When constructed, this substantial stone mansion was considered a cottage, a country retreat from the city for the wealthy of the Gilded Age.
Now on the market, the house at 79 Turtle Point Road in Tuxedo Park still exudes some of the glamour of the period.
A planned community for the wealthy, Tuxedo Park was developed in the 1880s as a country playground, with the massive “cottages” nestled into the foot of the Ramapo Mountains in Orange County, N.Y.
Using family land and his tobacco fortune, Pierre Lorillard IV, along with his architect Bruce Price, began plotting out the vision for a sporting club and exclusive residential community in 1885.
The town would become a second home for New York City’s wealthy, who moved into homes designed by Price or other noted architects such as McKim, Mead & White, Heins & LaFarge and Delano & Aldrich. In the pre-World War I heyday of the community, the elite golfed, sailed, ice skated and held parties at the community clubhouse.
The wealthy playground drew the extended Lorillard clan, including George Lorillard Ronalds. Described as “very wealthy” by the New York Times, Ronalds had Bruce Price design a house on a lot just off Tuxedo Lake in 1890. Price chose the most striking setting for the house, positioning it so that it appeared to loom out from the lakeside.
American Architect and Architecture in 1890 described the house, then under construction, as megalithic, with Price using the natural material of the area to fashion a boldly rugged structure. The mansion also has Romanesque Revival features with large stone arches forming a porch and an asymmetrical facade with conical towers, dormers and an assortment of window sizes.
Short bios of Ronalds don’t mention an occupation but do mention his yachting hobby and list an extensive list of club memberships. In 1900 alone he was a member of the Players, Metropolitan, Camera, New York Yacht and Tennis and Racket clubs, to name just a few.
According to a rather gossipy article in the New York World, Ronalds supposedly built the cottage in anticipation of his marriage to Edith Hoadley. Their original engagement was broken off, claimed the article, but the couple ultimately married more than 10 years later, in 1902. Ronalds was then finally able to bring his bride to Tuxedo Park.
Social notices in newspapers of the time show that the couple, like many Tuxedo Park families, flitted between their cottage, the city and travels overseas. While spring and summer were popular social seasons in the community, there were plenty of winter activities. The New York Times reported that the social crowd, including George and Edith, headed back to their posh cottages for the launch of 1903 with a New Year’s Eve Ball and winter fun, including ice skating and tobogganing.
Alas, it was not destined to be a long marriage for George and Edith. By 1907 they had split and Edith was back in the city with her parents and George stayed at the Tuxedo Park house. Ronalds died just a few years later, in 1910, at the age of 47. His estate took some time to settle after Edith contested the will, which left her only one-third of his estate. It wasn’t until 1912 that the Tuxedo Park house was put up for sale.
Ads for the sale described the house as “occupying a charming location” and spacious, with 19 rooms, four bathrooms and “every modern improvement.” The estate also included an ice house, garage, summer house and boathouse. No price was listed for the property, but it eventually sold in 1914.
The house has had a few owners since the time of Ronalds, including the comedian Whoopi Goldberg, who owned the house from 1998 to 2005. While the interior has had some modern upgrades, there’s still enough character left to inspire some dreams of “cottage” living.
The heavy stone exterior gives way to wood on the interior, with a richly paneled foyer and wide staircase. Price lightened the space with golden stained glass on the stair landing and large windows to bring in natural light from the unobstructed view across the lake.
It’s hard not to imagine elegantly attired ice skaters gently whirling around the lake while you are comfortably ensconced inside with a festive cocktail taking in the view.
All of the main entertainment spaces take advantage of those waterside views, including the dining room, which also boasts paneling, a coffered ceiling and one of the eight working fireplaces according to the listing. In 1893, the New York Herald reported that bachelor Rolands spent Christmas at the house with a large group of friends and his mother, who was visiting from her home in Paris. This surely would have meant a festive holiday meal in the dining room.
The listing notes that the kitchen has had a more recent remodel. It’s spacious, with another working fireplace, room for a table and lots of creamy cabinetry.
Upstairs there are five bedrooms, including a master suite with a sitting room, two dressing rooms and a terrace with a lake view.
According to the listing, all of the bedrooms have private baths and there are a total of 7.5 baths in the house.
The downstairs, perhaps once the domain of servants, has been turned into an in-home spa with a gym, sauna and pool.
There’s also more entertainment space with a family room, a billiard room and a wine cellar.
If all that space still isn’t enough, there’s a separate guest house at the water’s edge with two bedrooms and two baths. While the Rolands-era ice house probably no longer survives, there is a boat dock and garage.
The house is on the market for $6.6 million with Cindy Booth Van Schaack of Tuxedo Park Towne & Country Properties.
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