Sunday, December 26, 2010

A fine old house in Millbrook






"Caradoc" was built in 1902 by the President of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, a man named Roswell Miller. It speaks to the Gilded Age "chic" of Millbrook, a smart little village in the gentle hills of Dutchess County, New York, that Miller would build here. His son, Roswell Miller Jr. eventually married Andrew Carnegie's daughter, Margaret, and built another fine house nearby.

"Caradoc" is an odd name for a country house, odder still considering the myth from which it comes. Caradoc was the name of the Chief Elder of King Arthur's Round Table, a man abused by a traveling wizard into thinking a sow was a beautiful woman. While sinning with the pig, the wizard impregnated Caradoc's wife. Years later Caradoc discovered the true paternity of his boy, at which point father and son hatched a preposterous plan to give the wizard a dose of his own porcine medicine. Unsurprisingly, there were consequences to disrespecting a wizard. Cutting to the chase, Caradoc Jr. did manage to disentangle an enchanted serpent from his arm, but only at the cost of leaving the arm itself withered, and accidentally cutting off his bride's left nipple. It's complicated, as must be the reason for the President of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul RR to name his house after these people.

Miller's wife survived him by decades, dying on Christmas Eve, 1955. Six weeks later a local restuaranteur bought the house on 57 acres for the grand sum of $35,000. He subdivided the estate - none too gently, alas - leaving the house on what would eventually boil down to a 4-acre island in the middle of a new horseshoe-shaped road. The route of this road owed more to utility than aesthetics, but interestingly, almost no new structures have been built on the estate since the late 1950s. The main house bounced through a dozen or so hands - suffering considerable hard use and neglect in the process - before the current owner bought it in 2003. A slow restoration is now under way. The original design firm, Shepley Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, MA., provided the wonderful vintage images of the house with original landscaping.

11 comments:

  1. One of my favorite houses. Have you met the owners? I would love to here an interview with them.

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  2. I did meet the owner who managed, after considerable difficulty, to find a contractor who would/could reconstruct the porte cochere. Maybe we can do a field trip there next weekend.

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  3. Fascinating how these designs get recycled. There's a virtually identical house, same architects, on Harrison Ave. in Newport RI

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  4. Dear Down East - Where on Harrison? Love to see it. Visible on google maps?

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  5. Hi John, Just found your blog! There can never be enough information out there on all these old houses and the internet and blogging is digging up new things everyday. look forward to following your blog!

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  6. I too just discovered your blog. Have spent the early part of day one of 2011 enjoying each and every post of 2010.

    Thanks so much for this new years day gift!

    I am fascinated with grand old big houses (as well as New England colonial houses) and like you, intrigued with the former occupants as well as the skilled craftsmen and the architects and the decorators that made it all....art,
    romance, history..it all almost comes alive reading your posts.




    I look forward to more in 2011.

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  7. Hi John, tonight my daughter spoke about Andrew Carnegie from a history lesson. It reminded me of the home I once lived in just outside the Millbrook village that had a connection to AC. A quick search landed me on your blog and pictures of my former bachlor pad while I was a student. As a architecture student thiis house was an excellent study. Oh, The good ol days! We has some great gatherings there. Enjoy your blog. Dante

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  8. Hi John, truly an awesome and amazing site. The pictures are fantastic. I'm a Millbrook resident...born and raised. Where exactly is Caradoc? Butts Hollow Rd?

    ~ PFD

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  9. Its off Nine Partners Lane on a small dirt road called Danielle Drive.

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  10. John,
    As you know, the porte cochere was reconstructed from scratch. The original design firm, Shepley, was kind enough to send me pics of the original. The contractor took one of the original demolished columns apart to see how it was constructed and built the new ones in the exact same manner. Between that and the original pics, Caradoc has a porte cochere in the exact image and construction of the original. My next restoration project on the outside is the north entrance but no pics exist.

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  11. John,

    This house belonged to my great great grandmother and grandfather, Mary Louise Roberts and Roswell Miller Sr. My grandmother spent her summers here. I would love to connect with you to learn more about the history of the place. My email is: Leereidtaylor@aol.com. Can we talk?

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