Lyndhurst’s Lower Landscape
What Lyndhurst refers to as the lower landscape is the part of the estate that runs from the mansion to the Hudson River and includes historic rock outcroppings, an estate kitchen garden and pear orchard, a massive treehouse that has yet to be restored, and the historic bowling and recreation pavilion, built by Helen Gould in 1895. This is the most historic area of Lyndhurst’s 67 acres, having elements that date back to the mid-1600s, when the estate was an early Dutch tenant farm.
A $1 million restoration of the lower landscape has been largely completed. The central focus of the restoration was to restore a series of historic rock outcroppings and shaded seating areas and pathways that are likely the only surviving landscape designs of Alexander Jackson Davis, Lyndhurst’s architect. This part of the landscape now connects directly to a new southern extension of the Westchester County Riverwalk and the Old Croton Aqueduct in Irvington.
This original pathway began at the Lyndhurst veranda and connected a series of rock outcroppings and original wood benches that created shaded seating areas for private contemplation and enjoyment of the mansion and river views. Specimen trees, including Blue Atlas Cedar, Crimean Linden, Red Maple, and London Plane Tree Sycamore have been put back in this part of the landscape and will, over time, recreate the feel of a 19th and early 20th century landscape experience that would have been typical in Central Park at that time. The pathway extends down to the riverside bowling pavilion built in 1895 by Helen Gould.
First Rock Outcropping
This bench, a three-section, horseshoe-shaped, wooden bench was recreated and put back in 2020 and is the first seating area encountered when following the path from the veranda.
Second Rock Outcropping
The second rock outcropping has been replaced with a replica of the original D-shaped, lattice work bench. A Chinquapin Oak replaces the historic Chestnut that was likely original to the property from the time it was a Dutch farm and was lost to blight in the early 20th century. Flowering bushes, understory and trees including Sweetbay Magnolias, Horbeams, Flowering dogwood, and Tupelo pines have been replanted to fill out this area and will re-establish the shaded canopy that enveloped the rockeries.
Third Rock Outcropping
The third rock outcropping has a raised bench with a clear view of the Hudson River. This lattice-work bench is the exact replica of the original bench based on historic photographs. Archeology uncovered original paint drippings that indicated the exact color of the benches which you see today.
Boy With Duck
Frederick William MacMonnies
Designed 1895-96, cast by Roman Bronze Works between 1902-07
The Boy with Duck fountain was generously gifted by Sheila and Richard J. Schwartz in honor of Isabel and Peter Malkin. With a theme drawn from classical antiquity, the first case of this sculpture was installed in the Vale of Cashmere in Prospect Park in 1899 as a gift from the artist. This fountain is a part of a recently completed seating area based off historic photographs showing marble seating areas in front of the mansion. The urns and sundial leading up to the fountain are original to the property, and the Carrara bench was also a restored piece.
Sherry Edmunson Fry
This untitled piece of a posed young man was designed by Sherry Edmunson Fry, who was educated in sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago and in France with the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He worked closely with sculptor Frederick MacMonnies (who designed Boy with Duck). Forged in bronze by Tiffany Studios (Foundry), it was a wedding present to Helen Gould and Finley Shepard in 1913. Fry went on to become prominently associated with the earliest use of camouflage by the United States in WWI with fellow artists.
J.W. Fiske & Co.
circa late 1800s
New York City company, J.W. Fiske & Co. was the leading manufacturer of cast iron in the late 19th century and created a wide range of fountains and garden furniture. The fountain was in place in the 1960s when Lyndhurst was bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by Anna Gould, Duchess of Talleyrand. Historic photographs of the greenhouse show that the concrete basin was installed in George Merritt’s greenhouse with a different fountainhead.
The Merritt family planted several orchards, including a pear orchard which is depicted on the 1873 watercolor map just to the east of the greenhouse, where the swimming pool building currently stands. In 2019, under the guidance of horticulturists, Lyndhurst staff planted a new pear orchard consisting of thirty trees. Four 19th century heirloom varieties were chosen: Seckel, Bartlett, Comice and Forelle. Each of these pear varieties is representative of those most likely to be have been used by the Merritt family for eating, cooking and canning. As the trees mature, we plan to incorporate the orchard in educational programming on the site.
The apple orchard, originally planted in the 1860s by the Merritt family, is located north of the bowling pavilion where it still stands today. At its largest size, there was over forty trees planted in the orchard, with several others planted around the property. The trees residing at Lyndhurst are heirloom Dwarf apple trees, which are small-size trees that yield full-size apples. The original varietal trees planted were Northern Spy, Tompkins King, Ben Davis, Roxbury Russet and two variations of Baldwin. Those varieties bore fruit whose uses ranged from seasonal eating and cooking to preserving and canning. Today the orchard is smaller in size, producing apples every year and providing shade to visitors who attend our annual Summer Jazz concerts.
Helen Gould, an avid gardener and naturalist, encouraged her children to take up planting and gardening at the estates. While there are no surviving plants, fencing, or even photos of the original 1.5-acre farm garden, its footprint still exists on the property close to the Riverwalk drive. The farm garden had been developed in the 1860s by the Merritt family as a source for fresh vegetables that were incorporated into the meals at Lyndhurst.
The herb garden can be found immediately behind the mansion near the kitchen entrance. This herb garden was recently planted by interns of the French Heritage Society. It was designed to replicate a typical 19th century small herb garden based on historic research and texts and hosts several herb varieties. The herb garden serves as an interpretive element to discuss the herbs that were commonly used in during the active time periods of the mansion’s history.