Albert Bierstadt’s Malkasten, Tarrytown, NY – Part 2

Here I examine the present-day site of Malkasten, the Hudson River home of artist Albert Bierstadt. The history of the house was discussed in Part One of this thread.

All photographs February 11, 2012.

Bierstadt’s entrance pillars and drive, East Sunnyside Lane. Today this is the exit road from the Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center.

This image and the one that follows show the Halsted/King mansion as viewed from the site of Malksten as depicted on the 1875 and 1881 maps. Although there is a small stone wall in the foreground, I do not believe Malkasten was located here.

View of retaining wall along Bierstadt’s entrance drive, near the mansion site. Looking north.

View of retaining wall along Bierstadt’s entrance drive, near the mansion site. Looking south.

View of retaining wall with Hudson River in distance.

View of Malkasten site. This would be approximately from the southwest corner of the house. Here, we can pretend that the chimney flue was working fine that November early morning in 1882, and that the fire died down like it did every other cold night, and that the house did not burn, and now imagine that we are looking at one of the greatest houses in the Hudson Valley.

This view corresponds roughly with the view of the “Ruins of Albert Bierstadt’s Castle” depicted in Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly. There are differences. In Frank Leslie’s image, the top of the steps is level with the top of the stone wall, and the wall exists on both sides of the steps. Today, the top of the steps is higher than the top of the stone wall which only exists north of the steps. In the historic image, there were remnants of stone pillars, and the wall appeared to have been capped. No pillars exists today and there are no capstones. The steps also appear more steep in the historic image. Is this a different staircase? Or were stones carted away for nearby construction projects? (Were stone thieves as reviled in the nineteenth century by lovers of abandoned buildings as copper thieves are detested today? Heh.)

Northwest corner of the foundation wall. In the 1880 and 1891 maps, the road goes around the north side of the house to the rear where it ends. Today, the property line of the Tarry Hill homes immediately adjoins the north side of the Malkasten site. Was a sliver of land sold when the homes were built in the mid-20th century? Formerly, Tarry Hill was part of the Lyndhurst (Gould) estate.

Curiously, located at the top of the steps, this appears to be the base of a modern fence post.

Again, Another fence post base is located at the southwest corner of the house site, along with a more modern-looking curb, for lack of a better term. Were the house ruins fenced off at some point in the 20th century? Was it considered a hazard, or was it used as a garden?

More remnants of a fence, or something.

This view is from what was the inside of the house, looking east-northeast. Here is another stone wall, this one of fieldstone and mortarless, and a another set of stone steps at the right.

The stone steps at the rear of the house site.

At the top of the rear of the house site seems to be a man-made berm. The house was said to have only been one-story tall at the rear (east) side, so this may have been created as an entryway to the rear of the house.

View from the top of the rear of the house site, looking west.

View from the southeast corner of the house site.

A small pool located below the King House of the Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center.

What would have become of Malkasten had it not burned on November 10, 1882? Would it have survived intact in the 21st century? A few of its neighbors did. Including the houses that were razed in the mid-20th century, the area along the border of Tarrytown and Irvington was a veritable mansion park. Among the survivors today some are still private homes, some have been converted to businesses, and Sunnyside and Lyndhurst are museums. If a Newport-like consortium had arisen perhaps all of the old homes could have been saved as museums. On its own, Malkasten would have been on par with Frederic Church’s Olana as the representation of a Hudson River artist’s home.

I don’t know if Albert Bierstadt’s name resonates enough with the tourist crowd today that Malkasten would have been bigger draw than any of the established museums in Sleepy Hollow Country, such as the equally impressive Lyndhurst across Broadway, especially when house museums are shifting their focus of operations as competition grows for attention and attendance figures. It would have been a remarkable sight to behold for sure, and I would like to think that, at least, preservationists would have stepped up to save and maintain Malkasten as one of the great Hudson River villas.

For further exploration of the present-day vicinity of the Malkasten site, here are aerial photographs of the adjacent mansions.

