyndhurst until she died. At that time, 1961, the entire 67-acre estate became part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
It’s not just the outside of this Gothic-style structure that is breathtaking. Inside, the rooms have vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, narrow halls and staircases, chandeliers and many other items that reflect the wealth of the upper classes. The Hudson River is visible from the property. The driveway leading to the main house curves to give visitors an idea of the landscape before it pulls up in front of the mansion.
The house was used as the on-location setting of the 1970 movie, House of Dark Shadows, and 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows. Both of these will be shown in the Carriage House Cafe as part of the Halloween festivities. Weather-permitting, there will be horse drawn carriage rides and scarecrows made by school groups on the greenhouse lawn. Indoor candlelight tours and Halloween entertainment appropriate for all age groups are available at night. To learn more about Lyndhurst or its Halloween events, the websites are listed below.
Written by: Cynthia Collins