Lyndhurst has one of the most significant and well documented Hudson River landscapes. Its development spans from the 1840s to the 1860s and tracks the developing landscape fashions of the 19th and 20th centuries. Over successive generations, many existing features in the landscape were preserved with selective additions made to bring the landscape up to date.  The landscape never experienced a wholesale redesign and thus presents an excellent history of developing trends in Hudson River landscape over two centuries.

Lyndhurst’s landscape begins with architect Alexander Jackson Davis in the 1840s, prior to his full work with noted early landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing.  Davis considered himself as much a picturesque landscape designer as architect and the first landscape at Lyndhurst was designed by him and was captured in his watercolors and other drawings of the time. Six years ago, Lyndhurst uncovered a series of Hudson River rock viewing platforms that are likely the landscape work of Davis and as such, may be an extremely rare survivor if not the only surviving example of his landscape work. Davis was essentially the Frank Lloyd Wright of the 19th century and virtually any work by him is considered American patrimony.

During the mid and late 19th century, Lyndhurst was developed into a picturesque landscape by a Bavarian landscaper who brought the latest trends from European royal estates. Lord and Burnham built the largest private greenhouse and probably the first fireproof greenhouse at Lyndhurst.  Philanthropist Helen Gould added gardenesque elements in the early 20th century.  Her younger sister, Anna Gould, Duchess of Talleyrand added garden sculptures which still exist in the basement of Lyndhurst’s greenhouse and are slowly being restored to the landscape.

The property is extremely well documented.  Drawings and watercolors of the landscape exist from the 1840s and 50s.  The landscape was photographed around 1870 and mapped to scale in 1873.  A full topographical map was done by Helen Gould in 1905 after the death of Lyndhurst’s groundskeeper and extensive photographs that exist in the New York State archive in Cooperstown were taken in 1920.  Arial photographs were taken in the 1960s and an extensive landscape report was done in the 1990s by Patricia O’Donnell and David Schuyler utilizing the memory of the landscape gardener, who had been on the property since the 1960s and worked for Anna Gould.  A 45-minute color film of the landscape was done in 1942 shortly before the estate falls into decline, and was rediscovered two years ago in storage, documenting the lushness of the property, including the details and color schemes of the floral bushes and perennial beds throughout the property.

Lyndhurst is at the center of a group of land parcels that stretch from former Lehman family estates (now owned by Montefiore Hospital) down to Washington Irving’s Sunnyside comprising approximately 150 acres of parkland directly on the Hudson River.  This is one of the largest parcels of Hudson River-adjacent land in lower Westchester and these parcels are connected by both the Old Croton Aqueduct and the Westchester Riverwalk. It is our intention to work with other partner organizations to connect these parcels to create a “Central Park” for Lower Westchester and the River Towns. Because of ownership of the water lands fronting the Lyndhurst estate and an active right-of-way over the rail lines, Lyndhurst even affords a future opportunity to provide direct access to the Hudson River itself.

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Over the next decade, the staff at Lyndhurst will undertake restorations and program expansions that place the landscape on an equal footing with Lyndhurst mansion.

We have already restored major landscape features and public amenities to tie together major trails and make Lyndhurst a destination for recreational use.  We recently opened wooded parkland to our south that belongs to Westchester County and was the site of three 19th century estates there were lost to fire.  This new pathway creates a seamless extension for the Westchester County Riverwalk to the Old Croton Aqueduct State Park Trail to our south.  Ultimately, restorations will include reopening the Jay Gould era dock bridge and restoring the Hudson River dock to provide access to the river and restoring and adaptively reusing the historic greenhouse and its adjacent flower gardens and groves of flowering trees.

As a second phase of landscape restoration, Lyndhurst will restore the landscape from the front of the mansion to the rose garden including installing the diamond pane window panels that enclosed the veranda in the summer.  We’ve already put back a series of marble benches, sculptural pieces and a MacMonnies fountain across from the mansion. In the rose garden, the central axis road will be restored with marble benches and urns at its terminus.  The perennial garden, including the Boboli Gardens fountain, will be restored across from the rose beds.

Future plans include restoring missing specimen trees and bushes that lined the Lyndhurst drive and a major restoration and repurposing of the iconic Lyndhurst Lord & Burnham greenhouse.  Prior to restoration we must determine a use with the greatest public benefit for the structure.

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