Places to Visit »Sunnyside

sunnyside washington irving estate tarrytownThe Sunnyside Estate of Washington Irving is run by extremely nice ladies; a fact I am sure he'd be happy to know. Our guide, dressed in period costume was also informative. The grounds are sprawling though with the weather being so frigid we didn't explore the outdoors too much. The natural element, all manipulated by landscapers and Irving's romantic notions purposely hides the gentleman's cottage, so that guests would only first see it after the final curve in the road.

The home is in a classic Dutch style with Spanish inspired additions that he brought back with him from his travels. It became in its day the symbol of a perfect gentleman's home, spent time on Currier and Ives prints and knickknacks. He was considered a taste maker after all and his home was certainly inspirational and popular.

Most interesting though, was the fact that as a taste maker, he had enormous influence on the way we to this day celebrate Christmas. It was at one time a day much like Halloween where the poorer of the neighborhood would go from house to house of their betters, begging for gifts, food, and money in exchange for not vandalizing or worse. Irving brought back the old English traditions or at least his exaggerated, embellished and romanticized version of them.

The house itself is welcoming and cozy and unlike many old mansions you can visit, it actually feels like it's meant to be lived in. As your guide shows you photos of some of the nine nieces that lived with him (having never married because his first and one love died of consumption before the wedding) you can imagine them feasting on gelatin and ham by the Hudson and playing Huckle Buckle Beanstalk. As much as possible the comfy home is filled with his own possessions, those that are not are of the time or accurate reproductions.

At night through January 3rd the site is also home to the Winter Wonderlights where according to their site “You'll discover sculptures of light; life-size, eco-sculpted animals and mythical creatures; plus flowers, plants, magical candy pieces, and much more.”

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Posted on December 22, 2008

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