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The Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

11 glorious estates of the Hudson Valley, mapped

These perfectly preserved historic homes once housed financiers, oil tycoons, and U.S. presidents

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The Locust Grove Estate in Poughkeepsie, New York.
| Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the lush landscape along the Hudson River attracted New York’s wealthiest families—the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers among them—who built palatial Gilded Age estates. Now, many of these homes are national historic sites, maintained by the federal or state government, and open for all to explore.

There’s no one defining architectural style to these homes; some were designed as opulent Beaux Arts confections, while others were inspired by more humble Federal-style architecture. If there’s one common link, it’s that visiting these homes allows you to see how New York’s most prominent families lived, and what drew them to this region all those years ago.

Here now is a list of 11 of the best historic homes in upstate New York—but take note, most can only be accessed through guided tours, so be sure to sign up beforehand.

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Boscobel House and Gardens

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The original Boscobel, built for wealthy Loyalist States Morris Dyckman and his family, was located in the tiny hamlet of Montrose, New York. But that’s not where the present-day home now sits; after decades of neglect, the home was fated to meet the wrecking ball. After a last-ditch effort to save the structure, a local group managed to salvage pieces of the old home and rebuild the structure 15 miles north of its original location.

Today this 68-acre campus is home to lush gardens, a woodland trail, and the house itself, which has an exemplary collection of decorative arts from the Federal period. A guided tour of the house, followed by a picnic in the gardens overlooking the Hudson River, is a great way to spend a day.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate

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Four generations of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller’s family lived at Kykuit, perched atop the highest point in the town of Sleepy Hollow. (Rockefeller family scions still live in the surrounding Pocantico Hills estate, which measures over 3,400 acres.) On tours of Kykuit, you can see the main floor of the house, its galleries, and sculpture gardens, which hold works by Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi, among others. Tours are offered regularly, and there’s a Metro-North discount available, too.

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Lyndhurst Mansion

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One of the U.S.’s most stunning examples of Gothic Revival mansions, Lyndhurst is located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. Since its construction in 1838, the estate has been home to three prominent NYC families: former NYC mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt (who gave the estate its name, after the many Linden trees on the property), and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Each owner expanded and reshaped the property to their own tastes, and today, it’s home to a massive collection of art, antiques, and furniture, many of which were designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

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Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park was designed by McKim, Mead & White, and commissioned by Frederick William Vanderbilt, a scion of the famed—and extremely wealthy—New York family. Many of the Vanderbilt family’s homes are national historic sites, and while the 54-room manse in Hyde Park isn’t quite as elaborate as, say, the Biltmore Estate (built by Frederick’s brother, George, in North Carolina), it’s still a Gilded Age gem. Inside, be sure to check out the gold room with the intricately painted ceilings, and the family’s massive dinnerware collection. The grounds have lovely views of the Hudson River, and the White Bridge, which overlooks a small waterfall, is especially lovely.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wilderstein Historic Site

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Many notable craftsman contributed to the design of this stunning Queen Anne-style home, including Joseph Burr Tiffany, who worked on the interiors, and Calvert Vaux, who designed the grounds. Its original owner, Thomas Holy Suckley, built the home in the 19th-century, and it was occupied by his heirs until 1991. Fun fact: the last resident of the house was a confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the letters they exchanged are preserved at the house today, and can be seen as part of guided tours to the mansion.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Staatsburgh State Historic Site

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In the 1890s, financier Ogden Mills and his wife, Ruth, commissioned McKim, Mead & White to expand her ancestral home in Staatsburgh, which the couple used as a summer residence. In just one year, the renowned firm had transformed the 25-room Greek Revival home into a palatial 65-room Beaux Arts estate reminiscent of 17th- and 18th-century French mansions. The couple’s daughter donated the house and the surrounding 192 acres of property to the State of New York in 1938, and today the house and its many splendid American Renaissance features including the opulent dining room are open to the public for tours.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

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American author Washington Irving purchased what was then a two-room Dutch stone house in Tarrytown in 1835. In subsequent years, the Sleepy Hollow author expanded the house in a major way, adding Gothic and Spanish-inspired windows, and Tudor-style clustered chimneys. He also beautified the landscape, adding a pond, hills, a meandering stream, and a waterfall. Aside from seeing many of the original furnishings in the home, visitors today can hear about Irving’s inspiration and relive some of his stories during experiential tours at the house—and yes, there’s one that incorporates the story of the headless horseman.

