Here’s a classic History on the Run post – this is a place I have been running by for years, wondered about, and promptly forgotten about before I even got home.
But this past week, while helping my friend Kim knock out a long run for her Ironman training (!!), we ran past this gate in Briarcliff Manor:
Can you see the “Brandywine” carved into the left pillar? Anyway, this is located at 620 Sleepy Hollow Road in Briarcliff Manor, NY and is currently the site of the Briarcliff Manor Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care:
This time I remembered to look it up when I got home. The Internet was remarkably opaque, but luckily I own a copy of Mary Cheever’s excellent and exhaustive book, “The Changing Landscape,” which details the history of this fine estate (and that of many others in the area.)
So, let’s explore, shall we?
Originally built in 1909 by Isaac Newton Spiegelberg and called Miramont Court, the estate included a 49-room Tudor-style mansion, outbuildings, a 75-foot water tower, and 20 acres of extensively landscaped land.
Here’s what it looks like today:
**UPDATE (4/2/2019): An intrepid local historian found my blog and sent me the photos (below) of the interior.
According to Mary Cheever, a visitor in 1910 would see
A courtyard around the façade of the house. From the porte-cochere, an entryway leads directly into the “great hall,” which is wood-pannelled, with a large fireplace and, set into the ceiling in terra cotta, the initials of the Spiegelbergs, I.N.S and S.F.S (Stella Friedlander.)
(Note that the house was heavily renovated in the 1930s, so much of what Cheever describes has been removed.)
To the right is the Music Room, in which there was a stage with a piano on it; an organ; a big window with seats cushioned in red velvet; a small balcony in the back; and, seated on an overhang around the ceiling, child-sized . . . cherubs with their feet crossed, looking down. Many concerts and theatricals took place . . . here. (Cheever 107)
Here’s the exterior of the above piano room:
Here are some more photos — considering the building has been vacant for quite some time, it’s amazing how intact it still is!
The following pictures must be of rooms upstairs:
I’m not exactly sure what/where the following is a photo of, but it looks like a ceiling of some sort:
Such craftsmanship, no?
Here’s more from Mary Cheever on the grounds in that pre-World War I time:
Many plants were imported for the gardens, most from Japan, because the local nurseries were comparatively undeveloped at the time. The house had a grand view – from the lawn and tennis courts in the foreground, across the gardens, a vineyard, a pond and a strip of woodland, to the Hudson River and the hills of Rockland County in the distance. On fine afternoons, Stella Spiegelberg took tea in a treehouse in the garden. She had to climb up steep steps into the treehouse, but there was a dumbwaiter to convey the tea and accompanying delicacies to her there. (Cheever 108)
Alas, there’s no sign of the treehouse with its dumbwaiter today . . . Such a shame how dilapidated this once-grand mansion has become!
The original owner, Isaac Spiegelberg, was an interesting character. Born in the US in 1859, he received his engineering training in Europe. He spent some years working for the St. Gotthard Railway in Switzerland – here’s a cool stock postcard photo of a engineering marvel of a bridge in the alps:
Spiegelberg returned to the US to continue in the railroad business out West, eventually transitioning into stock brokering, and ultimately purchasing a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1886. Considering that so many of the movers and shakers of the banking world had summer estates up here, it’s no wonder the Spiegelbergs moved up here, to socialize with the Rockefellers, Vanderlips and Astors.
After Isaac Spiegelberg died in 1927, the estate was sold to Mrs. Ethel Barksdale, a sister of Pierre Du Pont. The Barksdales “bought more land, built a studio (some of the family were artists), a greenhouse, some kennels, remodeled the interior . . . and named the estate Brandywine. (Cheever 109) ” The Barksdales lived there only until 1931, (thanks stock market crash?) after which the property was sold to the Edward Walker Hardens.
Edward Harden was a newspaperman responsible for some of the great scoops at the turn of the century. In 1898, he was one of the first to report on Admiral Dewey’s triumph at the Battle of Manila Bay, during the Spanish-American War. (What? Huh? No real clue, except that Wikipedia tells me that this was “one of the most decisive naval battles in history and marked the end of the Spanish colonial period in Philippine history.”) Harden was married to Frank Vanderlip’s sister Ruth, and by the time the Hardens moved to Westchester, Edward had, like so many others at the time it seems, left his previous career to work on Wall Street, purchasing a seat on the NYSE.
