Monday, August 8, 2011

Tioronda, Beacon, NY



Jazzy and I just finished our 20th annual "father-daughter vacation" - sky diving, West Point, Millbrook cocktail parties, Albany. While driving north on Route 9D we spotted this enormous decaying mansion just south of the city of Beacon. I made a U-turn immediately, drove up to the front and pulled out my camera.





Besides being a major house, it was clearly a pre-Civil War design, confirmed by this plaque on the left side of the entrance facade. The house also had the air of recent - well, maybe not so recent - institutional use, although there were no identifying signs to say by whom or for what purpose.





It took considerable cross researching on the internet before I discovered that this is Tioronda, the former showplace estate of General Joseph Howland (1834-1886), Civil War hero, Beacon philanthropist, and childless patron of the cause of mental health. Howland's sister married the famous American architect Richard Morris Hunt. His nephew was Hunt's famous architect son, Richard Howland Hunt. This, I thought, was pretty cool stuff.





Of course I wondered whether Hunt Sr. had designed the house, but it turns out the architect was Frederick Clarke Withers, at one time partner of the much more famous Calvert Vaux (pronounced 'VOX'). Vaux's name is recognizable to many of us as half of Vaux and Olmstead, the architectural landscapers who designed many nineteenth century parks, prime among them Manhattan's Central Park.




Tioronda today has that unfortunate "rocks through the windows" look, one that wounds the heart of every old house lover. Beyond those windows plenty of fallen plaster and water-damaged parquet is visible. Very sad.





In 1873 General Howland added a music room designed by brother-in-law Richard Morris Hunt. I believe it's in this wing, located at the southeast end of the house. Howland's widow died at Newport, R.I. in 1917, by which time she had already donated her Beacon estate to her husband's favorite cause, mental health. In 1915, Tironda became the first licensed private psychiatric hospital in the United States. Renamed Craig House, for reasons I cannot discover, it functioned for 80 years as a high class sanitarium. Zelda Fitzgerald, the deeply troubled wife of F.Scott, was among the famous and the merely rich who were hospitalized here.





In 1995 the Craig House was purchased by something called Putnam Center Inc., which intended to continue psychiatric services under the name Craig House Center. That's the music room peeking over the top of this hideous new addition. That brutalist retaining wall supports a swimming pool. I don't know if responsibility for this lies with Putnam Center or the former owners.





Someone will have to pay in the Court of Architectural Guilt for both the swimming pool addition and the motel wing connected to it.





From the road, at least, you can't see the new design work, whose invisibility is about the best I can say for it. Tioronda is a house one could truly love and cherish, but its prospects don't look good. It's been vacant since 1999.




46 comments:

  1. Michele from BostonAugust 9, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    Another heartbreaker. Thankfully, you were unable to find any interior photos. I get even more upset when I see the falling plaster and buckled floors as well as evidence of rampant vandalism. Why is it in our culture that it is better to spend oodles of cash on a pretentious McMansion instead of spending it on rehabilitating an old darling like this?

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  2. What a fabulous house. And what interesting facts (like its links to Vaux and Olmstead) your research turned up. Goodness, what a pity about its current state, though!

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  3. I'm always happy to see this place is at least getting a little notice. From time to time I'll run across an article in one of the local papers with someone's latest suggestion for preserving or re-using Tioranda, but nothing ever seems to come of it. It seems to me that its standing in such a prominent location would keep the issue in the forefront of the local public's mind. But evidently it doesn't. Either nobody cares, or else everything that's been suggested so far has been too costly.

    Anyway, you are correct about the red brick wing containing the music room that was designed by Hunt. Frederick Clarke Withers himself had been invited to come to the U.S. and work with Andrew Jackson Downing at Newburgh, just as Calvert Vaux had been invited a year earlier, but Downing died not very long after he arrived, so Withers and Vaux formed their own partnership. Withers also designed the Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie and the Jefferson Market Courthouse in NYC.

    By the way, Tioranda's grounds were designed by Henry Winthrop Sargent, friend of and collaborator with A.J. Downing on a few books, along with being a close neighbor of the Howlands. In its day, Sargent's estate "Woodenthe" was said to have some of the best-managed views, loveliest grounds and finest specimen plantings in this country. A certain type of weeping hemlock is named after Sargent. Woodenthe's main house was later donated to Craig House and became a residence for its workers. It was eventually burned and razed to make way for a housing development. A few more pictures of both Tioranda and Woodenthe can be found by searching Google Books under the title "Beacon Revisited" if anyone is interested.