Moller House (Southwest of Malkasten)

Biddle House (Southeast of Malkasten)

Halsted/King House (East-Southeast of Malkasten)

Malkasten Site

BONUS: My friend Paul Barrett, an expert on the mansions of Tarrytown, recently alerted me to a newly posted set of aerial photographs of mansions at the Tarrytown/Irvington border. The Moller and Biddle houses are included, as are houses west of Broadway between present-day historic house museums Sunnyside and Lyndhurst. Anyone who has walked that wooded land can attest to the dense thickets of brambles and fallen dead trees that exist today – I was amazed to see neat gardens and mowed lawns in these images. Best of all is a photograph of the Colonnades, a mansion also once owned by Moses Hicks Grinnell. The house was abandoned in the 1960s and was a setting on the television series Dark Shadows before it was demolished in 1969. I have previously written about the Colonnades here.

Robert Yarnall Richie Photographs – Aerial Photographs of mansions in Tarrytown and Irvington

This entry was posted in Westchester County. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Albert Bierstadt’s Malkasten, Tarrytown, NY – Part 2

  1. Rebecca Elise says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I am enjoying reading about this bit of history. :)

    • HV-Rob says:

      You’re welcome! I was glad to share the story.

      • Abraham says:

        Love the history, wondering if there any information on the adjacent property next to the mansion called The Moller House Mansion. I work on the property (832 South Broadway) and have always wanted to know what exactly it was back in the day. Any help would be much appreciated.

        • The Moller mansion was built by Edwin Coffin in 1858 and the property was called
          “The Cedars.” Once the corporate headquarters of Duracell, Inc., the Tarrytown mansion
          was sold by Kraft General Foods Inc. to the American Booksellers’ Association in
          February, 1993. The Association plans to spend some $2 million for restoration of the
          now land marked mansion.
          68

  2. Diane Foubert says:

    This is all new to me–don’t even remember hearing about it in our 2 1/2 years in Irvington. Fascinating! It is indeed an interesting bit of history, and I just love reading and hearing about your work from Ohio!

  3. Nicole says:

    I came across your website today and really enjoyed this post on the ruins of Malkasten. I am currently researching Bierstadt’s paintings and sketches and am searching in vain for his works of the Hudson Valley. It’s always nice to come across other writers connecting Bierstadt with the Hudson Valley.
    Best,
    Nicole
    Hyde Park, N.Y.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Hello Nicole,

      thank you for your reply, I am glad this was helpful. I believe I have tracked down all that is available online of the paintings and sketches that Bierstadt created in/of the Irvington area. I would be happy to see any that I may have missed. Good luck in your project!

      Best regards,

      Rob

  4. Thank You so much for the beautiful photos of Bierstadts Malkasten, I am an artists, He was the painter who I have LOVED for so many years, I lived in the places in Calif. that he painted, I have wanted to visit the site, but I,m not to good on driving to places I don’t know,funny that the Dog I am going to rescue is in Thornwood,So the Spirits are with me. I will spend the night in Tarrytown, and see the Village.I wanted to see if a history metal sign could be made for the site???Strange people see the paintings,and forget the painter.I go to Olana,and the Cole house all the time— going tomorrow in fact to bring 2 small paintings for exibit at the Cole House. THANKS again, You made my day.

    • HV-Rob says:

      You are welcome. Yes, it would be nice if Tarrytown House conference center provided some physical recognition for the Bierstadt site. Congratulations for rescuing a dog and not buying from a store supplied by puppy mills!

  5. Stephen Koller says:

    Actually Rob and myself were the ones to locate the exact spot where Bierstadt’s house once stood. I was doing extensive research on Albert Bierstadt and the mansion when I decided to contact Rob. He agreed to meet me at the site and from there we made the discoveries that can be seen in this article. Also, If this mansion existed today it would have been the greatest tourist attraction in the area once the public realized how much of an impact Bierstadt made in the art world and how incredible his life was.
    I’d like to say thanks to Rob for posting this because I believe its of great historical significance and very interesting. Its too bad the ruins were taken down. They were removed sometime after 1930, maybe closer to 1960 when the conference center was being planned out.

