High tea in Hyde Park

Are you ready for an afternoon of gentility on the lawn above the Hudson River, with an elegant repast of tea sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, cookies and French macarons, all complemented by a special selection of teas from Harney and Sons? You might even want to don an outfit befitting such leisure; your average early-20th-century garden-party wear and a fancy hat will do nicely. And don’t forget to raise those pinky fingers as you sip and nibble.

The formal gardens of the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park are maintained by the F. W. Vanderbilt Garden Association (FWVGA), an all-volunteer group charged with rehabilitating this national treasure as closely as possible to what it looked like in the late 1930s, when Frederick Vanderbilt died. Working closely with the National Park Service, Association members have rebuilt and developed the multiple tiers of beds with mass plantings of roses, annuals and perennials, replete with a reflecting pool, fountains, statuary and shady arbors.

Originally created by a grandson of the infamous commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the large formal garden depicts the lifestyle of the wealthy during America’s “Gilded Age.” When the estate was sold to the federal government in 1938, the gardens went neglected for almost 50 years, until FWVGA stepped into the breach to restore the first beds. Since then, the membership has swelled and contributed hundreds of thousands of hours in fundraising, researching garden history, planting, weeding and caring for the plants and fountains of the garden.


Their mission has been beautifully accomplished through diligence and hard work, not to mention the support of the community…which brings us back to tea! Guests at this event, taking place this Sunday, September 10 from 2 to 4 p.m., will be entertained by the Botticelli Chamber Players, and guest speaker Michael Harney, vice president of Harney & Sons, will talk tea lore and history while reiterating the pleasures of the world’s most prized beverage. Harney has served the family company for 25 years and is known as a master tea-buyer and -blender.

Meanwhile, members of the Association will be available for guided tours, and once again the beautiful and whimsical Toucan Hats will be available for viewing and purchasing. All funds raised by the tea will be used to rehabilitate and maintain the gardens.

Free parking is available at the main visitor center parking lot. There is a moderate walk to the gardens, and handicapped access is available by prior arrangement. The Vanderbilt Garden Annual Tea will be held under a tent, but if heavy rain is in the forecast, the event will be moved to the Wallace Education and Visitor Center, located at the Home of FDR site. Tickets cost $45 for FWVGA members, $50 for non-members, and are available only online at www.brownpapertickets.com.

Vanderbilt Garden Annual Tea, Sunday, September 10, 2-4 p.m., $45/$50, Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, 119 Vanderbilt Park Road, Hyde Park; info@vanderbiltgarden.org, www.vanderbiltgarden.org/tea2017.