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  4. Just correcting my above comment...I think Sargent's place was actually called "Wodonethe."

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  5. This is the sanatarium that Jane Fonda's mother, Frances Ford Seymour (Fonda) committed suicide in. She slashed her own throat with a razor blade on April 14th, 1950...her 42nd birthday. I'm sure the place is filled with all kinds of energy.

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  6. On wikimedia I found a photo of this house when it was still pretty new.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Landscape_view%2C_from_Howland%27s_Mansion%2C_Fishkill%2C_Newburgh_in_the_distance%2C_by_E._%26_H.T._Anthony_%28Firm%29.png

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  7. Anonymous's Wickimedia photo, sjhowing the house from the south before the music room addition, is a terrific find. Thanks!

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  8. I used to work at the Craig House as a nurses aide in the 60's) and I can tell you it was an amazingly gorgeous old home - but also very 'scary'. Much of the 'scare' came from the patients to be sure, but I was a young woman the. The day shift wasn't bad but I worked 2nd shift ALONE, in that huge house. What I remember as the music room was huge and contained a pipe organ. At that time there was a also 'rubber' room, literally, which is probably common in any psych hospital, but what did I know. I was saddened to hear that old Tioronda is closed and has fallen into disrepair.

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    1. My aunt worked there as a nurse in the 50's and 60's. Did you know Anne King?

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  9. It brings tears to my eyes to see Tioronda the way it is today! I was the marketing assistant not long before Craig House Hospital closed. I gave tours of the hospital to mental health professionals.

    Yes, there is a historic organ in the music room that was tuned in 1996 and sounded incredible! It is not registered with the Organ Historical Society, although it probably should have been. The library had thousands of first edition books and beautiful wood throughout the entire house. The bedrooms in Tioronda served as the offices for the administrative staff of the hospital. My office was the first door at the top of the stairs. I also remember when the original slate roof was removed and replaced with shingles. It was depressing to watch, but understanding that the cost to fix and/or replace the slate roof was astronomical.

    I was lucky enough to speak to Dr. Slocum about how his father turned Tioronda into a private psychiatric hospital in 1915. It was named "Craig House", after an "open" psychiatric hospital in Edinburg, Scotland where the patients were free to roam the hospital. There were numerous famous individuals that stayed at Craig House both under assumed names and their own.

    I saw Craig House this past weekend and couldn't believe how incredibly sad Tioronda looks. Even the wheeping hemlock has lost its beauty due to what looks like disease. The outline of that tree was the logo for the hospital. You can find another of Sargent's Wheeping Hemlocks in the Harvard Arboretum. As far as I know, those are the only two left of the original ones found on the hills of Beacon. You can read more specific information about the tree here: http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1107.pdf

    The addition that you see in the back is where the patient rooms were located. It's been a long time since I gave the tour, but I believe the children were on the bottom floor and the adults on the top floor. There were security doors that separated the areas.

    This is the most recent information that I found on Tioronda: http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/rob/?p=277

    I can only hope that the owner, Mr. Stewart, will one day bring this spectacular home back to life.

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    1. I would like to personally hear from this person (Dianna)that left this message.... Historical and personal reasons... Ron Theriault-----Hairsuit63@yahoo.com...

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  10. Tioranda was purchased by a Nobel Prize winner who planned to use it to house his art collection. It was on the market for years for sale. It is a 63 acre property with seven buildings. In addition to Zelda Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Gleason and Truman Capote were among the famous who stayed there at some time.

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  11. In addition, there has been submission of plans for the property to be subdivided at least two different ways and for original mansion to stay.

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  12. What will become of the Johnson organ in the music room?

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  13. I also worked at Craig House in the early 80s and find it heartbreaking to learn of the decay of building and trees,I know many of the landscaping was imported and special and great effort & care was always taken.I was an employee many things were changing,and the new wing was added to faciliate drug/substance abuse issues for adults and children.There was a "geratric" wing for long time patients and also a "locked" wing for patients.In the old part there were patients who had lived there for a very long time,only about three patients lived in the upstairs part..When I first started working there were also outside buildings (houses) that housed patients also. One of the buildings name was "Fairway" that I worked in.across the street was another house that contained "padded" room.It was a wonderful and facinating place to have worked,Im sure half the residence of Beacon have had worked there at one time or another.Any one intrested in more info,should contact a Beacon resident.Such a shame to see it all falling apart.Beautiful in its day!!!!

