Monday, June 11, 2012

NYC Day One: Sunnyside

Washington Irving probably best known as the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hallow and Rip Van Winkle. He was a part of the romantic movement and when after years of traveling and writing he decided to buy a house he bought the land and two room cottage that is now Sunnyside. He took great care in not only expanding the little house but in also reworking the land to create a more ideal out door space that fit with his romantic notions of the ideal pastoral environment. This included adding a large pond, altering the course of a stream to wind more adding waterfalls and rocks to make it noisier so that it could be heard bubbling from the road and house. He enlarged a hill so that it obscured the house to create a better "revel" when you were coming down the road and planted honeysuckle and wild rosed in the woods so that they smell of the flowers would be stronger.

 As you came down the drive you would pass through this gate and just around the other side of that walled in hill you would see the house and the Hudson River. You can sort of see it in the picture below but in the 20-30 yards between the house and the river a rail road was put in. This of course did not really please Irving as it drastically altered the pastoral environment he had carefully crafted for his home, but as he was more involved with the government later in life he grew to appreciate that he could get on the train in Washington DC after breakfast and be home in New York before dinner.

 The font of the house is covered in vines (which our otherwise delightful tour guide, though he called himself a historical interpreter insisted on calling ivy though only one of the vines was actually an ivy.) Irving had wisteria, English ivy and English trumpet flowers. All of which were gifts and are the original plants still growing.

 On the house he added a few different weather veins taken from Old dutch houses in New York to add age and whimsy to the house.

Just as at Kykuit we could not take photos inside the house so all of my pictures are of the grounds and exterior. The rooms inside the house are well preserved and have had just as much attention given to them as the exterior. Irving was mindful of light and including the outdoors in, so he added skylights and doors that would allow the light from one skylight to illuminate multiple rooms. The Kitchen and the washroom had hot running water but there were no bath rooms. Most of the Mess of the house was done in a gravel court yard of the kitchen that was surrounded by a tall fence to keep it separate from the rest of life as well as hidden from the passing train.

 It was quite a lovely and quirky little house and an enjoyable tour that allowed me to learn a lot more about an man who was responsible for helping to shape not only a lot of early American culture but also effected the way that much of the world viewed America.

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