view from the south (2012)
|Location||West Sunnyside Lane
Tarrytown, New York
|Nearest city||White Plains|
|Area||10 acres (4 ha)|
|Architectural style||Dutch Colonial Revival, Scottish Gothic, Tudor Revival, Romantic|
|NRHP reference #||66000583|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||December 29, 1962|
Sunnyside (1835) is an historic house on 10 acres (4 ha) along the Hudson River, in Tarrytown, New York. It was the home of the noted American author Washington Irving, best known for his short stories, such as "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820). This cottage-like estate, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, reflects Dutch Colonial Revival, Scottish Gothic, and Tudor Revival influences, with its instantly recognizable wisteria-covered entrance and jagged crow-stepped gable.
In some sense, Sunnyside began almost 200 years before Irving with Wolfert Acker (sometimes spelled Wolfert Eckert), a Dutch-American inhabitant of the region. His property, "Wolfert's Roost", was part of the Manor of Philipsburg. Among other buildings, Wolfert's Roost contained a simple two-room stone tenant farmhouse, built around 1690.
The property came into the hands of the Van Tassel family, who were married into the Eckert family and owned it until 1802. That year, 150 acres (61 ha) were deeded to the family of Benson Ferris, one-time clerk of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, whose wife, Maria Acker, was a descendant of Wolfert Acker'd.
In 1832, Washington Irving visited his nephew Oscar Irving who lived near the old stone farmhouse. Irving had recently undertaken a substantial trip through the prairies of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers, and the frontier lifestyle made him lament his lack of a home of his own. He was also frustrated because he had lived most of his adult life as a guest in other people's homes. As Irving wrote, he was eager for a home and was "willing to pay a little unreasonably for it". Irving finally purchased the property on June 7, 1835 for $1,800; he would later, through the years, add to the property to expand the estate.
Irving wrote a story, "Wolfert's Roost", about Acker and the site. In a letter to his brother Peter, he described it as "a beautiful spot, capable of being made a little paradise ... I have had an architect up there, and shall build upon the old mansion this summer. My idea is to make a little nookery somewhat in the Dutch style, quaint, but unpretending. It will be of stone." Irving requested that his friend and neighbor, English-born painter George Harvey, become his aesthetic collaborator and foreman in the house's subsequent remodeling and enlargement, and the landscaping of the grounds in Romantic style, which included creating a pond Irving called "The Little Mediterranean", with a waterfall that led to a babbling serpentine brook.
The result is a "cottage" that was widely known even at the time, appearing in Harper's Weekly and in guidebooks to the area. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said that Sunnyside stood "next to Mount Vernon, the best known and most cherished of all the dwellings in our land." The public interest in the home, and in Irving, America's first literary star, drew numerous visitors throughout the year, hoping to catch a glimpse of Irving working. Irving's neighbor Nathaniel Parker Willis joked, "Could not Sunny-side 'pay' to be got ready for a boarding-house?"
In 1842, Irving accepted a nomination as Ambassador to the Court of Isabella II of Spain. He left Sunnyside in the care of his brother Ebenezer, who lived there with his four grown daughters, who supervised the running of the household. Irving wrote, "The only drawback upon all this is the hard trial of tearing myself away from dear little Sunnyside." He returned to New York on September 19, 1846. Shortly after his return, in 1847, he added to the cottage the "Spanish Tower", influenced by Spanish monastic architecture and the Alhambra in Granada. It added four bedrooms to the house.
Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside on November 28, 1859. The Irving family continued to inhabit the cottage until 1945, when Louis Irving sold it to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who purchased it as part of his efforts in historic preservation. It was restored - including tearing down a Victorian style northern addition - and was opened to the public in 1947.
Sunnyside is now operated as a museum by Historic Hudson Valley, which charges an admission fee. It contains a large collection of Irving's original furnishings and accessories; in particular, all furniture and most accessories in his writer's study are original. The study, dining room, parlor, kitchen, as well as most bedrooms, are open to the public and contain much of their original furnishings, or replacements which were owned by the Irving family.