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VANDERBILT MANSION
National Historic Site
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White Bridge
White Bridge from the south.


Estate Development

During the period when work on the mansion was at a standstill, and while work on the smaller houses was progressing, a large force of men was engaged in improvement of the grounds. In the larger portion of the estate lying east of the Albany Post Road, the order was to leave nature undisturbed to the greatest extent possible. Following the natural windings of a forest path, a carriage drive was laid out. A few obstructing rocks and trees were removed, and brooks were spanned, but generally the route of the drive was marked by outcropping ledges, overhanging forest trees masses of ferns growing down to the wagon tracks, and a myriad of wildflowers. Readers of the Poughkeepsie Sunday Courier were regaled with this description of the drive: "As you wind along in the midst of its solitude and verdure, you might imagine yourself far away in the Adirondack forest, so sweet and still is the fragrant woodland. . . ."

Stone bridge
Stone bridge leading to coach house.

Some draining and grading was necessary to improve the land. A stagnant pond was cleaned out to create a miniature lake. The valuable muck, estimated at $30,000, was piled in a nearby field for later use as fertilizer.

In 1897, while work on the mansion went on apace, there was much activity on other fronts. A large standpipe, 10,000 feet of water pipe, and a large dam were installed to form a water system. Also completed was a powerhouse to generate all the electricity for the mansion and other estate buildings. On the grounds, extensive forestry operations, including trimming and replanting, were carried out. Two new greenhouses were erected in line with a program for improving the extensive gardens.

Main gate
Main gate.

An old frame bridge crossing Crum Elbow Creek to the Post Road was replaced with the present White Bridge, for its time a very modern steel and concrete arch structure. A stable-coach house was built downstream. It was reached by a newly constructed rustic fieldstone bridge across the creek.

A contract for the erection of stone gatehouses was awarded in March 1898. These, together with gates and stone walls, were completed by the end of the year. The farm buildings on the east side of the Albany Post Road were repaired during the summer of 1899; roads were constructed on the farm section, and many large trees were transplanted.


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Last Modified: Mon, Mar 4 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT
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