Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest NRHP

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Vanderbilt family, building on the shipping and railroad business started by Cornelius Vanderbilt, became prominent during the Gilded Age (the period after the Civil War.) William K. Vanderbilt was a great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and he built Eagle’s Nest on the Long Island Sound in 1910 as his summer home.

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I’d previously visited the Hyde Park and Biltmore Vanderbilt mansions…those were built by grandsons of Cornelius, uncles to Centerport’s ‘Willie K.’ Some friends and I were looking for a rainy-day activity on Long Island’s North Shore, so we headed to the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium and took the guided tour of Eagle’s Nest.

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The summer home began as a 9-room Tudor cottage in 1910. By 1936, Willie K had remodeled and expanded it into a 24-room Spanish-Revival mansion, including a wing dedicated to the memory of his son who was killed in a car accident.

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Willie K was a marine biology hobbyist who collected specimens from around the world. He displayed these in a separate building on his 43-acre property. There is also a gallery of his collections on the ground floor of his mansion.

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Vanderbilt was outrageously wealthy as evidenced by the eccentricities throughout the mansion. In one wing there is a carved wooden spiral staircase. Vanderbilt saw this in a monastery in Europe and loved it so much that he purchased it, had it shipped to Eagle’s Nest and tasked his architect with making it fit somewhere in the house. It didn’t fit, so the architect had to add another section and a second story to the house to accommodate the staircase.

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Vanderbilt left his estate to Suffolk County with an endowment to keep it open to the public as a museum. The county also runs a planetarium in a separate structure to help with funding for the upkeep.

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Vanderbilt Posts:

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Location: 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, New York

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: 9/26/1985

Date of my visit: 3/10/2019

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Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Liberty Loop Trail Revisited

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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I was in the area and decided to revisit Liberty Loop Trail in the Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge.  The last time I’d taken pictures here was in 2004. Digital photography has come a long way in the last 15 years and even my phone captures better images than the 2 MP point and shoot I was using back then.

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Liberty Loop is a level 2.5 mile trail that begins in New York State and follows the perimeter of a former sod farm that straddles the New York/New Jersey border. The sod farm was restored to its natural wetland state after becoming part of the refuge.

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This area is a haven for migratory waterfowl and the short-eared owls. The trail had been damaged by recent storms so I couldn’t get very far along. I didn’t see any owls, but there were some Canadian Geese pretty close to the parking lot.

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The wetlands in this area were formed by the retreat of the glaciers. As the ice sheets receded, a glacial lake filled the valley they’d formed. The wetlands were once at the bottom of that lake.

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Walkill River NWR posts:

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Location: Oil City Rd, Pine Island, NY

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: 1990

Date of my visit: 3/9/2019

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National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! Remembering those who have sacrificed on this Veterans Day and thank you to all who have served!

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor shares a building with the museum for Washington’s Cantonment at New Windsor because it is here that the military award got its start. George Washington, while stationed at his Newburgh headquarters in 1782, created The Badge of Military Merit to recognize acts of valor by common soldiers. Three soldiers from the cantonment received the badge and then it fell into disuse.

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General MacArthur revived and rededicated the the award to honor George Washington on his 200th birthday. In 1932, 137 World War I veterans received the first purple heart awards in a ceremony at the New Windsor Cantonment. Today the Purple Heart is awarded to members of all branches of the military who are wounded or killed in combat.

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In 2002, Senator Hillary Clinton introduced Resolution 113 to create a National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. Newburgh locals provided compelling arguments for building it in Newburgh and so it was dedicated at the Cantonment site and opened in 2006.

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There is no comprehensive list of the estimated 1.8 million recipients of the Purple Heart, so part of the Hall of Honor’s mission is to collect and preserve this data. If you or a family member have received a Purple Heart, you can obtain the enrollment form from the website here.

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The museum chronicles the history of the Purple Heart and towards the back of the hall, there is a small theater where you can watch a ten-minute film featuring several veterans telling their stories. Behind the theater, there are kiosks with computers to look up names in the honor roll.

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To see my other posts from The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area, please click the links below:

Location: 374 Temple Hill Road, New Windsor, NY

Designation: National Heritage Area, Museum

Date designated or established: 11/30/2006

Date of my visit: 2/18/2019

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Goosepond Mountain State Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Goose Pond Mountain State Park is a 1,706-acre undeveloped New York state park. The park includes five acres of man-made wetlands constructed by the New York State Department of Transportation as compensation for wetlands that were destroyed when the nearby highway interchange was built.

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The park is administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, but it doesn’t look like it is routinely maintained. The sign at the entrance to the nature trail is overgrown as is the trail itself.