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    1. You may have been there during my stay. I had one of the upstairs bedrooms. I was 20 at the time. Dr. Koch was my physician. There was a counselor named Gary Nichols who committed suicide shortly after I left. Lots of sad stories associated with that hospital.

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    2. I can't believe I read this. I was looking up information about Gary and found your comment. Gary Nichols was the most brilliant and effective person I've every met.

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    3. I agree with you about Gary. Have you found any information about him?

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  14. I grew up in Beacon and, find it heart wrenching to see this building falling to shambles. I remember riding down route 9D, and seeing how magnificent the area was. I moved out of Beacon in 1997, and now when I visit we drive past the old Craig House and it is in ruins. Such a shame for it to go to waste, it should be donated to the historical society or something like that. Beacon is so rich in history and has many beautiful old buildings, Bannermans island is also very close, growing up in this area full of history was phenomenal to learn.

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  15. I was actually a patient there at the age of 19 when Craig House was doing long term treatment for chemical dependency. It was a beautiful place, but scary as well. There were elderly patients there that had been there for many, many years. I stayed in the most incredible room upstairs with four poster bed and private bath. Truman Capote was a patient at the time I was there. There was an especially charming cottage on the grounds where the art director lived, I always remember it. The music roon was dark and sort of gothic. The addition that was put on was for people first coming in on restriction. It was like a "Days Inn" - plain, lots of beige...institutional. The food was PHENOMENAL! Lots of IBMers kids there during the early 80's.

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  16. As a Beacon resident and an architect I worry about the future of the Graig House. It is truly a treasure even though it has been bastardized over the years. I know developers salivate over the property and the last thing we need is another crappy sub-division like the Polo Fields. Hopefully it will fall into the hands of the right people.

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  17. I too worked at the Craig House during the summer when I was 16.I remember the beautiful organ also. I would sometimes work in the dinning room. Some of the patients had individual tables. Beautiful silverware and dinnerware. I would sometimes "work in one of the cottages. My job was to take the 3 tired metal containers of food (brought over from the main house by a driver) up the stairway to the attendant that was caring for the patient.I did this for the 3 meals. Then I washed the container in the small kitchen and it went back for the next meal. I had a large beautiful room with a bed and desk and chairs. I would sweep and mop the room and kitchen and small bathroom (downstairs only )That was some easy but boring job. No TV - but I did read a lot !. I heard the patient upstairs was the wife of a well known newspaper magnate. She would play the piano beautifully.I never met her but would here her say "I want to see that girl downstairs" . A few of us girls stayed for the summer in rooms over the carriage house.There was an older women who acted as house mother. We could go into town on Sat and Sun if I remember correctly. We were all afraid to walk past certain houses on the property that were supposed to be haunted. The property was gorgeous and Well maintained.As others I now pass this once glorious house with sadness. To see the decline is like a slow death. I also wonder why it cannot be on the historical register.Memories...like the corners of my mind....

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  18. I live near this wonderful house. Good news - new windows have been installed with no apparent degradation of appearance. All the out buildings have been stabilized with non-offensive covering over windows and doors and new roofs and painted trim. Workers are occasionally on site, but other than what I have mentioned, there is little evident progress. The local community is eager for a restoration.

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  19. Hello,
    I worked at Craig House and so did two of my relatives. I was trained by Dr. Slocum in the morning classes at Craig House. In the evenings I experienced working in all of the buildings on the property.
    I am now a doctor and hope that Beacon will restore this wonderful historical building. Craig House was once exclusively for the rich and famous. I remember all the wonderful patients! I am thankful for the training I received.
    Dr. Nancy

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    1. My great aunt, Constance Whitney Warren, was a patient there for many years, ending in her death in 1948. I'm doing research into her life - she was an accomplished sculptress - and am trying to obtain her records from her time at Craig House. Do you have any information about her or how I could track down her records?

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    2. Hope you get this message, I knew all the doctors there, Dr. Voght, deceased ans is Jonathan Slocum, who owned the place. Howard Smaoller was a shrink there and he is still around, Beacon, I think, try to look him up.

