Dark Shadows: "The Old House"

Postcard: " 'Veruselle' Residence of Russell Hopkins, Irvington, N.Y."

    This house should be familiar to fans of the 1960s vampire soap opera Dark Shadows, for it appeared in the television series as "The Old House." The mansion, which had been vacant for about seven or eight years by the late 1960s TV shoots, was used for exterior photography (although several images of Jonathan Frid, in his role as Barnabas Collins, inside the mansion are known to exist as well, but were not used on the show). This mansion likely came to the attention of the casting crew owing to the fact that a more famous house, Lyndhurst, stood next door (Lyndhurst served as Collinwood for both movie versions of Dark Shadows). 

    The South End of Tarrytown, by virtue of its location 25 miles north of Manhattan, contained one of the greatest concentrations of estates along the Hudson River. Washington Irving, who penned "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and other famous tales, settled here in 1835. Irving remodeled a colonial stone tenant farmhouse into his Romanticized version of an early Dutch mansion. His neighborhood became quite crowded after 1850, when the Hudson River Rail Road enabled merchant millionaires to commute from home to New York City in under an hour; mansions sprouted seemingly overnight on the shore overlooking the Tappan Zee. A great number of homes were built in the 1850s and 1860s, but by he 1880s many homes fell into disuse owing to high maintenance costs or because their owners  chose newly fashionable locales such as Newport, RI, for the summer retreats. The area went through a bit of a revival in the early 1900s, as more modern mansions replaced the older stone or brick houses.

"Duchess de Talleyrand, Lyndhurst, residence in Irvington, New York. Cottage, river facade." 1943 Oct. 9.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, Reproduction Number LC-G613-T-44127 DLC

    One of the first merchants to build here around 1850 was Moses Hicks Grinnell, a one-time United States representative, real estate developer, merchant, and financier. His high society connections extended beyond business; in 1836 Grinnell married Julia Irving, niece of the famous author Washington Irving. It was immediately north of Irving's "Sunnyisde" that Grinnell settled in the early 1850s. For himself, he built a mansion known as "Wolfert's Dell;" about the same time or shortly thereafter, he built a second mansion, similar in appearance to his own, on the northern portion of his 38-acre estate. In the 1850s, Grinnell's niece, Mary Russell Grinnell, resided in the northerly mansion with her husband Henry Holdredge. 

    The historical path of the two houses diverged and converged in the later part of the 1800s. at times, they were part of one estate, at others separated. On occasion, the northerly house was part of the Lyndhurst estate. In 1907, both houses came into ownership of Russell Hopkins, son of a prominent Atlanta banker, and his wife Vera Siegrist, granddaughter of Dr. Joseph J. Lawrence,  along with Jordan Wheat Lambert, invented Listerine in 1879. The now famous mouthwash, originally intended as a disinfectant for surgical procedures, was named after English physician Sir Joseph Lister who, according to this website, performed the first ever antiseptic surgery in 1865.

"Duchess de Talleyrand, Lyndhurst, residence in Irvington, New York. Cottage entrance, view II." 1943 Oct. 9.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. Reproduction NumberLC-G612-T-44126 DLC.

    The earliest known good depictions of the "Old House"  are postcards and newspaper articles from the Hopkins-era. The columned porch was likely added to the house by the Hopkinses or the owners just before them. It was fashionable at this time to remodel the older dark Victorian homes then seen as out of taste. Large columned porches became a trendy ideal on some of the old Hudson River homes in this area.
The Hopkinses renamed the estate Veruselle (Vera + Russell) while giving the name "The Colonnades" to the northerly mansion and "The Arcades" to Wolfert's Dell, the former Grinnell mansion. The Hopkinses are best remembered  in this area for the large menagerie they kept on the estate. 

    An article in the Atlanta Constitution from August 8, 1908 stated that "Mr. and Mrs. Russell Hopkins and Mrs. J. R. Hopkins are at home this summer at 'The Arcades.'" Who the n lived in the Colonnades? Another family member? Or was it rented to a friend? Or did the Hopkinses enjoy both homes?

    Russell Hopkins died in 1919 and Vera passed away in 1928. Their children seemed disinterested in the property and the southerly portion fell into receivership in the early 1940s. The abandoned Wolfert's Dell/Arcades mansion burned in 1963 and its ruins were demolished in 1978. The Colonnades fared better for a little while longer however. In the 1930s, the property belonged to stockbroker William R. Spratt; often times the northerly mansion has been referred to as "The Spratt House."  Eventually Anna Gould, Duchess de Tallyrand, owner of Lyndhurst and daughter of robber baron Jay Gould, acquired the Colonnades portion of what had been the Hopkins estate. Her bodyguard, famous detective Raymond C. Schindler, lived in the columned mansion until his death in 1959. Two years later Anna Gould died; Lyndhurst eventually became a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is now a historic house  museum. The Colonnades/Old House sat vacant in the 1960s while the land was eyed for residential development (ultimately not ever constructed). The mansion burned in 1969 and only remnants of its foundation remain.

    Westchester County now owns the land upon which once stood "the Old House." In due time, the landscape may be restored and opened to the public as a passive-recreation park linking Sunnyside, a property of Historic Hudson Valley, on the south, and Lyndhurst, on the north. The grounds of "The Old House" are not yet open to the public.

    *(For those not familiar with the area, the location of the house indeed is within the limits of the village of Tarrytown. Many early twentieth-century postcards of Lyndhurst, Sunnyside, and other homes in the area identify the locale as "Irvington," the next village to the south, but this neighborhood was included in the Village of Tarrytown upon its incorporation in 1870.)

"Duchess de Talleyrand, Lyndhurst, residence in Irvington, New York. Cottage entrance, view I." 1943 Oct. 9.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, Reproduction Number LC-G612-T-44125 DLC.
(This view shows the east facade of the house.)

The Colonnades, as it appeared in the 1960s when it was abandoned.

Wolfert's Dell, the Grinnell Mansion (later known as The Arcades.) Circa 1850-1852.

Sketch by Edwin Whitefield from "The Hudson River and Rail road illustrated."
This illustration depicts the way "The Old House / Colonnades" may originally have appeared.

Real estate advertisement, 1927.

Mansion, south facade and south fountain. Another early 1900s postcard.

View from similar perspective as above postcard; photograph taken December 31, 2006.

Inside the basement of the garage.

Inscribed in the basement floor of the garage.

Large tree near the Hudson River, possibly over two-hundred years old.

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