Wilderstein was home to three generations of the Suckley Family. The last family member to live at Wilderstein was Margaret (Daisy) Suckley whose extraordinarily close friendship with former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been well-chronicled and is the subject of much interest — Wilderstein Historic Society
I am not really sure how it eventuated, but somehow Miles Storm and I were talking about ghosts, and we ended up researching the nearby Wilderstein Historic Site online. While doing so, we came across this particularly eerie picture of Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (1891 – 1991) which you can see HERE. In this picture, she is sitting in the White and Gold Salon in her house, and she kind of does look like a ghost, well at the least I can see how a 3-year-old may think so?
Over the next few weeks, Miles Storm became a little obsessed with Daisy telling everybody that he came in to contact with; “Mummy is taking me to the haunted house Wilderstein to see the ghost lady”! And this, my friends, is how him and I both learned about the beautiful and fascinating Estate which our family will visit for evermore.
This week, we made it a reality by spending 2 days at Wilderstein, which is on the bank of the Hudson River in the township of Rhinebeck, upstate New York in Dutchess County. This is approximately a 2 hour drive North of New York City.
On the first day we went to Wilderstein, as it was such gorgeous weather, we had a picnic on the front lawn overlooking the River. I was completely unaware that the 40 acre Estate also has extensive walking trails that you can explore. Unprepared, I was wearing a dress and Miles was wearing shorts, and while we walked the trails somewhat, because of the long grass and the concern of deer ticks thus Lymes Disease, we decided to turn back. Miles also really wanted to take the house tour so he could see where “Daisy” lived but alas, by the time we arrived back the Mansion was closed. The last tour is at 3.30PM and the first is at 12 Noon.
Instead, we sat in the sunshine reading books, playing Chasie and taking in the view. It was a perfect day, in the most beautiful surroundings.
Wilderstein was originally built as a Restrained Italianate Villa in 1852, however as the Suckley family grew from 2 children to 7 children, in 1888 the house was transformed into the exquisite Queen Anne Victoria Mansion which, thankfully, still stands today for us all to enjoy.
When Miles Storm woke up the next morning, the first words that came out of his mouth were – “Mummy can we please go back to Wilderstein now”? Well, a promise was a promise and he really wanted to do the house tour, so rather than going for our morning run, I decided to dress us appropriately and head back to the Mansion to spend the day. I mean, it is not like my arm had to be twisted or anything.
Once we arrived and were walking towards the house, a staff member came out and said “Are you here for a tour”?
“Why yes” I responded “My Son is obsessed with Daisy and wants to see where she lived?
To which Miles Storm added “Yeah, we saw her on the Internet and on Facebook”.
Wow, we all just looked at each astounded! There was really nothing that could be said to that one.
So we went on the tour, which is around half an hour and includes a talk on the grounds outside and a tour of the ground floor inside the house. As the Mansion is considered a Museum it was forbidden to take photos unfortunately otherwise I would have posted some. We then we watched an 8 minute video of Daisy talking with one of her sisters Elizabeth, 5 years before she died in 1986. Daisy died a few months shy of her 100th birthday in 1991! This lady was born at Wilderstein and died at Wilderstein. Can you imagine?
Miles was fascinated the whole tour asking questions and pointing things out of interest, like the ghostly pictures of family members on the wall and the stained glass windows. I learned so much, it was all so enchanting. One of the best things about having a child is that you are forced to do things that you just may not have done if you were without child. It was so interesting to hear about this captivating lady, her family and the close sisterly relationship she shared with FDR, the 3rd President of the United States of America.
10 years before Daisy died she was smart and established Wilderstein Historic Site as an Independent 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization to provide a secure future for her family estate and to save the architectural masterpiece. I know that there are so many people who are very grateful for that, including all the hard-working volunteers who give their time to make this such a wonderful place.
I did find it sad though, that the last years that Daisy lived in Wilderstein the house was in very bad shape and extremely rundown. It is unfortunate that she was never able to see it rectified to its glory days. She said in the video we watched during the house tour, that were always so many people at the house and many animals, not to mention all the help that the former Shipping Tycoon family employed. There were surely so many wonderful times on the grounds and a lot of laughter. That will never be again!
After the tour, Miles Storm, and I ventured off on the trails to explore. Along the way, we saw the Root Cellar where the family kept their food cool, the Ice Shed, the Carriage House and the site of the old Boat House (before it burned down). Although we did not see it, closer to the water engraved in rock, is the American Indian Petroglyph which relates to the name chosen for the Estate – Wilderstein apparently translates to Wild Stone in German.
When we came back from our walk, we sat on the lawn again and enjoyed another picnic. We played soccer, read stories and talked about the house. It was another beautiful day.
Wilderstein Mansion, I know now, is a place that we are going to be spending a lot of time at! I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. Take a back step in time.
Wilderstein Historic Site offers Tours May through October and weekends in December, and is at 330 Morton Road, Rhinebeck NY 12572. For further information call 845 876 4818
Thanks for reading my Blog, I hope some day you have the chance to spend some time at the magical place that Wilderstein is.