Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Best Old House (1 of 4)

In the spring of 1975, while serving on a Manhattan drug trial jury, I noticed an ad in the New York Times for a country house for rent in Tuxedo Park, NY. The phone number turned out to be for a firm of family retainers, one of whom the following weekend showed me the house. Seeing Tuxedo for the first time, even in its damaged 1970s condition, was like discovering heaven. The house in the ad was called Sunny Rock, built in 1905 for one Ambrose Monell, famous among other things for the invention of a nickel alloy that bore his name. The last owner had died, his son was working in Paris, and the estate decided the house was better rented than left untenanted. My fraternity brother Jimmy and his future wife Libby went in on it with me and my future wife Randi. We rented Sunny Rock for a year, fully furnished, for $500 a month.

Sunny Rock was sited on a rugged hillside with a single drive for both family and service vehicles. This is the vehicular passage leading from the formal courtyard in front of the house to the service area behind. Under the arch to the right was a room filled with firewood so well aged it barely took more than a match to turn into a roaring fire. Note the workmanship in stone on the bay window.

This is a view of a lake view piazza accessed from the main floor drawing room via a heavy glass door. There's just a glimpse of the 1905 picture window that provided a view of the lake from indoors. How about that stonework, and the beautiful dressed stone eaves.

Here's my black cat Smokey, gone these thirty years, on the piazza at Sunny Rock. Those sliding glass panels warded off chilly evening breezes, an old-time solution to a perennial problem.

The view from the piazza, after Jimmy and I cut down a couple of trees.


  1. I thoroughly enjoy all if your posts. Keep it up! Makes my Sunday afternoons quite enjoyable.

  2. Just a sensational glimpse into what it was like in that home in a different era.

    The property today as seen in the (2007) "Tuxedo Park: The Historic Houses" book by Christian R. Sonne & Chiu Yin Hempel looks to be significantly restored.

    $500 a month to rent (even adjusted with inflation) compared to the rates charged to today for summer rentals is such a remarkable difference.

    Your posts with these fascinating looks back are most appreciated.

  3. Hi. I was doing research on my family history and found that my grandfather was a gardener for a Ambrose Monell. Decided to research this man and found this site. Amazing! My grandfather created those gardens!

    Thanks for your information, as it aided me with my research!

  4. My mother was born in the Monell gardener's cottage and when she went back for a tour in the seventies, the gardener's cottage cost more than the big houses because of the cost to heat.