June 9-10: Locust Lawn in Gardiner offers tours of its Federal-style mansion and 18th century stone house

Dawn Elliott at Locust Lawn. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The first thing to know about the Locust Lawn estate on Route 32 in Gardiner is that it’s not the same place as Locust Grove. That may seem an odd thing to reference, but according to Locust Lawn site manager, Dawn Elliott, the historic property in Gardiner is often confused with the better-known Locust Grove estate in Poughkeepsie, where inventor and artist Samuel Morse kept a summer home. 

The distinction is important to make, because that misperception becomes a real inconvenience for visitors headed to a special event at Locust Lawn who find themselves miles away across the river. And to further confuse matters, the Gardiner estate was once managed by Historic Huguenot Street, so others looking for Locust Lawn end up there.

A little clarity is clearly in order. 

Locust Lawn in Gardiner is managed by the Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie. The two places share a website — which probably contributes to the above situation — and have in common a benefactor named Annette Innis Young, who resided at Locust Grove throughout her long lifetime. Sole owner by 1953 of the property her parents purchased from the Morse estate in 1901, Young also inherited several other family properties, including Locust Lawn. (She was great-great-granddaughter to Josiah Hasbrouck, who built the Federal-style mansion at Locust Lawn in 1814.) 

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During her lifetime, Young was already thinking about preservation of her properties and collections, and in 1958 donated Locust Lawn to what was then the Huguenot Historical Society. Upon her death in 1975, the foundation she established ensured the preservation of both Locust Grove and Locust Lawn. In 2010, Historic Huguenot Street — with its mission by now more focused on its street of stone houses — gave Locust Lawn to Locust Grove for oversight, reuniting the two family properties for the first time in more than 50 years.

Locust Lawn today keeps a much lower profile than does Locust Grove; there are no regular visitor hours, and tours of the 1814 Hasbrouck mansion and 18th century stone Terwilliger House at the several-acre site are offered by advance reservation only, for groups of five or more at a cost of $11 per person. 

Locust Lawn does hold a number of living history events on the grounds, organized by site manager Dawn Elliott. “Eighteenth Century Market Days” will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Presented in conjunction with The Brigade of the American Revolution, admission costs $8 and the event goes on rain or shine under tents.

The proceedings will include an 18th century-style open air flea market along with reenactors demonstrating early American skills such as musket repair, candle-making and open hearth cooking. The Brigade will do musket drills throughout the day, and live fiddling will add period ambience.

Later in the month, on Saturday, June 30, a special version of the Repair Café will come to Locust Lawn from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. With the idea that “repairs have been essential to the economy of homes in every time and place in our past,” attendees at The Timeless Art of Repair who bring their “beloved but broken” items for rehab can also enjoy an exhibit of antique items repaired in traditional ways, curated by Elliott, whose historical crafting proficiencies include candle-dipping, fish-netting, weaving, sewing, darning and even blacksmithing. 

As an historical interpreter, reenactor, preservationist, educator and researcher, Elliott received the 2018 Martha Washington Woman of History Award earlier this year, recognition given annually by Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site to a woman in the Hudson Valley who has been influential in promoting the study and preservation of history in the region.

Smaller special events are held at Locust Lawn inside the unfurnished stone Terwilliger House (the mansion’s furnishings are too fragile to hold up to that kind of use). A series of “handwork days,” highlighting traditional fiber-crafting skills, had participants gathered companionably together on the porch of the 18th century home. Antique game nights offer period parlor amusements such as “bubble bowling” (moving soap bubbles down a path of wool by gently blowing on them) and Victorian puppet theater, an interactive activity — requiring no technology — that was a big hit with attendees at a recent game night, says Elliott, with players who really got into their characters using the included scripts. And history dinners have been held with a wine critic from New York Times as guest speaker, the menus created from authentically old recipes. 

Notice of special activities as they occur are posted on Facebook at “Locust Lawn.”

The houses at Locust Lawn

The oldest structure on the Locust Lawn property is the mid-18th century stone house built by Dutchman Evert Terwilliger and his wife, Sara Freer, on land inherited in 1738 from her father, Hugo, one of the original Huguenot founders of New Paltz. With their 12 children, the Terwilligers set up a sawmill and gristmill and farmed the land, creating a self-sufficient homestead. 

After Evert’s death, the one-room stone house was enlarged in 1762 by one of the children, Jonathan, who doubled the size of the home, reorienting the entrance, adding a long porch overlooking the creek and converting part of an upstairs garret into living space.

In 1809, the Terwilliger family sold the entire property to Josiah Hasbrouck. His roots in the region also went back to the original Huguenot founders, having grown up in the large stone house built by his grandfather, Jacob, in 1722, preserved today as the Jean Hasbrouck House on Historic Huguenot Street.

In his early years, Hasbrouck served in the Revolutionary War with the Ulster County Militia, later representing the U.S. abroad during the Jefferson and Monroe administrations. After returning to the Hudson Valley from Washington, D.C., Hasbrouck purchased the Terwilliger property. The home and gentleman’s farm Hasbrouck established at Locust Lawn represent the height of fashion at the time and the Jeffersonian ideal of the rural, agricultural tradition. Hasbrouck kept the stone Terwilliger house on the property to house a succession of farm laborers and tenants.

The 1814 Federal-style mansion built for the wealthy Hasbrouck features a façade based on a design by noted 19th-century architect and designer, Asher Benjamin. The first floor had two parlors, a dining room, a schoolroom and a kitchen. Four bedrooms were on the second floor, and the third floor was used as living space for servants.

After Hasbrouck’s grandson (also named Josiah) died in the early 1880s, his heirs shuttered the house, possessions and all, in effect turning it into a time capsule of Hasbrouck family history. To walk inside it today, standing on the massive oilcloth “carpeting” as one’s eyes adjust to the darkened entrance hall, is to feel that time stopped still the day those doors were closed. While not as well-preserved or presented as historical sites that have a steadier flow of visitors, the contents of the Hasbrouck house are original (albeit with a few additions, including a grandfather clock added to the staircase landing and a beautiful cast iron stove sitting casually in the foyer). One of the upstairs bedrooms boasts an early version of Venetian blinds.

Those with difficulty accessing stairs should note there are no railings on the half-dozen steps leading up to the mansion, and accessing the second floor requires climbing a tall staircase. The third floor is off limits to visitors, used only for storage.

Locust Lawn is located at 436 Route 32 South in Gardiner, at DuBois and Jenkinstown roads (the entrance driveway is parallel to DuBois Rd.). For more information, visit http://www.lgny.org/locust-lawn-farm.

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