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Vanderbilt coach house and stable
Vanderbilt coach houes and stable.

Operation of the Estate

The immensity of the Vanderbilt estate at Hyde Park can best be gaged by realizing that at one time there were more than 60 full time employees, directed by the estate superintendent. Of this number, 17 were employed in the house, 2 in the pavilion, and 44 on the grounds and farm—13 men cared for the gardens and lawns alone. When there were guests in the pavilion, additional cooks and maids were engaged from Hyde Park.

The fine herd of 24 Jersey cattle and the 15 Belgian draft horses maintained on the farm were all of the best breeding and show stock, as were the more than 2,000 white leghorn chickens and the Berkshire pigs. Entered in competition at the Dutchess County Fair, the animals took many honors. But they served a utilitarian purpose as well. Chickens supplied all of the eggs used in the kitchens, and non-layers were killed for table use. Cows furnished milk, and sweet butter was churned once a week. Pigs were slaughtered for meat. These products supplied both the mansion and the townhouse in New York City. The draft horses were used in farm work.

In the era before the automobile, Vanderbilt's entire stable of carriage horses usually arrived at Hyde Park from New York each year about May 1. Here they were stabled until about December 1, when they were returned to the city for the winter season in a special railroad car.

The vegetable gardens supplied fresh produce for mansion and townhouse. The quality of the produce must have been excellent, for year after year top honors at the Dutchess County Fair went to the estate superintendent for the 10 best varieties of vegetables grown by a professional gardener—and this in competition with entries from other great estates in the country.

The gardens and greenhouses supplied flowers for the mansion, and when the Vanderbilts were in residence at their townhouse in New York, fresh flowers were shipped there twice each week. Flowers were also sent twice a week to the hospitals in Poughkeepsie for distribution among the patients. In addition, the Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, and Rogers greenhouses supplied the lilies, palms, and other flowers to decorate the four churches of Hyde Park for Easter services.

All electricity for the estate was generated at the powerhouse, located on Crum Elbow Creek near the White Bridge. Wood for the fireplaces was cut on the estate, and the icehouses were filled from the ponds.

map of Vanderbilt NHS
(click on above map for an enlargement in a new window)

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

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