Exploring An Empty Hundred-Year-Old McKim, Mead & White Mansion

Last fall, I was scouting Westchester for period upscale homes when I happened to find a gem, located far back from the road on an enormous plot of land.

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I try not to get my hopes up for this type of thing – for a property of this sort, most of the time, the owners simply don’t want the hassle of a film crew invading their lives. But a “For Sale” sign at the edge of the road gave me hope…

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…and I was in luck! I received a call back soon after letting me know that filming would be considered. In fact, it turns out that the mansion was designed by the esteemed firm of McKim, Mead & White and built in 1907…

…And has been empty for the past seven years. Would I like to come by and take a look around?

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I arrived for my tour on an overcast fall day, with thoughts of Agatha Christie-style mansion murder mysteries springing to mind.

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This house is BIG.

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As you walk around the property, entire wings are suddenly revealed at each turn:

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The mansion was originally built for one Hobart Park, who had made money in the liquor industry and later with the Tilford line of department stores.

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Very little has changed from the original construction – the pool still remains…

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Located at the top of a huge hill, the grounds are said to have been designed by the Olmstead Brothers. Sadly, much of the land has been sold off over the years…

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Still, it’s not hard to feel like you’re in very much your own world when touring the property:

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We headed inside…

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The house is in beautiful condition…

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…with large, breezy rooms suggesting a hundred years of lavish dinner parties and social gatherings:

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Lots of elegant passages…

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But what really intrigued me were all the turn of the century details hidden in the most unexpected places. For example, in this wood-paneled library…

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Tucked away in a corner…

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A secret hiding spot!

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We then went into the dining room…

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…where, nestled in what seems like an ordinary closet: a beautiful bar made of either copper or brass (I forget which):

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And, mounted on the door to the bar – three bottle holders with spigots. I love how the liquor would fill those little glass circles:

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Tiled fireplace:

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From the dining room, we headed toward the kitchen, coming first to an adjacent staging room. This is where hundreds of plates and silverware were kept for servants to prepare:

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On the wall, a servant call box:

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Press one of the many buttons located throughout the house…

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…and an alarm would go off, with the appropriate room tag popping up. In the servants quarters upstairs, I found a call box with the glass removed, revealing the wiring…

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…and you can see how many of the rooms were assigned:

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The name “Hanes” on several of the tags refers to the second owner of the house…

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John Wesley Hanes, a corporate executive and one time Undersecretary to the Treasury in the Roosevelt administration. Hanes owned the home from 1942 – 1950.

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Also in the kitchen prep area: a state-of-the-art warming box for keeping plates hot:

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From the prep area, we proceeded into the kitchen…

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I love the white brick tiles behind the stove (but where’s Mrs. White to show me the secret passage to the library??):

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Reverse – note the door to the staging room on the left:

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A sliding window in the door allowed food to be passed through:

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When the house was built, its location was so remote that a fire hose system had to be installed within the house itself. Hoses can be found in various rooms, including the kitchen:

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Behind the kitchen door, an old ice crusher (thanks to SNY readers for identifying!) and can opener…

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And, extending from one of the cabinets, a flour sifter (thanks again to SNY readers for identifying!):

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In a nearby room, a bird cage serves as a hanging lamp:

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We then went upstairs…

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…and into the master bedroom…

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…which opens onto a very pretty balcony overlooking the property:

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Heading through a door on the left…

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…we went into the white-tiled bathroom…

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…which features a really fascinating addition…

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A shower taken from a luxury steamship of the era!

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The pipes are designed to hit you from all angles, and still work to this day:

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Your standard shower knobs: Hot, Cold, and “Needle”…

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Hidden in the next room…

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…a locked safe in one closet…

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…and a fire hose in a pantry:

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There are dozens of bedrooms on the second floor…

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I lost count about halfway through, but it’s a safe bet you could have your entire extended family stay over…

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…with plenty of bathrooms to spare:

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Each bedroom opens onto a corridor snaking through the house:

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This room was once used as a nursery:

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We then ascended to the third floor, a finished attic which once housed the servants quarters…

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…and again, room after empty room:

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One room of note: this was the old luggage room…

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…and still has the original shelving dedicated to storing and packing suitcases:

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This door reminded me a lot of Harry Potter’s bedroom…

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…and is about as big inside:

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The old servants’ bathrooms:

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Original sinks with clamshell soap holders:

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Finally, no visit to an old mansion would be complete without a trip to the basement…

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Nestled in a small hidden room, an old bar:

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The house was certainly around during prohibition, and while there’s no proof of it, could this be an early speakeasy?

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A nearby wine cellar…

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Sadly, only empty bottles remain:

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The house has been on market for several years without a buyer, and will be going to auction this September – and if you’ve got a few million to spare, it’s yours! Unfortunately, it’s not landmarked, so pretty much anything could happen to it. And judging by the neighboring McMansions built on what used to be its property, the end could be ugly:

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It really would be tragic – there’s a heart in the craftsmanship here that will never be seen again. I can only hope that at this time next year, the house will have found new owners who will treat it as lovingly as decades of prior generations have.

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In the meantime, the owners are open to serious filming inquiries – just send me a letter with budget and job description at nycscout@gmail.com (note: the house is within the 25 mile zone from Columbus Circle).

-SCOUT

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40 comments

  1. Great house. I have friends with a shower just like that, added to an 1802 house in the 1890s. They were quite popular at the time.

    FYI, the kitchen prep area in these houses was called the Butler’s Pantry. The silver and china were kept here.

    Cheers, Rob’t

  2. Curious – What is the asking price for a place like this?

  3. This reminds me of the Walker-Ames House in Port Gamble,WA. It was built in mid 1870′s. But this house that you looked at is in much better condition.

