Mrs White's 1912 Residence Demolished


Jim Kalafus

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Here is a link from my New York local paper detailing the recent demise-by-arson of Briarcliff Lodge, Mrs. White's 1912 'country' residence:

http://www.thejournalnews.com/newsroom/082104/b01p21briarlodge.html

The deteriorating ruins of the former grand structure were a great place to walk around, if one had the opportunity. I knew of the attempt to save the Lodge back in the 1990s, but was not aware that had been burned and then demolished in 2003.

Kind of neat how the fellow being interviewed likened the ruins to the Titanic.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Awwwwwwwww....damn!

The lack of any respect for history never ceases to amaze me, and arsonists are among the lowest of the low IMO. Call me cynical if you like, but I wonder if this might not have been done to make sure that any attempts to save the place would be rendered pointless. It's not as if this would be the first time that developers have used less then ethical tricks to make sure nothing got in the way of "Progress."
 

Jim Kalafus

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The whole thing highlighted the problems facing historical preservation in NY, or anywhere for that matter. About ten miles from Briarcliff Lodge's site stand the remains of Bannerman's Castle, a truly massive "you've never seen anything like it" estate from the Robber Baron era. "Atmospheric" does not begin to describe it. Anyway, an onwer of the mansion converted it to an arsenal for his armament collection and ca. 1967 the predictable thing happened and the ensuing fire and explosion blew part of the manse into the Hudson River and left the rest a gutted shell, and perhaps the most photogenic site on the river. Despite the fact that it stands on its own island, is all but invisible from the mainland, and most people who have lived here their whole lives have no idea it exists, the mansion has become a sentimental favorite amongst those of us who like brooding ruins and have access to a boat. Government money was recently provided to 'stabilise' the ruins and convert them to a limited access State Park, which one can visit by boat wearing a hard hat. I was glad to see the ruins 'saved' but at the same time am puzzled that money can be found to preserve and convert a structure which burned six months after I was born (37 years ago) but nothing could be done to fund restoring and preserving the Lodge, which was deteriorated but intact last time I saw it.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Good Lord!
shock.gif
How much ammunition did this bloke have in this place? I've seen some period mansions and these things are very well constructed. Ever see the Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate? The mansion there is built like a fort and could probably hold off an infantry assault.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Here's the website for Bannerman's Castle
http://www.bannermancastle.org/

my favorite Hudson Valley ruin. Now that the remains have been saved, I hope that they are not prettified and 'ruined.' If one heads north from Cold Spring NY on Rt. 9, this is visible from the mainland for about a second. If one parks, one can hike through some woods and a swamp, cross the New York Central tracks and get a pretty nice view from the shore. However, it is not a trek for just anyone.

Or one can persuade a boat owner to take one from the water side.

As I've said, people who have lived here their whole lives have no idea this estate exists.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Interesting website. I'm sorry to see the place in the condition it is, but at least it's being looked after. It's a pity more people don't know about it. The ruins are spectacular, especially when seen in whole from the air. It must have been something when it was intact.

If you're interested, you migh want to check out The Biltmore Estate's Website. It's quite a draw locally, and that winery is well on the way to becoming world class. In some respects, it's world class already. The mansion itself is incredible. If you're ever in Ashville, make sure you stop here. You won't regret it.
 

Jim Kalafus

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As was once said about another ruined estate "the house now possesses as a ruin a nobility it did not possess when intact." When the weather gets a little less humid I plan on taking one of the state-sanctioned kayak tours.

Another great 'ruined' Hudson Valley estate is (or perhaps was) Rhinecliff, the J.J. Astor residence up beyond Rhinebeck. The 1912 house was demolished ca. 1940 and replaced by a smaller home, however, the McKim Mead and White sports complex from John Jacob Astor's era remained in excellent condition last time I visited. The real charm, however, lay in the unrestored, decaying, service structures left from the Edwardian Era. Have not been there in years and would be disappointed to learn that they have either been demolished or over restored.

Similarly, the unrestored, ill repaired 'not part of the tour' buildings at the Frederick Vanderbilt estate down river a bit from the Astor site were considerably more interesting than the mansion.

A few miles further down the road, and hidden away in the woods is/was a towered 50 room Italianate monster of a Victorian Estate which, last time I was there, was as impressive a ruin as Bannerman's. The interior had largely collapsed leaving the brick facade an interesting shell. The way things have built up in the 16 years since I've trekked there, I'm fairly sure the site is now either an office park or a "Luxury Housing Estate."

Further up river, 'though not a ruin per se, is the Swallow House- a ca 1846 residence in Valatie NY, constructed from the remains of a fatal shipwreck. The Swallow was an early Hudson River steamboat which grounded on a rock back in 1845 and then broke in half, the stern section sinking and killing either 15 or 25 passengers. The forward half was apparently hauled ashore, broken up, and converted into the house which -as a boy- held endless fascination for me. Have not been there since ca. 1980 and am not sure I want to go now, since there is the distinct possibility that it has either been demolished or, worse,
'aluminum sided.'*

*since I wrote that, I have learned that the house is still there, in excellent repair, and that portions of the interiors, which I did not see as a boy, are also from the lost riverboat and include her spiral staircase. I sense a potential article in this.....
 

Jim Kalafus

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From the same site, I learned that the Italianate ruin I explored as a teen (Wyndecliff- which had Astor links) not only has not been demolished but is actually being restored as a private home. From a ruin as impressive as Bannerman's to a living house is quite remarkable. Despite the almost complete collapse of the interior, the facade was not structurally compromised by the decades of abandonment. Occasionally there are great success stories in the world of historic preservation:

http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/rinaldi/rhinecliff.htm
 

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