The Meadows/Leacote, Rhinebeck New York
The Meadows was established in 1847 by Charles Shiels Wainwright and his brother, William Pratt Wainwright. The estate, comprising a large English Gothic house erected in 1847, a dairy cottage built in 1849, a 350 acre farm, was purchased in 1875 by Douglas Merritt, the former owner of Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York. Merritt changed the name to Leacote. Over twenty-six outbuildings, were erected in the English Gothic style between 1847 and 1926. The main house was destroyed by fire in 1977. Leacote, still an operating farm, is one of twenty-one contiguous estates along the east bank of the Hudson River between Staatsburg and Tivoli, New York.
Charles Sheils Wainwright and William Pratt Wainwright bought the Meadows in 1847. The brothers were well-educated and shared a passion for the military , politics and farming. Their close friends included General John Watts de Peyster of Rose Hill; William Kelly of Ellerslie, a candidate for Governor of New York; James W. Beekman, a New York Assemblyman and Senator; and Marsena R. Patrick, President of the New York Agricultural College and military planner on the staff of Governor Morgan.
in 1854, William Wainwright married Cornelia Tillotson, a descendant of the influential Livingston family through Margaret Livingston and John Tillotson, Surgeon General to General Washington's army. The Hudson River climate did not agree with Mrs. Wainwright's health and in 1855, William sold his interest in the Meadows to his brother. In a letter to James Beekman, he wrote, "I am undecided what to do but think something of passing the summer in Sullivan County. If the country be pleasant and the farming promises to be more lucrative than on the river, we may take up permanent abode there." A year later Wainwright stated, "My wife she was much better in Sullivan, but there is no society there and her friends are all here ..." The Wainwrights traveled for Cornelias health, but spent much time at the Meadows.
When the Civil War broke out, both militia-trained brothers were eager to join the union Army. William enlisted immediately with the rank of Major in the New York Infantry. Charles hesitated to leave his elderly father and younger sister with the responsibilities of the farm, but after the August harvest enlisted in the artillery. Both Wainwrights earned the rank of Colonel under the command of Gen, John de Peyster; Charles' military career has been documented in his articulate journal, A Diary of Battle; The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles Shiels Wainwright 1861-1865. In a rare reference to the Meadows, he mentioned that the farm was run during his absence by a manager named Lewis. He spoke of good profits, but complained that the road and grounds deteriorated after the gardener was drafted.
After the war, Charles returned to Leacote. He never married. His biographer reported that he was incapacitated by blindness and malaria.
Douolas Merritt, the eldest son of George Merritt of Lyndhurst in Tarrytown purchased the Meadows two years after his father's death in 1875. In a December 26, 1874, letter to A.J. Davis, longtime family friend and architect of Lyndhurst, he wrote, "If I get a farm at all I should prefer one with a house already built." He changed the Meadows' name to Leacote, an anglicized name more suited to his taste.
In 1876, Merritt married Elizabeth Cleveland Coxe, daughter of the bishop of western New York State. They had two children, Ethel and Alan. Merritt, a lawyer who practiced in Rhinebeck. also operated Leacote as a working farm: twenty-six farm structures were built during his lifetime.
The house was furnished in a popular contemporary style. The Eastlake dining room furniture was published in Eastlake Influenced American Furniture 1870-1890. An inventory of Leacote's contents accompanies Merritt's will. His library contained many theological titles. He also owned Pugin's treatises on the Gothic.
After Merrittts death in 1927 and his wife's shortly, thereafter, the Merritt children inherited Leacote where they continued to live. In 1942 Ethel sold her share to Alan. He changed his father's third floor library into a gymnasium. Leacote farm was operated until it became unprofitable c. 1955. After Alan Merritts death, his wife Grace lived in the schoolhouse on the property until her death in 1971.