Clermont State Historic Site

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If you pay a visit to Clermont, be sure to take in the view from its front door; the estate, built a stone’s throw from the Hudson River, has some of the most spectacular vistas of the river you’ll find in the Hudson Valley. Its 500 acres are open for tours year-round, and if you visit during holidays like Christmas, you’ll see the house done up in period holiday decor. The property, which was once home to members of the Livingston family (who were active Patriots in the Revolutionary War) also features four lush, landscaped gardens, each of which has its own distinct personality: The South Spring Garden has views of the Hudson, while the Walled Garden was influenced by gardens in Florence.

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Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

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Martin Van Buren, America’s eighth president, lived in this charming home, also known as Lindenwald, until his death in 1862. His son then hired Trinity church architect Richard Upjohn to convert the home into a stylish Italian villa, but that didn’t stop it from falling into disrepair. It was restored by the National Parks Service in the 1970s, and today the estate is open for free tours from April through November. There are about 100 pieces of furniture still preserved from Van Buren’s time, and there’s a 51-panel wallpaper imported from France that depicts a hunting scene. (And don’t miss a portion Van Buren’s farm, which is still thriving today.)

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Locust Grove Estate

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This Poughkeepsie mansion, designed by Federal Hall architect Alexander Jackson Davis, was first home to Morse code co-developer Samuel Morse. By the turn of the century, the Italianate-style home was purchased by William and Martha Young, a wealthy couple who modernized and expanded the mansion. The 180-acre estate has been well-preserved, and today, it’s home to a sizable collection of Hudson River School paintings; visitors can also experience the property’s rolling hills, vegetable garden, and lovely views of the Hudson River.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

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The 32nd President of the United States was born in this clapboard house, otherwise known as Springwood, in 1882; but after a major expansion, the humble structure was transformed into a grand Colonial Revival style mansion and the exterior replaced with stucco. During his presidency, FDR visited the home so often that it was called “the Summer White House,” and after his death in 1945, he was buried in the adjacent rose garden. You can see the historic residence on guided tours, which showcase photos of the most famous guests at the mansion and paintings from the president’s personal collection. The country’s first national presidential library, which was commissioned by FDR, is also located here.

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Boscobel House and Gardens

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

The original Boscobel, built for wealthy Loyalist States Morris Dyckman and his family, was located in the tiny hamlet of Montrose, New York. But that’s not where the present-day home now sits; after decades of neglect, the home was fated to meet the wrecking ball. After a last-ditch effort to save the structure, a local group managed to salvage pieces of the old home and rebuild the structure 15 miles north of its original location.

Today this 68-acre campus is home to lush gardens, a woodland trail, and the house itself, which has an exemplary collection of decorative arts from the Federal period. A guided tour of the house, followed by a picnic in the gardens overlooking the Hudson River, is a great way to spend a day.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate

Shutterstock.com

Four generations of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller’s family lived at Kykuit, perched atop the highest point in the town of Sleepy Hollow. (Rockefeller family scions still live in the surrounding Pocantico Hills estate, which measures over 3,400 acres.) On tours of Kykuit, you can see the main floor of the house, its galleries, and sculpture gardens, which hold works by Alexander Calder and Isamu Noguchi, among others. Tours are offered regularly, and there’s a Metro-North discount available, too.

Shutterstock.com

Lyndhurst Mansion

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

One of the U.S.’s most stunning examples of Gothic Revival mansions, Lyndhurst is located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. Since its construction in 1838, the estate has been home to three prominent NYC families: former NYC mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt (who gave the estate its name, after the many Linden trees on the property), and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Each owner expanded and reshaped the property to their own tastes, and today, it’s home to a massive collection of art, antiques, and furniture, many of which were designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park was designed by McKim, Mead & White, and commissioned by Frederick William Vanderbilt, a scion of the famed—and extremely wealthy—New York family. Many of the Vanderbilt family’s homes are national historic sites, and while the 54-room manse in Hyde Park isn’t quite as elaborate as, say, the Biltmore Estate (built by Frederick’s brother, George, in North Carolina), it’s still a Gilded Age gem. Inside, be sure to check out the gold room with the intricately painted ceilings, and the family’s massive dinnerware collection. The grounds have lovely views of the Hudson River, and the White Bridge, which overlooks a small waterfall, is especially lovely.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wilderstein Historic Site

