JANUARY 8, 1947
NEW YORK, Tuesday—When I was up at Hyde Park over the holidays, I had a talk with George Palmer, the superintendent of our old home and also of the government-owned Frederick Vanderbilt estate at Hyde Park. He told me that on Labor Day Sunday the visitors on our grounds had exceeded by several hundred the visitors at Mount Vernon on the biggest day in September, which was Labor Day. However, comparatively few people take advantage of the opportunity to visit also the Vanderbilt estate and the Ogden Mills estate when in that neighborhood.
The Ogden Mills estate, which was given to the State of New York as a memorial, is an old Livingston place. The house and grounds are beautiful, and it seems a great pity that they are not visited by great numbers of people both for historic reasons and for the mere beauty of the place. Much of the land on the Hudson River was owned originally by the famous Livingston family, which was closely tied to the history and development of that part of the state and even of the nation. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, whose house at Tivoli, N. Y., is still occupied by his descendants, administered the oath of office to George Washington. His brother Edward P. Livingston, also a well-known and respected citizen, was a lawyer and wrote a famous code of law for Louisiana.
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The Frederick Vanderbilt house has none of the historic interest of the Mills house, but it was accepted by the United States Government as an example of a home of the millionaire period in this country, and it is undoubtedly a priceless example of that period. It is an enlarged copy of the Petit Trianon of Marie Antoinette fame. In itself it is very beautiful, even though I have never thought that it exactly fitted the Hudson River landscape.
Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt, who presided over it for many years, had a passion for bows and, with her own hands, used to decorate every bathroom with bows tied on everything in sight. Her bed must once have been used by a queen, for there is a railing all around it and a "prie-dieu" at the side. I can remember one occasion when my mother-in-law, going to see Mrs. Vanderbilt when she was ill, was much impressed by her beautiful black satin sheets, which enhanced the beauty of her white skin and of her pearls!
There are still on the tables some photographs of the kings and queens whom Mrs. Vanderbilt knew in Europe, for it was the era of kings and queens and knowing them made a few of us feel more important. There are also photographs of some of our own famous men. Mr. Vanderbilt's little study, which is lined with books and has a small fireplace, seems to me the one really intimate, cozy spot in the whole house.
The house should be visited, for I doubt if anyone in this country will again build that kind of home. The Department of Interior has thought it worthwhile to preserve it so that our children may see the actual proof of a period through which we lived and which is now a matter of history.