Historic Structures

Wyndclyffe Mansion (Linden Grove), Rhinebeck New York

Date added: March 4, 2010 Categories: New York House Mansion

Constructed in the popular Norman style, the design of this large brick house is attibuted to local architect George Veitch. The master mason, John Byrd, executed the highly varied ornamental brickwork using only rectangular and few molded bricks. Originally called Wyndclyffe, the house was used as a weekend and summer residence by its first owner, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones of New York City. Edith Jones Wharton was a frequent childhood visitor. Wyndclyffe may have influenced Miss Wharton in her book Hudson River Bracketed. Wyndclyffe was renamed Linden Grove by Andrew Finck, the second owner, in 1886.

A prominent New Yorker, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones (1810-1876), aunt of the writer, Edith Jones Wharton, purchased land in Rhinebeck in 1852. She probably contracted George Veitch to design her house early in 1853. Miss Jones frequently entertained Henry and William James, nephews of Augustus and John James, neighbors who owned Linwood, the old Tillotson estate. Edward Jones, Miss Jones' brother, died in 1869. After his aunt's death in 1876, Edward Jones, Jr. retained a life interest in Wyndclyffe.

The Jones estate was known as Wyndclyffe when Henry Winthrop Sargent praised it as "a very successful and distinctive house, with much the appearance of some of the smaller Scotch castles" in his 1859 supplement of Downing's A Treatise on the Theory and practice of Landscape Gardening Adapted to North America. After Andrew Finck purchased Wyndclyffe, it became known as Linden Grove, as it was identified in Beers Atlas of the Hudson River Valley (1891). Locally, it was called variously Finck's Castle, Schwartz-Finck Castle, and Linden Hall.

According to Louis Auchincloss, Edith Wharton's biographer, Mrs. Wharton was a frequent childhood visitor who later described Wyndclyffe as "The Willows" in Hudson River Bracketed.* In her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1933), Mrs. Wharton wrote about Wyndclyffe and her aunt.

  • ...But no memories of those years survive, save those I have mentioned, and one other, a good deal dimmer, of going to stay one summer with my Aunt Elizabeth, my father's unmarried sister, who had a house at Rhinebeck-on-the-Hudson, This aunt, who I remember as a ramrod-backed old lady compounded of steel and granite, had been threatened in her youth with the 'consumption' which had already carried off a brother and sister. Few families in that day escaped the scourge of tuberculosis...when Elizabeth in her turn began to pine, her parents decided to try curing her at home. They therefore shut her up on October in her bedroom in the New York house in Mercer Street, lit the fire, sealed up the windows, and did not let her out again until the following June, when she emerged in perfect health, to live till seventy. My aunt's house, called Rhinecliff, afterward became a vivid picture in the gallery of my little girlhood; but among those earliest impressions only one is connected with it; that of a night when, as I was ready to affirm, there was a Wolf under by bed...
  • The effect of terror produced by the house at Rhinecliff was no doubt due to what seemed to me its intolerable ugliness. My visual sensibility must always have been too keen for middling pleasure; my photographic memory of rooms and houses - even those seen but briefly, or at long intervals - was from my earliest years a source of inarticulate misery, for I was always vaguely frightened by ugliness. I can still remember hating everything at Rhinecliff, which, as I saw, on rediscovering it some years later, was an expensive but dour specimen of Hudson River Gothic; and from the first I was obscurely conscious of a queer resemblance between the granite exterior of Aunt Elizabeth and her grimly comfortable home, between her battlemented caps and the turrets of Rhinecliff...

* While the sense of Linden Grove is in the house described as "The Willows," in Hudson River Bracketed, the architectural description is not fully compatible.