Wednesday, July 3, 2013


'Wilderstein' as it appeared in the 1980's, during Daisy Suckley's
last years of occupancy. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Bruce.
For exactly 139 years, 'Wilderstein' and it's acreage were owned by New York's imperious Suckley family. Built in 1852 by businessman and property investor Thomas H. Suckley, it was a two-storey villa designed by John Warren Ritch. The estate was quickly turned into a Queen Anne style country house with the renovations of Thomas's son, Robert, and his wife Elizabeth. The most defining changes were the addition of the five-storey tower, a third floor, attic and porte-cochere. The interior, the work of a cousin of Louis Comfort Tiffany, was done in the Historic Revival style, with mahogany, leather, stained glass and linen materials used. 

HABS NY,14-RHINB.V,4- (sheet 3 of 8) - Wilderstein, Morton Road, Rhinebeck, Dutchess County, NY
First Floor Plan of 'Wilderstein' Photo:
Library of Congress.
The estate was beloved by the Suckley family, who had lost most of their trade and shipping fortune during the Great Depression, and was the scene of a happy growing up for the Suckley's daughter, Margaret "Daisy". Daisy, a distant cousin and close friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, loved her childhood home and she inherited the home from her father. At the estate, she carried out her passion for breeding and raising dogs, one of which was Roosevelt's famous scottish terrier "Fala", which Daisy had raised and fed before presenting it to her cousin. A close intimate and confidante of the President, she frequently accompanied him on his trips and was a reappearing guest at the White House. 

Margaret "Daisy" Suckley poses on the lawn in front
of 'Wilderstein'. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Bruce.  

Both Daisy and Fala, along with another of FDR's close cousins the eccentric Laura Delano, were with the President when he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in April of 1945. After FDR's death, Daisy returned to 'Wilderstein', where she continued to pursue her interests and activities. She served as archivist at the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library on the Roosevelt estate 'Springwood' in Hyde Park, nearby her own beloved 'Wilderstein', until her retirement in 1963. 

Daisy Suckley in the white and gold salon of 'Wilderstein' ~ in her
90th year. Photo: Courtesy of Robert Bruce.
The last surviving member of her family, she decided, in 1983, to place her beloved home in the care of "Wilderstein Preservation", an organization she had started, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of her historic home, which she still retained life interest in. Daisy died in the bedroom of her beloved estate, in 100th year, in 1991. 'Wilderstein' continues to be preserved and maintained by the organization, which had slowly been restoring the decaying estate since 1991.

'Wilderstein' today ~ Circa 2013.


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