Exclusive Peek: Vanderbilt Mansion Tour Hyde Park NY

If you read Past Lane Travels regularly, you know I’ve visited a lot of mansions over the years, but the Vanderbilt Mansion tour in Hyde Park NY was a new experience for me.

Built during the Gilded Age, the mansion has 54 rooms and was owned by one of the wealthiest families in the United States.

If you love the era of “Gilded Age Glamor,” come along on a Vanderbilt Mansion tour with me and explore this stunning house and grounds.

Your eyes will pop at this luxuriously appointed mansion that features exotic wood paneling, imported marble, lush velvets and extravagant French tapestries.

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back of vanderbilt mansion
The Hudson River side of the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park NY.

Vanderbilt Mansion By The Numbers

✅ 6 stories
✅ 45,000 square feet
✅ Fireplaces: 21
✅ Servants: 18
✅ Ceilings: 17’5″ high/1st floor; 11’5″/ 2nd and 3rd floors)
✅Rooms: 54 rooms on 4 floors plus a full attic and basement


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Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park NY History

Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife, Louise, purchased the 153-acre Hyde Park property in 1895, and started construction on the mansion.

Three years later, at a cost of $660,000, the Vanderbilt mansion at Hyde Park was completed. (That’s more than $23 million in today’s money).

BUT, they spent another $1.5 million (around $53 million today) to furnish it!

When Was The Gilded Age?

The Gilded Age is the period following the Civil War to the Turn of the century, and was a time of vast growth in industry, technology and immigration.

A white marble arched bridge rising over water with gold leaves on trees in the background.
This beautiful white bridge leads to the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Fun Fact: The Vanderbilt Mansion and grounds in Hyde Park were bequeathed to the park service in 1939 and everything inside is original, including 6,500 historic items, from fine art to antique furniture.

Vanderbilt Mansion Tour: First Floor

This is a Vanderbilt Mansion tour post, so of course you want to see the inside of this home, owned by a family that was as close to American royalty as you can get.

You’re in luck because I have plenty of photos. I was there in November so some of the rooms were set up for Christmas.

Let’s start with the first room you seen when you enter the Vanderbilt house during a mansion tour.

The Vanderbilt Mansion tour starts in this entrance hall which shows a large window, beautiful wood desk and sitting area in front of a large fireplace.
The entrance hall is stunning.

The oval-shaped entrance hall is really a feast for the eyes because it’s full of decorative tapestries, sculptures and other historical artifacts from the Vanderbilts.

A 17th Century Medici crest is located prominently over the grand fireplace marking the mansion as the home of a “merchant prince.”

Cipollino (“onion stone”) and Carerra marble walls and floor, classical statues and throne chairs create an impressive introduction into the Vanderbilt’s home.

During a party, this would have been a location of a formal reception and refreshments, serving to showcase their status.

Surprisingly, unlike most residences at the time, the mansion had running water and electricity, including flush toilets at a time when most people were still using chamber pots.

The dining area can be seen during a Vanderbilt Mansion tour set up for Christmas.
The dining room of the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park.

The next room I entered during my Vanderbilt Mansion tour was the dining room on the north side of the house.

The Vanderbilts hosted their first housewarming dinner party in May 1899 with 18 guests, and only entertained about once per season.

A formal Gilded Age dinner would include seven to twelve courses, including a different French wine with every course.

The Vanderbilt Mansion dining room contains many objects and pieces of furniture originally from Europe and Asia, including the ceiling, and the Persian carpet that is 400 years old.

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This rug is also one of the largest known Islamic carpets in the world measuring 20 by 40 feet in the 30 by 50-foot room.

As the tour guide noted, the Vanderbilts only visited this house in the summer as a getaway, and probably would not have ever been there to entertain over the holidays, but it was still nice to see the decorations.

Vanderbilt mansion dining table set up for Christmas.
The dining room table set for a holiday dinner.

On the other side of the house (South), was the Living Room, which was furnished with a combination of antique Renaissance furnishings and Louis XV style seating.

A guest visiting the mansion in 1923 recorded that the chairs were arranged in conversational groups, and that there were flowers everywhere.

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Following dinner, men would remain in the dining room for cigars, while the ladies would retire to the Living Room for coffee and liquors.

