banner search whats new site index home

Tuxedo Park Village

Tuxedo Park Village Hall is located at 80 Lorillard Road, Tuxedo Park NY 10987; phone: 845-351-4745.

Historic Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Portions of the text below were selected, transcribed, and/or adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Description

The village of Tuxedo Park, a private residential community, comprises architecturally and historically significant buildings, two lakes, a pond, and the remains of the old Continental Road, constructed in 1778. The parklands, part of the Kittatinny or South Mountain Range, are characterized by a series of picturesque hills and valleys which follow a north-south orientation. The hilly terrain lies between Cairn Mountain, 1120 feet, and Eagle Mountain, 1072 feet. Specific land formations in the village include: Tower Hill, 900 feet, Fox Hill, 801 feet and Bog Meadow, 760 feet.

There are several early references to what is now called Tuxedo Lake, one of the three lakes or ponds in the village, indicating that originally it must have been a small spring-fed pond nestling among rugged hills. Its water was so nearly on a level with the Sterling and Ringwood valleys that during the Revolution, a dam was placed across the outlet at the north, and the water of the lake made to flow to the southwest to supply the Ringwood furnace in New Jersey. In 1886 and the ensuing years, Pierre Lorillard had a new dam built making a 'Trout Pond,' changed the outlet of the lake to its present position, and had the track of the outlet filled in, graded, and made into tennis courts.

Tuxedo Lake now covers 291 acres, Pond No. Three, or Lower Wee-Wah, 12.6 acres, and Wee-Wah Lake, 51 acres. Tuxedo Lake supplies water for all of the residents of the park. While swimming is not permitted, boating is. The lake is secluded, not always visible from the surrounding thicket. The immediate terrain is rocky with precipitous hills and deep woods. There is a predominance of oak, hemlock, beech, ash and chestnut.

Several years ago, when the Wee-Wah was drained, the remains of the old Continental Road were found practically intact, the logs still lying as the revolutionaries had laid them.

Originally conceived as a hunting and fishing preserve for Pierre Lorillard and friends, Tuxedo Park has become a residential park with church, school, and a formidable gate lodge. Estimated population in 1978 was 965.

Of the 286 structures surveyed, 122 or 42 percent were constructed in the nineteenth century, 100 or 35 percent were constructed before World War II and 64 or 23 percent after World War II.

The physical integrity of most of the structures in the village is unusually good. Almost all of the larger estates are beautifully maintained and there is an expressed desire on the part of the owners to continue with their efforts in spite of rising costs. Only a handful of the original architect-designed houses have undergone modifications, and most of the post-war structures were designed to fit in with Lorillard's early conception of wedding structure to site.

The property includes all of the original park as created by Lorillard, which was sustained intact by the Tuxedo Park Association until December 1978. The Tuxedo Park Association has been converted from a public corporation to a limited partnership with three general partners who have jurisdiction only over their property. They own about 400 acres, approximately 1/10 of the entire village, and approximately 4,000 acres in the town of Tuxedo, which circles the village. The new partnership is now called the Tuxedo Park Associates.

Tuxedo Park is classified as a fourth-class village in the New York State charter which allows maintenance of private roads. There is no public, state, or municipal assistance given.

Significance

Tuxedo Park is a well preserved village in Orange County, New York with excellent architect-designed buildings dating from 1886. Often described as the first fully integrated suburb, it contains a great number of significant buildings and sites which retain the scale and quality of a turn of century residential park. The vitality of its landscape is derived from judicious planning and appropriateness of siting. As a milieu for social and architectural experimentation, it inspired much of the cultural expression of the early 1900's.

The area of Orange County which today comprises Tuxedo Park was once included in the Augusta Tract. The title to the land is derive from the Chesecock patent. Essentially a region of rocky ridges, swamp and wasteland, it contained 13,000 acres and came to the Lorillard family in 1814. For most of the early nineteenth century, the tract was unproductive, but with the completion of the nearby Erie Railroad in the mid-1880's, lumbering and mining operations began to be carried on with some success; they were, however, soon discontinued. By 1885, Pierre Lorillard V had obtained control of some 7,000 acres of the original tract, most of it on the west side of the Ramapo River, and conceive the idea of a hunting and fishing preserve for himself and friends. The original scheme included the introduction of certain game species and the stocking of two lakes and one pond which are on the property, but within a short time, the plan was broadened to include a residential park.

Lorillard, a tobacco magnate, sold his "Breakers" (Peabody and Stearns) estate in Newport to Alfred Vanderbilt and set about organizing what was intended to be a simpler suburban community. He summoned landscape engineer Eugene Bowditch from Boston, hired a small army of Italian immigrant laborers, and commissioned architect Bruce Price to design several cottages within the 5,000 odd acres he had already enclosed within an eight-foot wire fence. The plan called for the construction of a complete, pre-planned community, and within a few years, stores, cottages, schoolhouses, churches, a library and a hospital were raised to support the residents of the Park and the small army of workmen and domestic help they employed.

A stock-holding company, the Tuxedo Park Association, was incorporated in 1886 to oversee park functions and services, and to screen prospective applicants for residence. Money and status were behind many of the names of those who bought land and built homes. Astor, Baker, Mortimer, Julliard, Goelet, Trask, Mason and Poor were all leaders in the world of business and finance, and their names were indicative of requirements for admission.

