Who doesn’t love a story of restoration, resurrection and rebirth? We’ve found another couple (perhaps even more fabulous) who caught the bucolic plague. Their feverish pursuit has turned into a gilded dream.
Glenmere was built in 1911 for Robert Goelet, heir to an immense real estate fortune amassed over many generations. As a prominent member of New York society, the Goelets were celebrated even within the patrician beau monde of the Gilded Age. Like many of his class, Robert Goelet wanted a place in the country to pursue his recreational interests.
Architects Carrere and Hastings designed the house, situated at the top of a gently rolling hill overlooking Glenmere Lake. Turn of the century architecture emphasized the application of European ideals of beauty to American country houses. Glenmere exists as a understated embodiment of this ideal. The balance and symmetry of the floor plan are complemented by the use of statuary and classical materials in construction. The original marble fountain imported from Italy acted as the centerpiece of the courtyard; marble columns, hand-carved mantles, hand plastered moldings and antiquities imported from Europe embellish interior and exterior spaces.
Robert Goelet’s wealth and status allowed him access to the very best craftsmen, and Glenmere exhibits the work of some of the most historically significant artists of the day. Beatrix Farrand, America’s first female landscape architect (and a relative of Edith Wharton), designed the approach to the estate and the surrounding grounds. Reimagining classical design to suit the existing landscape, her genius is most apparent in the sunken Italian garden tucked into a natural depression leading to the lake. Iron balustrades and window grilles designed and manufactured by Samuel Yellin anchor the house in the Italian vernacular, and murals painted by J. Alden Twachtman ornament the center courtyard.
Robert Goelet was exceptional even within his rarefied circle. As one of the wealthiest men in America, he entertained royalty, heads of state, entertainers, sports figures, and high society. Newspapers breathlessly followed his every move, with his departures and arrivals appearing regularly in the society pages. (Perhaps he was among the elite to travel to Sharon Springs during the high season.) The press followed his three marriages and two divorces, with each dinner party, dance and trip abroad dissected for significance.
In the late 1930’s, Goelet, comfortable in his third marriage and nearing 60 years old, began to tire of the 3000 acre estate. He began selling off parcels of land and finally sold the house the remaining acreage to a development company in the 1940s. For the next few decades, the estate operated as a hotel and resort with golfing, horseback riding and boating on the lake. By the late 1960’s the property began to change hands often and gradually fell into disrepair.
Any person who has ever dreamed of living in an Edith Wharton novel can now experience what life was like in the Gilded Age (Josh wrote his senior thesis on Wharton and even named his first cat Edith) Glenmere has been completely restored and now houses a Relais & Chateau hotel property (one of the most distinguished awards in the hospitality industry), a tavern, a fine restaurant, and an incredible day spa. It’s a resurrection worth noting and an ideal marriage of commerce and stewardship.
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Learn more about the great estates that used to flank the Hudson River Valley. Click here