The men would join them later for games of cards, charades, and music.

Of course I have to show the Christmas tree at the Vanderbilt Mansion in the formal living room or drawing room.

The living room at the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park, showing a Christmas tree with lights, ornate ceiling and red carpet, along with ornate chairs.
The living room at the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park.

More Rooms On The First Floor

The ground floor also included an 18th-century-style French salon or Reception Room, where Louise Vanderbilt would occasionally have tea with guests or spend time alone.

Look at the ceiling in this room! It has a luminous painted panel of “Aurora and Tithonus” by the American artist Edward Simmons, depicting goddess of the dawn and her spurned lover.

The ceiling in the French salon at the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park, showing ornate gold throughout and ceiling is blue cloudes.
I didn’t even notice the ceiling at first because there is so much to look at in this room.

Guests arriving for a party might enjoy a cocktail in this “Gold Room” before moving into the Dining Room.

Eighteenth-century-style French salons like this were a typical feature of Gilded Age mansions. Though not used very often, they were essential for their display of wealth.

Other rooms on the first floor included Frederick Vanderbilt’s office and den. He conducted business from his office, which wasn’t very big.

Frederick Vanderbilt's office showing brown chair with bookshelf and desk.
Frederick Vanderbilt’s office is one of the smallest rooms in the mansion.
The den at the Vanderbilt Mansion showing a wooden table with arched wooden beams and lots of brown tones.
Frederick Vanderbilt’s den.

The den was beautiful, but not as ostentatious as other rooms. It acted as a family room as well as a place to have afternoon tea, write letters or read.

Fun Fact: Frederick Vanderbilt did not hunt and forbade hunting on the property. The deer heads on the wall were purely for decoration.

Vanderbilt Mansion Tour: Second Floor

While the first floor of the Vanderbilt Mansion tour was eye-opening, the second floor held even more surprises.

It started with a grand staircase that had velvet covering the handrail so that the gloves of ladies would slide easily.

The bottom of the grand staircase on the Vanderbilt Mansion tour with red carpet at the bottom and gong up the steps.
The bottom of the grand staircase to the second floor.

Take note of the Ming Dynasty koi-bow at the bottom of the stairs. It is half a millennium old! The Vanderbilts used it as a planter for a 20-foot live palm tree.

Looking down the main staircase at the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde park at the red carpet and railing.
Looking down the main staircase from the top.

Louise Vanderbilt’s bedroom is a reproduction of a French Queen’s chamber from the Louis XV period. It features a ceremonial railing around the bed, silk wall coverings at the head of the bed, and French paintings.

Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom, all gold, with a bed that has a fence around around it and a canopy.
Mrs. Vanderbilt had her own bedroom.

A connecting door leads to Louise Vanderbilt’s boudoir (dressing room).

Parlor at the Vanderbilt Mansion where Mrs. Vanderbilt would serve tea. Done in a French decor.
Mrs. Vanderbilt’s dressing room.

What Is The Oldest Thing In The Mansion?

The oldest object in the mansion is a painting of a processional scene, built into the 15th-century gilt cassone (Italian marriage chest) located in the dining room foyer.

oldest thing
This tapestry is the oldest artifact in the Vanderbilt Mansion.

How Long Is the Vanderbilt Mansion Tour?

The Vanderbilt Mansion Tour lasts about an hour and covers three floors.

How Much Does The Vanderbilt Mansion Tour Cost?

The Vanderbilt Mansion Tour in Hyde Park costs $10 and is given multiple times per day depending on the season.

Vanderbilt Mansion Tour: Basement

The Vanderbilt Mansion tour also lets guests go into the basement level, where the Basement Hall and kitchen are located.

The Basement Hall is a large elliptical central space with corridors extending north and south, connecting a range of service work rooms and bedrooms for the male staff.

The service hall  part of the Vanderbilt mansion tour in the basement, along with the kitchen and wine storage.
The Service Hall, as well as the kitchen, laundry and wine storage are located in the basement of the mansion.

This area of the Vanderbilt mansion would have been bustling with cooks, housemaids, laundresses, and footmen discharging their daily duties.

Also in the basement were the wine storage and laundry.

