Rokeby (Barrytown, New York)

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SOUTHWEST FRONT, LOOKING NORTHEAST - La Bergerie, River Road, Barrytown, Dutchess County, NY HABS NY,14-BARTO.V,2-9.tif
Rokeby Estate Mansion, southeast front
Rokeby (Barrytown, New York) is located in New York
Rokeby (Barrytown, New York)
Rokeby (Barrytown, New York) is located in the US
Rokeby (Barrytown, New York)
Location S of Barrytown between Hudson River and River Rd., Barrytown, New York
Coordinates 41°59′16″N 73°55′28″W / 41.98778°N 73.92444°W / 41.98778; -73.92444Coordinates: 41°59′16″N 73°55′28″W / 41.98778°N 73.92444°W / 41.98778; -73.92444
Area 437 acres (177 ha)
Built 1811
Architectural style Gothic Revival
NRHP reference # 75001181[1]
Added to NRHP March 26, 1975

Rokeby, also known as La Bergerie, is a historic estate and federally recognized historic district located at Barrytown in Dutchess County, New York. It includes seven contributing buildings and one contributing structure.


The original section of the main house was built 1811–1815. Construction was interrupted by the War of 1812 when John Armstrong Jr. (1758-1843), the owner, served as a Brigadier General, Minister to France, and later as US Secretary of War under James Madison.[2] When the British burned Washington DC in 1814, Armstrong unfairly received much of the blame; he consequently retired to finish building his estate on the Hudson River in 1815. The Armstrongs originally called their home "La Bergerie," French for "the sheepfold," as they were raising a large herd of Merino sheep which had been a gift from Napoleon Bonaparte.[2]

Evidence suggests that the overall plan was designed by John Armstrong himself.[3] It started as a rectangular, 2-story structure with a hipped roof topped by a square, pyramidal-roofed cupola. The house had a three-bay front facade with five-bay side elevations. There is a central entrance and interior hall which opens into three rooms on each side, and a curved staircase was located at the back of this hall. The staircase returned and entered a rectangular hall with a large skylight (known as a clerestory) on the second floor. The four front bedrooms were accessed from this hall. There was originally a second straight staircase that led from grade to an elaborate door with sidelights on the second floor which was open to the main hall. Due to later alterations, this feature is now completely enclosed. On the other side of the door there is now a small vestibule, an arched passage, and a small flight of stairs descending to the main staircase. It features a Palladian window on the southeast face of the second story. A ​1 12-story addition constructed of fieldstone was built about 1816.[3]

In 1818, Armstrong's daughter, Margaret Rebecca, married William Backhouse Astor, Sr. (1795–1875), son and main heir of John Jacob Astor I. In 1836, William Astor purchased the 728-acre estate from his father-in-law for $50,000.00. The portion of the property containing the Mudder Kill is said to have reminded Margaret Astor of the glen in Sir Walter Scott's epic poem, Rokeby, and she changed the estate's name from "La Bergerie" to "Rokeby."[4]

In the mid-19th century William Backhouse Astor enlarged the house from 20 rooms to 48,[5] in brick with brownstone trim, with a semi-octagonal tower on the west side, a north wing, and a third floor throughout the building.[6] The service wing, tower and mansard roof date to 1857-1858. The spectacular gothic revival library contained within the tower is probably the work of Alexander Jackson Davis. Architect and Chanler family friend Stanford White was hired to enlarge the west drawing room and to install the clerestory in 1895.[2] A sun porch was added in the 1920s.[7]

Palladian window, southeast facade.

