A great day trip in the Hudson Valley is Wilderstein, the rescued Queen Anne-style mansion in Rhinebeck that was home to FDR confidante Margaret “Daisy” Suckley until her death in 1991 at the age of 99 ½. The original Italianate country home, designed by John Warren Ritch, was built in 1852 for Thomas Suckley and his wife Catherine Murray Bowne. It was remodeled and enlarged in 1888 at the behest of Thomas’ son Robert Bowne Suckley and his wife Elizabeth Philips Montgomery; Poughkeepsie architect Arnout Cannon elaborately transformed the two-story villa, adding a third floor, multi-gabled attic and a dramatic five-story circular tower. The fanciful, asymmetrical roofline of the house was complemented by the addition of an imposing porte cochere and an expansive veranda. New York City decorator Joseph Burr Tiffany designed the interiors, which feature rich, warm woodwork.
Besides the house itself and its historical collections, Wilderstein – “wild man’s stone,” so named after an indigenous petroglyph found on the property – is worth a visit on a fine day not only for its expansive Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views, but also for the glorious terrain immediately surrounding it. The 40-acre estate was sculpted in the Romantic landscape style by none other than Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park in New York City, who created an intricate network of carriage drives, walks and trails adorned with specimen trees and ornamental shrubs. The landscape plan entails well-chosen prospect points marked by rustic gazebos and sheltered garden seats.
The trail system that traverses the property is approximately three miles long and takes about one hour to hike. There is no charge to walk the grounds and trails, and parking is available off Morton Road near Wilderstein’s Gate Lodge during hours when the mansion is not open for tours. A trail guide can be downloaded at http://wilderstein.org/wp-content/uploads/trailguideforweb2018.pdf.
This summer, there’s yet another reason to visit Wilderstein and its environs: the fifth Outdoor Sculpture Biennial, curated for 2019 by noted Hudson Valley artist Franc Palaia. Strategically poised throughout the grounds will be 25 sculptures created – using a wide array of materials, from traditional to modern to recycled – by Willie Cole, David Provan, James Meyer, Joe Chirchirillo, Dave Channon, Naomi Teppich, Suprina, Alison McNulty, Julia Whitney Barnes, Bill Rybak, Beth Haber, Emil Alzamora, Hans Van Meeuwen, Ken Hiratsuka, Bernard Klevickas, John Van Alstine, Casey A. Schwarz, Nicolae Golici, Christopher Lewis, William Scholl, Stuart Farmery, Dan Goldman, Andrés San Millán, Vincent Murray and Chuck Von Schmidt.
The Biennial is on view daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October 31. Free curator-guided walking tours are scheduled for two Sundays: July 21 and September 22, both at 1 p.m. To learn more, visit http://wilderstein.org. The Wilderstein Historic Site is located at 330 Morton Road in Rhinebeck.
Wilderstein Outdoor Sculpture Biennial
Daily through October 31, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free, Wilderstein Historic Site
330 Morton Rd., Rhinebeck