Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paxhurst, Tuxedo Park, NY






In 1977, my wife and I scraped together every penny we had (and then some) to buy this beautiful old house in Tuxedo Park, New York. It was designed in 1904 by the firm of Barney and Chapman for William Mitchell Vail Hoffman. Hoffman was a prototypical Park type. The family firm was a player in the Manhattan real estate market. As well as being very social, which was the rule in the Park back then, they were very Episcopalian as well. One brother was a bishop. We bought Paxhurst for $175,000 - a spectacular deal - despite which we were spectacularly unable to hold on to it. It was really my doing, and my then wife bears little guilt for our abbreviated 3-year stay.

Image 1 - Here's the house from the air. The driveway loops down a steep hill and exits the property through stone posts beyond the stable, which is just out of sight at the bottom of the frame.
Image 2 - When we came, the drive had lawned over, as we say. We bought the adjoining stable and reunited it to the original estate, although to call it an "estate" sounds a bit grand, seing as it was only 5 acres. On weekends I restored the drive by hand, cutting away years of turf to expose the gravel and the hand laid stone gutter - truly the definition of a "labor of love."
Image 3 - It was a very impressive stone house - original in design, magnificent in scale, sumptuous in detail.
Image 4 - We parked our car in front of these steps.
Image 5 - Here are the original owners. That's Mr. Hoffman in the middle, wearing his weekend hat. His wife, the former Irene Stoddard, is on the right. We never discovered the name of the fellow on the left.

14 comments:

  1. Wow. I have heard you talk about it , but I have never seen a picture of it

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  2. This is a great site! I love old houses. Thanks for a peek inside their doors.

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  3. I discovered Tuxedo Park when I read Laura Shaine Cunningham's book "A Place in the Country" several years ago. I love this glimpse you give into some of those places. I also cry for historic homes that have been lost. How lucky for you to have owned one! That is an unfilled dream of mine. Instead, I settle for walking Hudson Valley mansions and for a few minutes pretend that I live there. Lucky for me that I am a writer with a creative imagination that lets me feel right at home!

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  4. Thank you for sharing this with everybody. This is a wonderful home. My father purchased this house in 1984 and has been in my family ever since. My sister and I are the current owners and its great to see that the house has had such a positive effect on your life as it has for us. I really do enjoy seeing some of the old photographs and my father would have really enjoyed them as well. I spent much of my childhood exploring tuxedo park and it truly was a wonderland!

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  5. Do you know if this was a multiple family dwelling in the late sixties? And is it up the hill from a big white building which used to be a girls school? There wood be a Chapel overlooking the steep hill down the back leading to a an antiquated tennis court and the turret was accessible through one of the upper apartments. Could it have been know for a time as "The Villa"? I ask as it is very reminiscent of a home my family lived within (divided into 5 apartments) in 1967 & '68. My name is David E. Davis III and my father who was then Publisher/Editor of Car & Driver moved us to Tuxedo Park for a year and half after living in Oyster bay Long Island, we have no family photos of the home sadly so I am searching. You may contact me at dedavis321@yahoo.com >Congratulations on the lovely and amazing structure, I have had dreams of Tuxedo Park all my life. >Sincerely Dave Davis

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    1. The Villa Apartments was also known originally as the Trask Estate and then the Loomis Laboratory (WWII radar development), the school you mention is the Academy of Mount Saint Vincent (private girls school). I lived at the Villa Apartments for two or three years in the mid-sixties.

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  6. Hello David, The house has been in my family since the early 80's and it has never been a multi family home. I think I know the area you are talking about. It really is an amazing structure. You could always email me at Richiehartmann@aol.com.

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  7. Iam sure that this is the castle that I used to vacation in about 50 years ago. One of my mothers cousins and her husband owned it. I used to roll down the front lawn with the dog and I have some older pictures of what we called the music room, main hallway and drawing room. It was a beautiful place.

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  8. Mu cousin and her husband has lived in this house. It is very beautiful on the inside. I have pictures of it.

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  9. Would you be willing to share some of your old pictures? I could send you some current ones if you wish. Thank You.
    RichieHartmann@aol.com

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  10. Hi John,
    W.M.V. Hoffman was my grandfather. His son, my father, was Charles F. Hoffman who grew up in the house. Thanks for posting these pictures.
    - gofastguypete@hotmail.com

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  11. As a student in a Philosophy course (Whitehead) given by Professor Richard M. Martin of NYU https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Milton_Martin , I was invited to a May 1971 end of term party at Paxhurst. It was an astounding home and an visit. Richard's wife was an NYU Institute of Fine Arts professor. Richard said he had purchased the home (I vaguely recall about 10 years before but am not certain of that date) from "Gussie" Hoffman. Gussie had studied at Harvard and had taken a course from Whitehead there. He had left Richard with notes from that course that Richard showed me. Other students made their way to the tower level. (The house built on a cliff has a lot of levels, maybe seven). I was intercepted by Richard who said it was not fit for visitors that day and had to retreat back to the main level with its ballroom and other large rooms. We mainly sat in a sort of Florida room with faded teal crosshatching on the ceiling that was left as original painting. Richard said that the house had 55 rooms servants' rooms that in 1971 were empty, unused and dirty and though he had lived in the house for more than 10 years, had never been interested in visiting. A kitchen level was mentioned. Richard said that at times the house was considered a white elephant and that he had gotten it a such bargain. It would be marvelous to visit Paxhurst again.

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    1. http://www.portals-to-the-past.com/tuxedoparkresidents.html suggests that the house was called High Tor when owned by the Hoffmans. Paxhurst does indeed seem like a name that Richard Martin would have come up with. That url has more pictures and information about the Hoffmans.

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