History Abounds in Hyde Park

Sit Down for a Fireside Chat

If you're ever in the New York City or Poughkeepsie area, it's worth a trip to Hyde Park, about 90 miles north of the Big Apple.  Hyde Park is the birthplace of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, where today you can tour his family's home, his presidential library, and his and Eleanor's personal cottages.

Also in Hyde Park is the gorgeous Vanderbilt Mansion, home of Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife during the end of the Gilded Age.  Still not enough history for you?  Hyde Park is also home to the Culinary Institute of America (which sadly, I didn't have a chance to tour while I was there), and the Hudson River State Hospital, an abandoned psychiatric hospital (which I would definitely not recommend exploring because it is on private property, but it's still interesting to look at from a distance).  Just 15 miles east of Hyde Park in Millbrook is an abandoned college called Bennett School for Girls.  This is another property that I would not recommend exploring on the inside, but you are able to get quite close to the buildings before it becomes private property.

It's hard to believe in just a half day, I managed to see the FDR Presidential Library, tour FDR's home and the Vanderbilt mansion, visit FDR's and Eleanor's cottages, and get a glimpse of the Hudson River State Hospital and Bennett College.  Keep in mind that there are a limited number of tours for these places (obviously excluding the hospital and college), so plan accordingly so you don't miss out on anything.

First up was the FDR Library.  The main building is where you purchase tickets and begin your tour.

Before touring FDR's house, we went to the Presidential Library.  There were some neat artifacts to look at including a hat that he wore, his childhood camera, and his inaugural address.

The room above was FDR's personal study which he used while he was President.  He even gave some of his fireside chats from here.  Below is his oval office desk.

FDR's Desk (Fisheye)

Below is a closer look at the items on FDR's desk.

FDR's Desk (Close Up)

FDR's Home

Next on the list was FDR's house.  Above is the exterior, and below is FDR's childhood bedroom.

FDR's Childhood Bedroom

Above is the library/parlor and below is the dining room.

FDR's Stables

FDR also had a number of horses.  On his property you can walk through his stables.

Next we went to the Vanderbilt Mansion.  If you think the exterior is impressive, wait until you see the inside!

Exterior of the Gorgeous Vanderbilt Mansion

Above is the entrance hall.  I took this from the second floor looking down, because I couldn't get a shot I was happy with from the first floor.  Below is the ladies retiring room, where Mrs. Vanderbilt and her female guests would converse after dinner.

Above is Frederick Vanderbilt's bedroom and below is the beautiful staircase up to the second floor.

Vanderbilt Mansion Staircase

Sitting Room - Vanderbilt Mansion
Above is the gorgeous sitting room, with a beautiful wood detailing on the ceiling.  Mr. Vanderbilt and his male guests would retire here after dinner.  Below is the dining room, in which the ceiling is being restored, hence the scaffolding.  You may be beginning to see a fisheye trend here.  Given that we weren't actually allowed inside any of these rooms, the fisheye allowed me the widest perspective from where I was standing.

Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom, Hyde Park

Above is Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom and below is a panorama of the parlor.

Above is the gold room with an intricately painted ceiling, and below is a shot I took in the basement, where the hired help stayed.  Mr. Vanderbilt left much of his estate to his servants.

Sun Shines Into the Basement of the Vanderbilt Mansion

The Grounds of Val-Kill Cottage

Before leaving Hyde Park, we visited Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt's cottage.  This house is on the grounds of Val-Kill, but it's not actually the cottage Eleanor lived in, but a house for guests to stay in.

I really wanted to take a few photos of the outside of the Hudson River State Hospital, an abandoned psychiatric facility. Unfortunately, the entire campus is on private property, and most of the buildings were impossible to see without trespassing. Luckily, I still managed to grab a few shots of the perimeter. As fun as it sounds to photograph abandoned buildings like these, I wouldn't recommend it. They are physically in pretty bad shape and in doing so you'd also be trespassing on someone's property.

Hudson River State Hospital at Sunset

Below is a church right next to the hospital.

Down This Path to Halcyon Hall

The final stop on my trip was at Bennett School for Girls, or Bennett College, about 15 miles east of Hyde Park.  Bennett was a college for girls from the late 1800s through the 1960s.  Since closing down, it has remained abandoned and has become a popular place to photograph.  This is another campus I would recommend viewing from the outside, because it too is on private property and in pretty bad shape.  Above is Halcyon Hall and below is what I believe was a science wing built shortly before the school closed down.

Overgrown Building at Bennett College

The Moon and Halcyon Hall

Above is another view of Halcyon Hall. Below is an old house near the campus. I'm not sure if it's actually part of the campus or not.

House on the Hill

Visiting Hyde Park and the surrounding areas is a great way to learn some history and hone your photography skills.  Have you ever been to any of these places?  What did you think?

Tools I used to create the photos this post:  Canon EOS 6DCanon EF 17-40mm f/4L USMCanon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, Zenitar MC 16mm f/2.8 FisheyeCanon EF 135mm f/2L USM LensAdobe Photoshop CS6


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