The Hardens bought and sold several significant properties in the area (like the building on Main Street, Tarrytown that now houses the Tarrytown public school administration offices) before purchasing Brandywine and a large parcel of land adjacent to it. (Side note: Harden gave some of this adjacent land, at 710 Long Hill Road West, to his niece Narcissa Vanderlip and her husband Julian Street. Here’s a photo of the house they lived in, designed by Wallace Harrison in 1939, one of the first contemporary-style houses in the area:
And in another interesting twist, the land right across the street from the Brandywine gate, was sold to FDR’s daughter Anna and her husband Curtis Dahl. Today that parcel is called Sleepy Hill. Here’s a picture of the gate:
But back to Brandywine – the Hardens never occupied the Speigelberg’s Tudor, instead building a stone mansion in florid Italian Renaissance style some distance away in “The Wilderness.” They filled their house by importing full rooms from Europe (as one did in those post-WWI days), authentic Belgian blocks from Belgium, and crates of antique furniture. According to Kay Courreges, the daughter of the estate manager, the Hardens had a full time “cabinetmaker and upholsterer” in the basement of the mansion to alter and maintain these antiques. That detail says it all to me about the opulent life they lived.
Both Edward and his wife Ruth lived well into their 80s and are buried next to each other in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
At some point, the massive property was sold, and in 1986, The Wilderness was purchased by a developer who built 116 houses on the old estate and called the development Rosecliff.
Here’s a NYT article from April 4, 1986 detailing this part of the story.
And here’s a photo of the Harden’s manor house today, the “Clubhouse” at Rosecliff:
At some other point, a nursing home set up shop in the old Tudor house on the Brandywine section of the estate. A more modern building has been built for this purpose and, as pictured above, the Spiegelberg house is now surrounded by chain link fence and unoccupied. There was a fire in 2012 in a garage on the property, but other than destroying the garage, there were no casualties.
Brandywine is apparently on the market as of August 2018. Here’s a properly video:
9 thoughts on “Brandywine Estate, Briarcliff Manor – UPDATED 4/2/2019”
I grew up in Briarcliff Manor so naturally I rode my bike along this road many, many times…though with no shoulder it is extremely dangerous, something I didn’t consider thenbut see now as I drive around. I hate how King’s College and even my HS have been torn down.
Hi there! I went inside Briarcliffe Dec. 2019 and can confirm that the photo that you suspect is a ceiling is the image of the terracotta roof tiles in the foyer that have the owner’s initials. The pink/yellow rooms are from upstairs as well, and it looks like the wooden banister photos came from the entrance that opens into the covered garage/car port. The building is really well preserved as well.
Thanks for letting us know!!
“Miramont Court” aka “Brandywine” is an important example of English arts and crafts style, both inside and out. Its exterior rear balustrade is possibly the only terra-cotta tiled balustrade on the east coast. The house has been vandalized for two years now and I am afraid it is on its way to demolition through lack of care.
The magnificent towered stables that faced the house were reduced to ashes years ago. I hope the preservation society, ect., is closely following these important survivors of the past.
Also the Edward Hardin mansion “the Wilderness” needs to be documented as well.
Today known as the Rosecliff Clubhouse. I am an architectural Historian that specializes in recording
the important information that can still be gathered before they could be gone… I would be happy to
offer my services to you, which would include professional floor plans and photographs for each.
phone 215 870 5024
My father, David RIchman and his brother, my uncle Dr Alfred RIchman, purchased the Brandywine Estate and turned it into a first rate nursing facility in the early 1960s. My brother and I used to swim in the cement pool (filled with freezing cold tap water!). The Tudor mansion at that time sat on 27+ acres of land. The original property comprised a horse stable and chicken coop. I remember well the music room and it’s “dumb waiter” which carried food for the guests during and after music presentations. I also recall the gorgeous wood carvings in the heavy doors.
Wow, thanks for that memory. It looked like an elegant place in the day. Such a shame that it is being ignored . . .
I neglected to mention that originally the property was a DuPont estate I believe that the DuPonts were a wealthy family from Pennsylvania. I remember as a child my father tellibg me all about the DuPonts. I’m sorry now that I cannot remember many details about the family. Sadly, my child’s mind was not sophisticated enough to remember all the details. Oh, how I wish now that I had committed it all to memory. Before the gorgeous Tudor was updated to accommodate a medical facility, I felt the interior of the mansion had an aura of elegance
and romanticism. The heavy carved wooden doors and the high, hand painted ceilings swept you into a lost era of wealth and privilege. I love seeing the photos other viewers are offering. Since I live in Florida now, I I have no access to photos of Westchester County
in the 1960s