  4. I think the “meat grinder” in the kitchen pantry might be a flour sifter. They were often built into cupboards like this: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=cabinet+sifter&_sacat=See-All-Categories

  5. The “pencil sharpener” I believe, is an Ice crusher -my grandparents had one just like it in their kitchen.

    Lovely and amazing property!

  6. I love old mansions like this, this new mansions of today lack charm, elegance and class. There are many such houses in Grosse Pointe MI and they all have a story to tell.

  7. Is this the house from, “The Secret of My Succe$s?” I’m pretty sure it is. Awesome.

  8. Gabrielle Pierce

    Gorgeous building! Thanks for sharing. Let’s hope it does not go the way of so many others. By the way, “landmarking” does not save a building, that is a very unfortunate myth. And the meat grinder is a flour sifter…..awesome place…….

  9. What a wonderful old place!! I hope it survives.

  10. Thanks for the tour. I love homes from that period.

  11. Where in Westchester is this lovely home?

  12. Great post. I was fortunate enough to live in a McKim, Mead, and White house for four years (the John F Andrew house in Boston), and some of the touches are very familiar – like the fireplace with the illustrated blue tiles.

    ed

  13. Where in Westchester is this house?

  14. Where are the snows of yesteryear?

  15. Jeremy In Kansas

    I don’t know if the location is feasible, but that house would be perfect as a bed and breakfast or a boutique hotel.

  16. that house is absolutely gorgeous!!! so much space!!

  17. Craig Valentine

    This is the way i was meant to live.

  18. Great post! Your blog is one of my favorites.

  19. Stunning. I am a sucker for historic house tours or otherwise. This was a day in heaven. I hope this house survives.

  20. What a special day for you! I am reminded of the Phipps mansion in Denver; my brother and I happened to stumble upon while it was being prepped by caterers for a party. Nobody paid us any attention as we poked around. Hope this house is able to retain its dignity through an auction. Lovely property.

  21. What amazes me is that over the years the various owners left so many original fixtures, etc intact.

    I can only cross my fingers that whoever owns it next keeps up the tradition.

  22. The house is in the town of Purchase, though I haven’t been able to locate the address.

  23. What a beautiful old house! It would be lovely to live in a house like this, but I wouldn’t know what to do with all that room! I sincerely hope that whoever purchases it preserves it instead of destroying it.

  24. 38 Westerleigh Road, Purchase NY.

    It may look bucolic but it’s just a short distance away from I-287.

  25. Spend more time in Westchester, there’s lots of fun stuff here.

  26. It’s amazing what little secrets you can find in New York City and the surrounding areas. You almost have to keep reminding yourself that you’re still in New York City when you come across sights like this: http://newyorkdailyphoto.blogspot.com/2010/08/white-house-of-ill-repute.html

  27. Hobart Park was the son of Joseph Park of Park & Tilford Grocery Stores. Perhaps Hobart J. Park built this home with the money left to him by his father. Joseph Park was the son of a Westchester County farmer, so it makes sense that the Park family would build there.

    Hobart sold all of the shares he inherited to the Tilford heirs, making him a wealthy man.

    The Park & Tilford Building is on the NRHP, its located at: 310 Lenox Ave., Harlem, New York, New York

    There is also the Park & Tilford apartments located at: 100 West 72nd Street @ Columbus Avenue, New York, NY

  28. Do you happen to have a floorplan?

  29. Great house and details that are not seen in present day houses. If the grounds were designed by the Olmstead Brothers, plans and other information might be available at the Brookline, MA Office – National Park Service site.

  30. Not sure how accurate the link I found is since it lists only 7 br/ 7 bths & by the pics here on SNY, it looks as though there are more than that… no idea, but what I do know is that I’m pretty sure I just spent the better part of about 2 hrs looking at your post & researching info on this place & that I wish I had $7 million right now… great find :)

    House Listing Info:
    http://www.zillow.com/homes/38-Westerleigh-Road,-Purchase-NY_rb/

  31. Not sure how accurate the link I found is since it lists only 7 br/ 7 bths & by the pics here on SNY, it looks as though there are more than that… no idea, but what I do know is that I’m pretty sure I just spent the better part of about 2 hrs looking at your post & researching info on this place & that I wish I had $7 million right now… great find :)
    House Listing Info:
    http://www.zillow.com/homes/38-Westerleigh-Road,-Purchase-NY_rb/

    Yes, that’s the house. If you go onto Google Street View for Westerleigh Road you’ll see that the view of the house matches Scout’s view.

    Almost certainly, the big expensive houses to the north of this house on Star Farms Road were built on what used to be its grounds.

    • Peter- I actually did do that before I posted my comment, just to make sure… & yeah, while I was looking at the different maps of the area, I was wondering which properties would have been part of the original estate… side note: I think Google Street View is really neat but at the same time kinda creepy in a stalkerish type way ;)

  32. Nice pictures. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to see the inside of this beautiful mansion.
    One thing: Your picture of the built-in flour sifter is upside down. The sifted flour would come out of the narrow end.

  33. Did we ever find out who the buyer was in September and what happened to the house after new ownership??!!

  34. Wow, someone got a bargain then as it – SOLD: $3,132,000 according to that RandRealty website. Sure looks like a great place for huge parties!

  35. that is an absolutely gorgeous house-I want it! :) now I just need a few million dollars. Hopefully nobody dare tear that majestic house down!!!

  36. i love the look of the house now imagine all of those rooms to play hide-n-seek in lol. i just wanna say that i hope that the house isnt demolished it is a beautiful house thanks for giving a chance for us to take a peek in side a wonderfull house and yeah i wish i could have that house!!

  37. Any idea whatever happened to this property? It makes me so sad to think of it being ruined.

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