Historic Structures

Edgewater Mansion, Barrytown New York

Date added: February 20, 2010 Categories: New York House Mansion Greek Revival

Edgewater was constructed for John R. Livingston of Massena as a gift for his daughter after her marriage in 1819 to Captain Rawlins Lowndes Brown of Charleston, South Carolina. John Livingston, one of ten children'of the distinguished Judge Robert Livingston and Margaret Beekman Livingston, made his home along the Hudson on land that had been part of the extensive Beekman patent. Strong family ties and important land holdings made generations of Livingston descendants an important force along the Hudson. (See Montgomery Place for another Livingston Mansion in the area.)

The choice of a temple-fronted design, a new type in the Hudson Valley, might have been made by Captain Brown or perhaps as an effort to make him at home in the north. The Browns lived at Edgewater for thirty years. By 1853, the railroad exercised its right of way and had built tracks close to the house. After Captain Brown died and the only child, Harriet, married Mr. Solvyn of the Belgian Embassy, Mrs. Brown sold Edgewater to accompany her daughter to London where Solvyn was the representative of King Leopold. Many of the original furnishings are now in the possession of a descendent in Europe.

The estate was sold to Robert Donaldson, the noted patron of A. J. Davis and former owner of the Davis-designed Blithewood at Fishkill, New York. Donaldson was a native North Carolinan with financial interests in New York and North Carolina. His wife, Susan, was the daughter of the North Carolina Supreme Court Justice William Gaston. They spent winters in Fayettevllle, North Carolina, and summers on the Hudson, and in later years favored Edgewater.

As Darvis' patron and friend, Donaldson secured many commissions for him, such as his work at the University of North Carolina, and also introduced him to Andrew Johnson Downing. When the architect had financial problems, Donaldson lent money to Davis to publish Rural Residences.

Donaldson bought the two hundred-fifty acre property for speculation and subdivision. He planned to have Davis design a villa for him on a hilltop lot. After living at the house for a year, he wrote to Davis, "You will be surprised and perhaps pained? to learn that I have given up all purposes of building a villa upon the heights and intend to live and die in this Greek temple."

Donaldson then commissioned Davis to make numerous improvements to the house and property: a library addition, gatehouses, chapel, schoolhouse, garden structures, workers' cottages, and a boathouse.