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  20. I was working at Craig House when it closed... and I had the pleasure of guarding the building for 2 years after it closed. I basically got paid to live there after it was empty. It was a little creepy. I know every nook and cranny of this place.

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  21. I am also a Beacon resident. We have seen restoration going on at Bannerman's Island, the Beacon Fire Tower,the riverfront, Main Street, Dennings Point, the Roundhouse and I could go on. We have seen Hiddenbrooke, the base if Mt. Beacon and the University Settlement Camp saved from developers. It's time some of us get together to save Craig House/Tioronda and just as importantly it's beautifully landscaped grounds!!! Maybe the gentlemen that has been turning the Roundhouse complex into a beautifully landscsped restaurant and boutique hotel can next work his magic on Craig House.

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  22. This is Great!! I must have visit this place many times, in fact just last week.. I am so fascinated by it's Historic architect and old 1859 wall that still stands as a reminder, after 153 years. I myself was born 1959 so I have this attachment and motivation for going at it on a photo venture. It's great because I have taking many photographs that in some, I capture ghostly Orbs.. Real Orbs!!
    For the many people that have died and passed on, few still remain..

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  24. I am sorry to say that Tioronda burned last night. There was a video on Facebook this morning. An amazing, beautiful mansion, and a LOT of history..... lost to flames. It should have been saved. Another one being lost to decay is Halcyon Hall in Millbrook. But hey, it frees up more land so Toll Brothers can come in and build more developments, right?!?

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  25. It was the administration building, not the mansion THANK GOD!

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    1. Wow.. that's better news...

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  26. Dutchess GIS still shows owner as Tioronda LLC. And yes... rumor has it that the property owner wants to build homes on the property.

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  27. Devastating historical loss to have Tioronda burned to the ground, likely by vandalism! I grew up with Craig House practically next door, so sad.

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  28. Thank God it wasn't the Mansion...............

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  29. I heard this morning for the first time that the mansion is up for sale... I only pray that the new owner, whoever it may be, will again use it for the purpose it was intended after being left by the owners wife as a institution for mental health...

    Ronald Theriault
    Cazenovia, NY

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  30. I stayed there as a patient for 4 years in the early 80's.

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  31. I worked there from 1986 to 1989 as a medical transcriptionist. My husband was teaching at West Point and I made the commute every day. Dr. Constantine Vardopolous was the Director and his son, Basil Vardopolous ran the place. Mrs. Vardopolous was often seen walking around "observing" and was a behind the scenes taskmistress!
    Dr. V gave me permission to go up into the attic for a half hour every morning to review old medical records. This was fascinating! I hope they got those old records out of there before the building was abandoned. I wonder what happened to the Vardopolouses. I enjoyed working there.

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  32. I stayed there in the late 90s in the juvenile ward. Everyone is right, it was a beautiful building with quite a history. But for me, it was a true house of horrors. I think with beautiful historical places many of us forget that some of these buildings were home to some of the worst experiences in others lives. I just want people to be respectful of that. Sometimes we should leave things alone.

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  33. I had the pleasure of being a client at Craig House in 1995. I had been living in my car in NJ and somehow strings were pulled for NJ medicaid to pay for my 49 day stay. I remember the huge organ in the mansion and the beautiful architecture. Jackie Gleason had donated a pool table (nice table) for his frequent stays I was told. I am forever grateful for Craig House and the staff. I remember a fantastic counselor named Helen that would always comment when one of the patients would have a problem "What a wonderful opportunity to grow". I had no hope to live and with this being maybe my 30th detox/rehab I didn't think Craig House would make a difference in my life. I have been clean since March of 95 and continue to carry the message of recovery to anybody that has the willingness to try to live differently.

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  34. I recently heard that the building was sold to some well known movie director? Anyone else hear this? I hope it's restored and not subdivided into more condos/townhouses.

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  35. For sale. 8 million if you have it. What a shame. Also resident there was Rose Marie Kennedy post labotomy.

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  36. Went past today, still a beautiful building. Took a right from 9D onto Grandview and then 1st right onto Smith Ave (dead end). There is property looks like an old school, maybe the neighborhood school from the late 1800's. Anyone know about this building? Also at the end of the dead end is a boarded up mill.

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