Sunday, August 25, 2013

Washington Irving estate, "Sunnyside", Tarrytown, NY

The American author Washington Irving is best remembered for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, but he was the creator of a great many works of biography and history, as well as numerous short stories. He lived roughly during the period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, 1783-1859, and made his fame during a period of about seventeen years that he lived in England, France, and Spain. His success continued after his return to the USA. Irving was the first American to live entirely by the fruits of his writing, and our first professional author was a true celebrity of his time.

The Irving estate was kept by the family until the mid twentieth century. It is now maintained by Historic Hudson Valley, and made available to the public through tours. The gardener's house and the newer buildings that now function as a museum are deeply nestled amid foliage and hillocks.

Here is a tree that was present during the American Revolutionary War!

Our tour docent related much of the history of the estate: how Washington Irving chose the grounds, modified the landscape in true romantic style, expanded the small cottage in stages, and watched with misgivings as the railroad passage was built along the Hudson River a stone's throw from his home. When the line was put into use, the train would stop to let Irving board or debark, and when passing would blow the whistle in acknowledgment of the famous author's house.

Although photos of the interior were not permitted in the tiny rooms, I was allowed a shot of the copper water heater and cast iron stove in the basement level kitchen. The system of hot running water was cutting edge technology for its day.

A few excellent photos of the rooms are available at the Historic Hudson Valley website.

As our docent bid farewell at the end of our tour, she described some of the things we would yet see as we climbed the path to return to the estate entrance.

The interior of the granary, now storing firewood:

The ice house:

Another docent educating an attentive young girl:

Wildflowers by one of the ponds that Washington Irving had sculpted, in the romantic tradition of improving the landscape.

The end of a fascinating visit!


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