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This splendid old house, until recently an orchid on uncaring waters, sits atop a foot bluff overlooking the Hudson in northern Yonkers. When completed in the riverfront hereabouts was lined with big places. That was a different world. Even today, however, North Broadway from the gates of this house to the nearby village of Hastings, still winds through deep woods lined with the long walls of former country estates. You gotta love a guy born in a Montana mining camp called Alder Gulch, who gets rich, builds a mansion and calls it Alder Manor.

William Boyce Thompson crammed a lot of living into his 61 years. Inthe year-old multi-millionaire hired New York society architects, John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, to build a country house on 21 still rural acres in north Yonkers. Oliver Hazard Payne and Alfred I. Dupont, all of whose celebrated houses survive today. The world seems to have forgot about Alder Manor, however, which is very much in the same class. Alder Manor is clad entirely in limestone, and I cannot even guess how many tens of thousands of square feet it contains.

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The central de element on the river facade is a Palladian arcade, being a three-part recessed porch whose tall central arch is flanked by matching flat-roofed sections. The arcade opens onto a vast balustraded terrace that runs the length of the house. Fixtures and finishes in both bathrooms are happily intact. If anything, its faded colors add to a patine of genuine luxe. Thompson was never in the military, but was made a colonel in the Red Cross prior to traveling to Russia in The study is immediately to the left.

In the mids, Alder Manor went through a derelict period, which is perhaps when the Francesco Albani overmantel in the dining room disappeared. These dining room sconces, while simple, look original to me. Thompson was felled by a fatal stroke in His will, interestingly, provided that his widow would inherit only if she continued to live at Alder Manor.

This she did until her death in Elaborate mansions were dogs on the market in those days, especially in Yonkers. Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. The institutional kitchen in the image below dates from the Seton College period. The servant hall and an assortment of other kitchen-related spaces beyond it were gutted and replaced by the modern dining hall with the blue walls.

The image below was taken in the dining room, looking south across the main hall to the drawing room in the distance.

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These two major rooms, as well as the marble entry hall between them, give directly onto the afore-mentioned terrace. The fireplace is 15th Century Italian; the windows overlook the drive; the door beside the fireplace le to the library. The library is at the south end of the house, between the drawing and reception rooms. Time to go upstairs. The image below looks north from the library towards the main stair. The third floor organ pipes belong to a Welte Philharmonic Organ, whose Renaissance style keyboard sits in a lobby on the second floor.

The most interesting — though not the most beautiful — feature of Alder Manor is the vintage indoor swimming pool. A stained glass window at the end of the pool was looted during the derelict days. All the old bathrooms are gone. A sort of second floor lobby is located directly above the main floor entrance hall.

The elevator landing is behind the door on the left. The organ console faces it on the opposite wall. On the south wall of the lobby is the entrance to an unusual master bedroom suite. Colonel and Mrs. The poop brown color of the dado is awful; Mrs. His ading bath, no doubt originally quite grand, is only a memory — and unfortunately not one of mine.

The staircase in the image below is located adjacent to the swimming pool and le to a third floor gallery overlooking the main stair. The rooms on the family side are bigger and a few of the bathrooms have survived, albeit in partly dismantled condition. If I can get into a big old house attic, I will. What mighty steel beams these are, and how beautifully finished with tongue-in-groove paneling is this unvisited space beneath the roof.

Alder Manor is today separated from the southernmost of its two formal gardens by a modern parking lot. The garden itself, while only minimally maintained, remains largely intact. Featureless modern buildings constructed by Seton College in the s are, alas, disturbingly nearby. A more interesting garden survives on the north side of the house.

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That porch is located just outside the ugly blue dining hall. I suspect most of the walls were intended to look ruinous from the beginning. The upper window marks the north end of the indoor swimming pool. But it is also largely intact and spectacularly beautiful. We often wonder why bad things happen to good people.

A corollary might be to wonder why good people do bad things. The Alder Manor estate that Mrs. Thompson willed to the church covered 21 acres.

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There was no excuse for not building it someplace else. To address the problem, he founded the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, and located it in a 16, square foot research and greenhouse facility across North Broadway from his Yonkers estate.

For 54 years, the Institute was an anchor of the Yonkers community. In it moved to the Ithaca campus of Cornell University and the Yonkers building fell into ruins. Inthe year before his death, Col. Thompson bought Savarona, a foot steam yacht built originally for Mrs. Thomas S. Cadwallader of Philadelphia. Perhaps not surprisingly, he rechristened her Alder. She is, sadly, a sort of emblem of his life. She was then stripped of her luxurious fittings, camouflaged, armed, and reemerged as the gunboat Jamestown.

Surviving the war in the Pacific Theatre, the former Jamestown ended her days as a tramp full of bananas. She foundered off the Cayman Islands in At about the same time the Jamestown settled onto the sea bottom, Seton was busy defacing the Thompson estate with insensitively sited new construction. Maintaining two campuses soon proved impractical, however, and in Iona announced the imminent closing of the Yonkers campus.

The following year, a handful of elderly Sisters of Charity, who had expected to live out their lives on the top floor of Alder Manor, were the last to go. Vandalism ensued untilwhen an Irish cultural organization called Tara Circle bought the mansion and the view wrecking dormitory on 5. Since then, Tara has struggled to do the work of the angels and hold Alder together as best it can. The goal is to ultimately convert the house into a center of Irish arts and education.

Big Old Houses: Yonkers, of all places September 15, Social Diary Sep Guest Diary Sep Party Pictures Sep Never miss a New York minute by subscribing to our daily newsletter!

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