Although very different, the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park reminded me of Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana, the largest plantation in the South. Nottoway especially serves as a contrast to the Bulow Plantation Ruins in Florida, but they all show how fun it is to explore these unusual U.S. historical sites.

A Picture-Perfect Location On The Hudson River

The Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park boasts spectacular views of the Hudson River as well as the Catskill and Shawangunk Mountains.

A large ancient tree with a limb framing the Hudson River in the background.
This ancient tree in the back yard of the Vanderbilt Mansion overlooks the Hudson River.

According to my tour guide, by the turn of the 20th century, the wealthiest families in the country had built palatial houses along the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.

Pro Tip: Check out the Mohonk Mountain House while you’re in the area. They have a Day Pass that gives you access to miles of trails.

The landscape surrounding the Vanderbilt mansion has been restored to its 1930s appearance, and includes five acres of tiered gardens, gravel paths, shady arbors, ornate statues and bubbling fountains.

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Info On Vanderbilt Mansion Tours Hyde Park

Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt didn’t have children. After Frederick’s death in 1938, he left the house to Louise’s niece, Margaret Van Alen.

Since Margaret had no interest in the house, the Vanderbilts’ neighbor in Hyde Park, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, suggested converting it into a national park.

Today, the Vanderbilts’ Hyde Park home is preserved and operated as the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.

Aa rounded arbor made of brick with sturdy brick columns in the garden at the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park.
You can roam the grounds and gardens at the Vanderbilt Mansion.

The grounds are free to roam, but house tours are $10. The timing of the tours varies by season so check the Vanderbilt Mansion’s calendar before your travels.

The Vanderbilt Mansion tour of the house lets you see about 18 rooms on three floors.

Pro Tip: The House is not air conditioned and get quite hot in the summer months. Stay hydrated.

After the tour, leave time to stroll the Italian-style gardens and admire the mansion’s beaux arts architecture from the outside.

I wish I had known about the hiking trail, which is a scenic 3-mile walk that loops around the grounds and the neighboring Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site.

Why Is The Vanderbilt Mansion In Hyde Park?

The Hudson River held special significance for the Vanderbilts, because in the early 1800s, Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt began a ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan.

Cornelius Vanderbilt was Frederick’s grandfather, who laid the foundation for the Vanderbilt fortune.

The Legacy Of A Grand Gilded Age Mansion

With more than 600 acres of landscaped property and a palatial Beaux-Arts mansion, the Vanderbilt Hyde Park estate came to symbolize the enormous wealth accumulated by a privileged few during the Gilded Age.

The side of the Vanderbilt Mansion in New Hyde NY with 6 white pillars and steps leading up to the granite home.
The outside of the Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park.

Typical features of Beaux-Arts buildings include a large and grandiose appearance; symmetrical facade (both sides of the central entrance are identical); exterior columns or pilasters (rectangular columns attached to a wall); wall surfaces embellished with floral patterns, garlands, medallions, or similar details; and a flat, low-pitched roof.

The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond is another example of a Beaux-Arts building.

Where Did The Term The ‘Gilded Age’ Come From?

The term Gilded Age was actually termed by renowned authors Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their 1873 book, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.

The term refers to the process of gilding an object with a superficial layer of gold to improve its appearance.

Established millionaires viewed families like the Vanderbilts, who flaunted their wealth by building ostentatious homes, throwing extravagant balls and using their money to buy social prominence, as gilded–all show.

The Gilded Age estates flourished in the 1890s, until the income tax (1913), World War I (1914), and Great Depression (1930s), made their upkeep practically impossible.

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Planning A Trip To The Vanderbilt Mansion

I really enjoyed the Hudson River Valley and did a lot of sightseeing during my visit.

One of the highlights was a tour of West Point Military Academy where I got to see inside the stunning Cadet Chapel.

I spent a night at the beautiful Thayer Hotel at West Point and then spent two nights at the historic Mohonk Mountain House.

When you’re done with your Vanderbilt mansion tour you can head over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, which is only a few miles away, as is the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and the Franklin Roosevelt Library and Museum.

If you’re traveling with kids, then stop by the Llama/Alpaca Hike and Farm Tour. They have all kinds of animals to visit on 25 acres.

No matter where you’ll traveling, make sure you check out these Travel Resources before your trip.

Where To Stay Near The Vanderbilt Mansion Hyde Park

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