Schuyler Mansion and Grounds
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For much of the early 18th century, fear of Indian attack and then the French and Indian War (1754-1763) kept the early settlement of Albany within a restricted area. In the years after the British defeated the French in 1760, the stockades were dismantled and citizens looked to establish homes outside the confines of the established streets.
Consequently, when Philip Schuyler was ready to build his house, he chose a site that was approximately one half mile from the town of Albany, on a rising slope that commanded a view of Hudson's River and the rolling hills of Groenen Bosch (Greenbush) on the opposite shore. With the assistance of his friend Colonel John Bradstreet, he bought a tract containing "12 morgen and 3 rodd" of land (approximately 24 acres) that fronted the Kings Road to the east and the Beaver Kill to the north.
The land was deeded to Schuyler on January 22, 1761, and despite boundary conflicts with the Albany Reformed Dutch Protestant Church, Schuyler began to have his house built in May of the same year. The Georgian style mansion, a radical departure from Albany's traditional Dutch homes, required four years to complete. Sometime during this period, outbuildings such as a barn and kitchen were also constructed at the back of the house, the necessary foundation for a large working estate that would provide for family, slaves, and guests.
The landscape that surrounded the house and outbuildings in 1765 was semi-wilderness. Where today the view from the front door consists of paved streets, electrical lines, and dense housing, Schuyler would have gazed upon grassy fields sloping to the fertile plains along the river, cows grazing in pasture land, and travelers upon horses cantering along the Kings Road.
To his right, he would have seen the beginnings of his own gardens and the depths of the woods beyond, while a glance left would have afforded a distant view of Albany situated between river's edge and hill, on top of which stood Fort Frederick. On the river he would have seen the many boats and "battoes" that plied the waters between Albany and New York.
At the back of the house, beyond barn and new fields, Schuyler might have looked upon areas of dense forest, the patterns of tilled fields, and the edges of the deep ravine formed by the Beaver Kill. He might have called out instructions to the craftsman, servants, and slaves who performed the labor necessary in developing the raw estate.
Over two centuries later, as one stands on the grounds where Schuyler once stood, it is quite difficult to imagine the world he inhabited in 1765. Topography has been altered, city growth has engulfed the property, and the spacious, once pastoral landscape no longer exists. Despite these changes, you are invited to listen ... and imagine the environment as an earlier visitor once described it:
"We had heard much in praise of the delightful situation of the mansion and the enchanting views to be seen from it. But we never beheld a more enchanting picture than the broad and beautiful view that is seen from it. Its architecture, though not imposing, is yet attractive in its simple elegance. It is situated near the center of extensive grounds, sloping gradually towards the Hudson, whose bright waters, richly indented and beautifully curved shores are in full view, both from the north and south."
~ Taken from the London publication, Gentlemen's Magazine, c. 1790