The former Astor estate in where the Chelsea Clinton wedding took place, is just one of the fabulous millionaire mansions in the Hudson Valley around Rhinebeck, which was founded in 1686 by Dutch settlers.
Mansions and smaller estates built or owned by familes named Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, the artists who founded the Hudson River School of painting, and signers of the Declaration of Independence are nearby and open for touring.
So you didn’t get an invitation to this wedding of the year, maybe even the wedding of the decade.
There are plenty of wonderful historic and romantic spots to visit around Rhinebeck, also with picture postcard views overlooking the Hudson River.
What to See and Do Around Rhinebeck
FDR’s forbears moved to the Hyde Park area in the early 1800s, and he was born here and grew up in this house.
FDR did his famous World War II ‘Fireside Chats’ from his study here. The late president and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, are buried in the Rose Garden. There are lovely walkways and paths to enjoy, along with the 40,000 book library and family artifacts.
Nearby is Val-Kill Cottage, the only National Historic site dedicated to a First Lady. Eleanor Roosevelt spent her last years here, when she was “First Lady of the World”, and where she hosted celebrities and politicians, including future president John F. Kennedy.
In the days before air conditioning, wealthy New Yorkers escaped to the Hudson Valley in summer for cooler temperatures. That’s what Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt did, rather than building in Newport, Rhode Island, where his Vanderbilt relatives went.
This 54-room Beaux Arts beauty, dating from 1895, features Mrs. Vanderbilt’s gilt and gold bedroom that will make you think of Marie Antoinette’s boudoir in Versailles. Yes, it is that opulent. Over the top, actually.
The Vanderbilt mansion is immediately next door to the FDR site, and if you plan well, you can visit both in one afternoon. Both are National Park Service sites.
The FDR and Vanderbilt sites are a few miles south of Rhinebeck.
This estate is often overlooked by visitors to the Hudson Valley, and that’s a shame. Clermont was home to seven generations of the Livingston family, who were important founders of the United States. Livingstons helped draft, write and sign the Declaration of Independence.
Robert Livingston was Thomas Jefferson’s minister to France, and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. He also helped a young inventor named Robert Fulton develop his steamship, which became the first working steamship on the Hudson River. If you remember your sixth grade history, that ship was known as the Clermont.
The house is filled with mementoes and historic documents. I found one framed letter written to Livingston by Napoleon.
Clermont is in Germantown, and sits on 500 acres overlooking the Hudson River.
Frederic Church was the most famous artist of his time, which was the mid 1800s.
Construction of this Moorish-Persian home took 20 years, and Church made sure every inch was decorated as beautifully as one of his paintings. There is a two-story dining room filled with 17-century paintings, and lush fabrics are everywhere.
Tours are limited to 12 people at a time — no children allowed — so get there early in the day before the tickets are sold out. Once you have a ticket, you can wander the lush grounds, which have beautiful views of the Hudson River all the way south to West Point. Those are the same views that inspired Church to paint lush, romantic landscapes.
Clermont and Olana are must-see historic sites a few miles north of Rhinebeck.
And right in Rhinebeck itself is the Wilderstein Mansion, where cousins of the Roosevelts lived.
Yes, the Chelsea Clinton wedding to longtime beau Mark Mexvinsky made history. But, so did many others who have visited and lived in the Hudson Valley.
Photo of Chelsea Clinton wedding courtesy CBS News.
(c) posted by Evelyn Kanter, author of “Great Destinations: The Hudson Valley” and “Eating the Hudson Valley: Food Lover’s Guide to Local Dininig, Wineries & More”, both books published by WWNorton/CountrymanPress