Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fred Astaire might have stopped dancing

There was a time, about 1932 give or take, on the southern border of Putnam County, New York, just across the border from us here in North Salem, New York (Westchester County) when a pack of reputed scoundrels from Tammany Hall in New York City built themselves a little weekend/meeting castle on the side of a big hill. Accompanying that structure were a pile of outbuildings, most of which are gone now. Some remain, though.

Many of the glorious outbuildings were subdivided and now form the home of Castle Hill Farm Inc. and McLain Ward Inc., the famous and sometimes infamous home of McLain, 2008 Olympic Show Jumping Team Gold Medal Winner for the United States and a stable of unrivaled world-class grand prix jumpers. The subdivided portion have been cared for meticulously and include two sand jumping and schooling rings, a stable that I remember to be maybe 26 or 30 stalls, two or three barns, two houses, and grooms quarters. And rumors. About everything. But that is a pile of dark stories for another day. Some of the rumors are harmless gratefully and I cannot confirm them for you as I was a young girl the last time I was taken to see a horse on the property but I can tell you people have said there is a bowling alley below one building, a ballroom encased in another, and an indoor swimming pool covered over in a third. Some of the areas were made available for photos by NBC just prior to the Olympics, they are hopelessly lacking. Nice shot of the feed buckets,though...

The subdivided lot (Castle Hill Farm) is cloaked in a bit of mystery and silence, with good reason. It protects the occupants from a lot of unpleasant and if you ask me, unnecessary attention regarding crimes of long ago that were not singular to the horse industry then nor unheard of today, unfortunately.

Because of the cloak over Castle Hill Farm, I do not feel comfortable to call over and ask the owner if I can swing by and ask him about the place and the neighboring castle, all of which were once home to Fred Astaire after the Tammany thing fell apart. Maybe one day.

In any event, this past year, the main house next door (really, around the hilltop) came up for sale and it was with a collective gasp that the horse community here got a glimpse of the place once again in the listing on It was apparent from the road below the castle on the hill that the place was not being kept up well, but I am not sure anyone could have guessed at the level of degradation the grand old place has suffered. Look away if you must, this is a heart breaker (and no, it is not currently owned by old folks who could not keep up with the demands of the place... not by a long shot):

It is 10,000 square feet plus on 9 (billy-goat worthy) acres. Offered for $999,000.

It is located top of a big hill on a windy old road through many venerable show horse farms.

In my memory, the current occupants have never cut the whole lawn, only parts here and there. There are "No trespassing" signs on the stone pillars at the bottom of the drive. On an icy day, the driveway would be a nightmare.

See what I mean? The new cut is only close to the house. That construction netting has been up there seemingly forever. What gives with that, anyway?

Hold on, I need to get myself up from the floor again. I always end up there when I look at this picture. Right, that is the washer and dryer in the great hall entrance and below all that white paint? Mahogany. Sure. Why not? And what is that chandelier?

Nothing. I've got nothing. Excuse me while I wander off while you view the remainder of the interior shots (yes, these are the MLS photo presentation, I did not break in and take these at an off-guard moment for the household.).



Mrs. Blandings said...


Sharon Crute said...

Terribly sad. It gives one a feeling of longing for what once was. Wonder if it could be restored to it's former glory...lots of paint remover to uncover the mahogany.

Great post, though I'd love to hear some of those scandalous stories...

columnist said...

I agree the interior is pretty ugly, but the entire building is hardly a gem either. Probably a good site once you'd demolished the existing building, and started again.

ArchitectDesign said...

this kills me :-(