The 'golden age' of architectural construction in the Park continued most vigorously through the 1890's and into the early twentieth century. It was during this period that Tuxedo came into its own as a wealthy resort community and such amenities as a golf course, race track, squash and tennis courts were completed. Architects enjoyed the patronage of affluent families and American architecture benefited immeasurably from the degree of freedom and avenues of experimentation they were afforded.

It is of pressing interest to the student of American domestic architecture to examine the buildings of Tuxedo Park, because since its inception in 1886, examples of almost every phase of design or 'style' have been constructed there, and many of the leading architects of the time were and are still represented.

The first houses were generally frame cottages intended only for occasional use. Progressively they were occupied for longer periods of time and built of more substantial materials. The nature of the terrain lent itself to the construction of houses designed to incorporate and utilize the rough landscape. Each house was surrounded by sufficient land to entirely detach it from its neighbors. Frequently, they were located on high crags, skillfully placed to give privacy and a wide, extensive view of wooded hillside and the distant lake. Architects were encouraged, along ideas formulated by Lorillard, and certainly in response to the shift in architectural attitudes which began in America with Andrew Jackson Downing, to subordinate their constructions to the natural beauty of their surroundings. Bruce Price, for example, exploited the rough materials found on the site, and developed an original and vigorous style. His simple, shingled cottages were brought to a point of momentary perfection, unequalled elsewhere. Of the Shingle style in general, so heavily represented in the Park, these houses were "the freest and on the whole, among the most generous forms that the United States has yet produced, and they created that kind of architectural environment. In their own way, they were the gentlest forms: the most relaxed and spiritually open...the most wholly wedded to the landscape."[1]

Popular contemporary styles were not excluded however, and structures in Tudor Revival, Spanish Mission, Georgian, Jacobean, Gothic Revival, Romanesque, Queen Anne and Dutch Colonial Revival are all represented. Architects frequently incorporated elements of these styles, combining motifs of Old World architecture with more contemporary ideas. Although some of these hybrids are not generally thought of as successful, being as they are a compromise between the owner's concepts and architectural realities, the great majority of them represent a tasteful and refined amalgamation of elements of the classic styles.

McKim, Mead and White, James Renwick, Jr., William A. Bates, James Brown Lord, Russell Sturgis, Wilson Eyre, William Lescaze, and Bruce Price, are a few of the architects whose work can still be seen with relatively few modifications. Eyre and Price have been frequently acknowledged as precursors to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Seen together, the houses do not constitute the exaggerated picture of super-suburb which Newport, for example, does. Historically, and still today, the Park emerges as a romantic and picturesque setting for the affluent; but in addition, there is evidence of a practical and realistic community based on a thorough knowledge of the social and economic implications of its time. Behind the massive stone walls and monumental, isolating Gate Lodge, there is also evidence of a new, limitless and qualitatively different universe, containing mountain and lake, woods and hills. For antecendents, perhaps one must look more to the Oriental than the Western world. Descriptions of the old Chinese and Japanese parks echo the spontaneous spirit that seemed to be at work here when Lorillard, Price and Bowditch set to work, given a vitality of landscape that demanded certain original solutions.

Endnote

[1] Vincent J. Scully, Jr. The Shingle Style and the Stick Style, (New Haven: Yale Rev. ed., 1971), p. xx.

References

American Architecture and Building News, Various issues dating from 1890 through 1910.

Amory, Cleveland. The Last Resorts. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1952.

Embury III, Aymar. One Hundred Country Houses. New York: Century Co., 1909.

Ferree, Barr. American Estates and Gardens. New York: Munn and Co., 1904.

Graybill, Jr. Samuel H. Bruce Price, American Architect 1845-1903. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957.

Headley, Russel. The History of Orange County, New York. Middletown, New York.

Hitchcock, Henry R. In the Nature of Materials. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pierce, 1942.

Kent, Edwin C. The Isle of Long Ago. New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1933.

King, Moses. Notable New Yorkers. 1896-1899. New York: Bartlett and Co., 1899.

Lancaster, Clay. The Japanese Influence in America. New York: Walton H. Rawls, 1963.

Maass, John. The Victorian House in America. New York: Hawthorne Books, 1972.

Moore, Charles. The Life and Times of Charles Follen McKim. New York: Houghton, 1929.

Post, Emily. "Tuxedo Park, An American Rural Community," The Century Magazine. New York: The Century Co., vol. LX, 1911.

Ransom, James M. Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1966.

Rushmore, George M. The World with a Fence Around It. New York: Pageant Press, Inc. 1957.

Ruttenber, E. M. and Clark, L. H. History of Orange County, New York. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1881.

Scully, Jr. Vincent J. The Shingle Style and the Stick Style. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955; Rev. Ed., 1971.

Swift, Samuel. "Community Life in Tuxedo Park," House and Garden, vol. 8, 1905.

Tuxedo Park Association Land Records: 1886 to the Present.

"Varieties in Architectural Practice, some works of Walker and Gillette," The Architectural Record, April, 1914, vol. XXXV, No. 4. Pages 277-355.

Weeks, Lyman Horace. Prominent Families of New York. New York: The Historical Co., 1897.

  1. Winaer, Lili (consultant) and Gobrect, Lawrence (N.Y. State Division for Historic Preservation), Tuxedo Park, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. • Privacy
Copyright © 1997-2014 • The Gombach Group • www.gombach.com • 12644