JULY 6, 1949
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—Our family custom, since we are not very much given to letting our children celebrate the Fourth of July in good old-fashioned style, is to have a big picnic. So, we decided yesterday, with a group of our neighbors, to go up to the place where I lived as a child, which belonged to my Grandmother Hall, and show it to the grandchildren. The house is practically falling down, but the trees are finer and the view of the Catskill Mountains is as beautiful as ever.
It has gone out of the family now, since my aunt, Mrs. David Gray, sold it, and I believe since then it has been sold a number of times. No one is living there so we disturbed no one. We stopped at the gate house and asked whether the road was passable and whether we would be bothering anyone if we picnicked there and were careful to leave it all tidy when we left.
All of which we did, and on the way down I thought it would interest the family to drive in and call on our cousin, Mrs. John Henry Livingston, who lives in the old Clermont house which belonged to Chancellor Livingston. Fortunately, we met her on the road, and she turned back and was kind enough to invite us in and show us the old family portraits and the interesting things in the house. There is one portrait of the early West showing Philip Livingston and there are portraits of the First, Second and Third Lords of the Manor. They were granted 14 miles of river front and an acreage back of the river which spread far into what must be now Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The house was burned by the British in 1776 in the Revolutionary War and there is an old tree that for years, when I was a child, we were shown because you could see a cannon ball imbedded in it. The present house was rebuilt immediately along the lines of the old house and has stood ever since, with the addition, in 1830, of one large room.
Driving home we followed as many of the old and unfrequented roads as I could remember, going past Bard College and the old Chandler place and going in to see Mrs. Lyman Delano. I could not help thinking that in many ways her old house at "Steen Valetje," in spite of being built in the Victorian era, has more real charm and sense of being a house where people have lived and really understood and loved their possessions than some houses where you have a feeling that a perfectly impersonal decorator was called in to hang the curtains and lay the rugs and choose and place the furniture. I am not very sure sometimes that the owners even choose the books and the piano. That kind of house never gives me a sense of being really representative of the personality of the people who live in it and without some feeling left by various generations a house remains a shell and never becomes a home.
The finishing touch to a pleasant day was that it began to rain as we were coming home, and we had a fairly pleasant, cooling shower. Our skies are still gray and we pray that more rain is going to pour gently down upon the parched earth, which needs it so badly in this part of the country.