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)
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