The landscaping was improved about 1846 by Hans Jacob Ehlers, who removed a nearby hill to permit a view of the Hudson River.[7] In 1911 the Olmsted Brothers enlarged the flower gardens and planted an apple orchard.[3] The property also includes a pair of clapboarded wood-frame barns, additional stables (built about 1850 and destroyed by fire), greenhouse (converted to a garage in 1910, then to a residence in 1965), the square brick gardener's cottage, and a ​1 12-story gatehouse. Additionally, there is a brick stable designed by McKim, Mead & White, and a private docking facility.[8]


John Armstrong Jr. lived at Rokeby following his retirement in 1814 until his death at home in 1843, and is buried in the cemetery in Rhinebeck. WIlliam and Rebecca Astor's daughter Emily married Samuel Cutler Ward, brother of Julia Ward Howe. Their daughter, Margaret Astor Ward (1838-1875) married John Winthrop Chanler (1826-1877).[2]

The house was later home to the Astor Orphans, the children of John and Margaret, both of whom died of pneumonia. They left instructions that their ten children were to be raised at Rokeby. Most of them grew up to become well known in politics or the arts.[9] They included:

As the eldest son, John Armstrong Chanler inherited the property on his twenty-first birthday in 1883, along with $100,000 for its maintenance, however after his marriage began to disintegrate, he moved to Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.[4] By agreement of the siblings, Margaret Livingston Chanler bought their shares in the estate during the 1890s. Her grandson Richard Aldrich inherited the estate upon her death in 1963.[3] It is currently owned by the Aldrich family.[6]

In 2013, former resident and Astor heiress Alexandra Aldrich (great-granddaughter of Margaret Livingston Chanler) published The Astor Orphan, a memoir set at Rokeby.[16][17]

The house is currently the home to various artists and writers, including Processional Arts Workshop.[18][6] It is also the site of the Shoving Leopard organic farm.

Heritage significance[edit]

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.[1]


Photos of La Bergerie by Mark Zeek, 1979.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c d La Bergerie/Rokeby
  3. ^ a b c d John Poppeliers (1973) "La Bergerie/Rokeby, River Road, Barrytown Vicinity, Dutchess County, New York: Photographs, Historical & Descriptive Data; Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, D. C.
  4. ^ a b c Donna M. Lucey, Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age. New York: Harmony Books, 2007. ISBN 1-4000-4852-4.
  5. ^ Anthony P. Musso, "Rokeby maintains its historical, artistic legacy," Poughkeepsie Journal April 4, 2017
  6. ^ a b c Penelope Green, Who Lives There: The House Inherited Them, The New York Times, July 21, 2010
  7. ^ a b "Inside Rokeby House," The New York Times, July 22, 2010, p. D1.
  8. ^ Lynn A. Beebe (July 1974). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Rokeby". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2010-10-24.  See also: "Accompanying three photos". 
  9. ^ Thomas, Lately. The Astor Orphans: A Pride of Lions, W. Morrow, 1971. ISBN 1881324036
  10. ^ Rice, Wallace, editor. Heroic Deeds in Our War with Spain: An Episodic History of the Fighting of 1898 on Sea and Shore, G.M. Hill, 1898.
  11. ^ "FIGHTING FILIBUSTERS; Expedition to Cuba Has Several Brushes with Spaniards. GEN. NUNEZ'S BROTHER KILLED Winthrop Chanler of New York and Five Cubans Wounded. Guns of the Peoria Do Great Execution Among the Enemy; Two Shiploads of Supplies for the Insurgents Landed." New York Times, July 14 1898.
  12. ^ "Margaret Astor Chanler, Heroine of Porto Rico," Milwaukee Journal, Sept 8, 1898, p. 5.
  13. ^ "War Nurses to be Presented with Gold Medal by Congress," Chicago Tribune, Jan 13, 1899.
  14. ^ "R. W. Chanler Dead." New York Times. Associated Press. October 25, 1930. Retrieved 2017-06-30. 
  15. ^ Jacob, Kathryn Allamong (2010). King of the Lobby: The Life and Times of Sam Ward, Man-About-Washington in the Gilded Age. JHU Press. ISBN 9780801893971. Retrieved 30 June 2017. 
  16. ^ The Astor Orphan: A Memoir , Publishers Weekly, 12/24/2012
  17. ^ Bella Stander, "Life in the Big House: Alexandra Aldrich, author of The Astor Orphan," Wild River Weekly, 2013.
  18. ^ PAW website

External links[edit]