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I stopped here with my dog while were in the area on an errand. We walked as far as we could down the nature trail before it became thoroughly choked with brush and wildflowers. We noticed some birdhouses that looked fairly new…the park is considered a bird sanctuary.

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According to the map at the entrance, when there is less vegetation, the nature trail is a loop with a boardwalk section at the far end.

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Location: 1198 NY-17M, Chester, NY 10918

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1960

Date of my visit: 8/4/2019

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Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Liberty Loop Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Years ago, I lived in a more rural section of New Jersey, right on the border of Orange County, New York. Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge was established in the years that I lived there to protect the water quality and manage the waterfowl dependent on the wetlands in the valley. There are several nature trails available for hiking.

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While most of the refuge is in New Jersey, the trail head closest to my house was in New York. The 2.5-mile Liberty Loop Trail was created on a sod farm that was allowed to revert to its natural state and is co-aligned with the Appalachian Trail for one mile.

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The trail begins on a short boardwalk section and loops around the wetlands. It is a nice flat trail and especially scenic when the leaves start turning…perfect for a short nature walk with little kids.

Location: Oil City Rd, Pine Island, NY

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: 1990

Date of my visit: 10/16/2004

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Storm King Art Center

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Storm King Art Center is an outdoor sculpture museum and is part of the Hudson Valley National Heritage Area. It is named after the nearby  Storm King Mountain in Mountainville, New York.

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It contains one the largest collection of modern outdoor sculptures in the USA.

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The Art Center was founded in 1960 by Ralph E. Ogden, following his retirement from the Star Expansion Company. He began the center as a museum for Hudson River School paintings and showcased his collection of European sculptures around the main building.

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The center evolved into a 500-acre, open-air sculpture museum, blending the large scale modern sculptures into the landscapes.

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I visited Storm King on a field trip with my photography class in the Fall of 2015. The place is vast…you could walk around the grounds all day and still see only a fraction of the exhibits.

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To see my other posts from The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area, please click the links below:

  • DeWint House (Washington’s HQ at Tappan)
  • Camp Shanks
  • Storm King Arts Center
  • New Windsor Cantonment– Coming Soon!
  • Purple Heart Hall of Honor– Coming Soon!

Location: 1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, NY 12553

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1960

Date of my visit: 10/11/2015

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Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Vanderbilt family, building on the shipping and railroad business started by Cornelius Vanderbilt, became prominent during the Gilded Age (the period after the Civil War.) In that period the Vanderbilt  grandsons built ornate palaces to showcase their wealth including The Breakers in Rhode Island and The Biltmore in North Carolina.

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The Vanderbilt Mansion, originally known as Hyde Park, is the only Gilded Age mansion owned by the National Park Service. The 54-room Beaux-Arts structure was built in 1898 by Frederick Vanderbilt. He and his wife Louise lived in NYC and used this elaborate mansion as their country ‘cottage’ and entertained only a dozen or so guests at a time here.

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Louise Vanderbilt was a fan of the palace at Versailles and emulated that style of decor in many rooms of the mansion.

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The Park Service had just completed a major renovation when I visited. All of the windows had been removed to be restored by an artisan off-site and then reinstalled.

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While this work was in progress, the furnishings had been put into storage. Some of the rooms were still being put back together and were filled with stacks of plates, assorted knickknacks and sheet-covered pieces.

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We noted that the walls in the foyers and hallways were unadorned and plain. The ranger guiding our tour of the mansion told us that Frederick Vanderbilt had collected antique tapestries and that it looked much different when they were all hanging.

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Unfortunately the tapestries are in need of professional restoration and the park service lacks the funds for that project. Most of the tapestries have been put into storage indefinitely.

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Frederick and Louise were childless. Frederick lived in Hyde Park full-time after Louise’s death and willed the estate to his niece, Margaret Van Alen.

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Van Alen did not want the 600 acre estate and tried to sell it. Because it was the end of the Great Depression, no one could afford it.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who’d already willed his nearby Springwood estate to the people of the United States,  worked with Van Alen to donate the mansion along with 200 acres and some of the other buildings to the National Park Service. The remaining acreage, which had been farmland, was sold off and eventually developed.

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Prior to FDR’s presidency, most of the National Park units were designated to preserve our natural wonders and prehistoric sites. Under Roosevelt’s presidency, the role of the National Park service was expanded to include the nation’s historical and cultural treasures as well. Through his legislation, FDR’s government created a quarter of the NPS units currently in the system.

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The Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site was designated to be representative of this era in American history, not as a museum devoted to the Vanderbilt family. So while this might not be the grandest or best-kept estate in the Hudson Valley, the interpretation provided on the Ranger-led tours gives visitors an excellent perspective.

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Hyde Park posts:

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Location: 119 Vanderbilt Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 12/18/1940

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

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