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Many notable craftsman contributed to the design of this stunning Queen Anne-style home, including Joseph Burr Tiffany, who worked on the interiors, and Calvert Vaux, who designed the grounds. Its original owner, Thomas Holy Suckley, built the home in the 19th-century, and it was occupied by his heirs until 1991. Fun fact: the last resident of the house was a confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the letters they exchanged are preserved at the house today, and can be seen as part of guided tours to the mansion.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Staatsburgh State Historic Site

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

In the 1890s, financier Ogden Mills and his wife, Ruth, commissioned McKim, Mead & White to expand her ancestral home in Staatsburgh, which the couple used as a summer residence. In just one year, the renowned firm had transformed the 25-room Greek Revival home into a palatial 65-room Beaux Arts estate reminiscent of 17th- and 18th-century French mansions. The couple’s daughter donated the house and the surrounding 192 acres of property to the State of New York in 1938, and today the house and its many splendid American Renaissance features including the opulent dining room are open to the public for tours.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Washington Irving's Sunnyside

American author Washington Irving purchased what was then a two-room Dutch stone house in Tarrytown in 1835. In subsequent years, the Sleepy Hollow author expanded the house in a major way, adding Gothic and Spanish-inspired windows, and Tudor-style clustered chimneys. He also beautified the landscape, adding a pond, hills, a meandering stream, and a waterfall. Aside from seeing many of the original furnishings in the home, visitors today can hear about Irving’s inspiration and relive some of his stories during experiential tours at the house—and yes, there’s one that incorporates the story of the headless horseman.

Clermont State Historic Site

Shutterstock.com

If you pay a visit to Clermont, be sure to take in the view from its front door; the estate, built a stone’s throw from the Hudson River, has some of the most spectacular vistas of the river you’ll find in the Hudson Valley. Its 500 acres are open for tours year-round, and if you visit during holidays like Christmas, you’ll see the house done up in period holiday decor. The property, which was once home to members of the Livingston family (who were active Patriots in the Revolutionary War) also features four lush, landscaped gardens, each of which has its own distinct personality: The South Spring Garden has views of the Hudson, while the Walled Garden was influenced by gardens in Florence.

Shutterstock.com

Martin Van Buren National Historic Site

Shutterstock.com

Martin Van Buren, America’s eighth president, lived in this charming home, also known as Lindenwald, until his death in 1862. His son then hired Trinity church architect Richard Upjohn to convert the home into a stylish Italian villa, but that didn’t stop it from falling into disrepair. It was restored by the National Parks Service in the 1970s, and today the estate is open for free tours from April through November. There are about 100 pieces of furniture still preserved from Van Buren’s time, and there’s a 51-panel wallpaper imported from France that depicts a hunting scene. (And don’t miss a portion Van Buren’s farm, which is still thriving today.)

Shutterstock.com

Locust Grove Estate

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

This Poughkeepsie mansion, designed by Federal Hall architect Alexander Jackson Davis, was first home to Morse code co-developer Samuel Morse. By the turn of the century, the Italianate-style home was purchased by William and Martha Young, a wealthy couple who modernized and expanded the mansion. The 180-acre estate has been well-preserved, and today, it’s home to a sizable collection of Hudson River School paintings; visitors can also experience the property’s rolling hills, vegetable garden, and lovely views of the Hudson River.

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

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The 32nd President of the United States was born in this clapboard house, otherwise known as Springwood, in 1882; but after a major expansion, the humble structure was transformed into a grand Colonial Revival style mansion and the exterior replaced with stucco. During his presidency, FDR visited the home so often that it was called “the Summer White House,” and after his death in 1945, he was buried in the adjacent rose garden. You can see the historic residence on guided tours, which showcase photos of the most famous guests at the mansion and paintings from the president’s personal collection. The country’s first national presidential library, which was commissioned by FDR, is also located here.

Bettmann Archive