  6. Stephen Koller says:

    I would also like to thank the Irvington Public library for helping me with the research on the house. That library contains some great books and historic maps of the entire area dating back to the early 1800’s

  7. Stephen Koller says:

    Rob, I forgot to mention, that stone wall behind Halsted’s mansion is where Malkasten stood. I lined up an old picture of the house from broadway to find out. It was pretty much blocking Halsted’s view of the Hudson. Also, I believe Halsted’s mansion was built after Bierstadt’s because its not located on any of the 1860’s estate maps and also it cannot be seen in a picture of Bierstadt’s house taken in 1867.

  8. HV-Rob says:

    Thanks for your comments Stephen! I remember our trip well. I guess I didn’t take any photos that day, I couldn’t find any, hence I had to go back and revisit.

    Regarding the Halstead/King house, I wrote this up for Tarrytown House when I conducted some research for them:

    “As with the Biddle estate, the exact origins of the King estate remain vague. Joseph W. Hartley and Llewelyn S. Haskell owned land at the top of the hill in the early 1860s, and a map of the time shows houses there. William Halstead constructed the present King house after acquiring the land in 1864. ”

    The 1867 photo of Malkasten is from below, so the Halstead house simply may not have been visible from that angle. I did not see the original photograph from the Lyndhurst collection so I am not sure what date it was taken in.

    As far as the house site goes, my initial inclination was to believe it stood due west of Halstead/King. I’m still inclined to believe it stood at the site of the present day foundation, though I cannot say I am 100% certain that was it.

  9. Stephen Koller says:

    Thanks for the reply Rob. We should meet up there again sometime and have another look around. I have a photo showing the entire house in a Bierstadt book and I’ll bring that along. I really enjoy walking around that property and imagining what it was like back then. Again, I’m glad you posted this well constructed site.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Hi Stephen,

      Sure, I’d be up for another visit, perhaps at the end of December. I emailed you back but I’m not sure if that is your real email address or not.

      Thanks,

      Rob

  10. Stephen Koller says:

    Or not

  11. Dear Rob, Thanks so much for Your e-mail back to me ,I never got up there, the Dog I wanted got adopted, still looking, I must athough get up to Bierstadts home site, need to feel the energy to do a painting of him in spirit, there, as I have done in the past, I did a portrait (full size) of Him in 1999, trying to show it this april 28th at the Thomas Cole House, ther is going to be a few of Bierstadts paintings on exibit, at that time starting May 3rd. Also would like to speak to the Tarrytown House Conference Center You mensioned, to see about a history sign put up at the Malkasten site, to honor Albert Bierstadt. Thanks again. Hopeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

  12. Gail Clark Rendle says:

    As a child I lived in Irvington-on-Hudson during WW2; knew where Carl Carmer (author) and Dr. DeForest (dean?) of local academy for boys, lived. Knew of the DeTalleyrand Estate (my father, an auto mechanic, was called there to work on their automobiles). Looking for information on the Countess Scheeler, who occupied a small, fenced cottage near Ardsley Station, and other European nobility who settled in the area. Also, a book by Jenny Prince Black in which she tells of the original name of Irvington, which was “Deermantown”. I’m amazed that, living so near, I never heard of Malkasten. However, a large print of Bierstadt’s “Sierra Morning” hangs on my wall. Has anyone memory of “Franz-Josef”, of Austria, who drove a fairly expensive car in the area, during the WW2 years?

  13. Francis Goudie says:

    Most interesting. My house was probably built by Edmund Coffin, who built the Moller Mansion. Coffin appears on my chain of title, and the house was built for the Irvington Presbyterian Church in 1856. I am curious as to the architect of the Moller house, as mine has similar design features. Is this information available?

    • HV-Rob says:

      I don’t believe I’ve seen reference to the actual architect, or if it was or wasn’t Coffin himself, for the Moller House or other houses. There was a book produced in the 1870s by AA Turner called Villas on the Hudson which shows the original appearance, and floorplan, of the Moller House. Either the Irvington Library or the Irvington Historical Society has a copy of this book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>