Welcome to Tuxedo Park, a historic and wealthy lower Hudson Valley community only forty miles outside Manhattan. Not normally accessible to the public, the gated village is famous for its many mansions designed by well-known Gilded Age architects, including Carrere & Hastings, McKim, Mead & White, and Warren & Wetmore for Wall Street titans, robber barons and scions of blue-blooded families. Names like J.P. Morgan, Mark Twain, Emily Post, and interior designer Dorothy Draper have made this small enclave discreetly famous and synonymous with high society.
It all began in 1884 over lunch in New York City at the genteel Union Club. Pierre Lorillard (1833-1901), heir to the Lorillard Tobacco Company, makers of Newports, Old Gold, and other cigarettes, complained to his lunch mates that he was sick to death of Newport, R.I., the snooty seaside community where American aristocrats such as himself then summered. Lorillard’s thoughts soon turned to the 7,000 acres his family owned in upstate New York and he decided to build a resort community for himself and his friends, one more low-key and less flashy than Newport.
Construction began in earnest the following year, and Lorillard even built two villages to house the 1,800 Italian and Slovak builders and their families who we hired to build out the infrastructure. The first water, sewer, and telephone systems outside a major city were installed, and when the Tuxedo Club opened on June 16, 1886, close to 5,000 acres had been planned, 30 miles of roads had been laid, and 40 buildings were complete. These improvements were soon joined by a boathouse, a school, a racetrack, a golf course — the second oldest in the country, and indoor tennis courts. There was also a game preserve and breeding ponds, a swimming pool, an electrified toboggan run, and miles of bridle trails.
Though originally intended to be used primarily during the fall and spring hunting and fishing seasons, Tuxedo Park — its name a corruption of a local Native American word — was soon popular with the beau mode year-round. And yes, the enclave’s name became synonymous with the simplified men’s formal evening suit first seen on Lorillard’s son Griswold at a ball in Tuxedo Park in 1886.
The houses were typically spacious and rustic in style, designed almost to look as if they were rising out of the land. Chunky stones and wood shingles complemented the rugged terrain of the area, which is known for dramatic stone outcrops. Gardens and landscaping were kept as natural as possible; even the roads follow the terrain in a loose, natural way.
Rusticity, for the wealthy, was a new and fresh idea in the 1880s. Newport, with its increasingly ostentatious summer mansions, was fussy and manicured, exactly the opposite to what Lorillard wanted. One of the architects, Bruce Price, father of etiquette writer Emily Post, who built a number of cottages at Tuxedo Park, including one for himself, became known for his picturesque, rustic houses. His house for Pierre Lorillard V, the founder’s son, though demolished and now known only through photos, is an icon of American architecture. He was asked in 1899 to state the essential principles of country-house design. He responded, “Not going in opposition to nature.” To a question about picturesque design his answer was, “Whatever is picturesque in design should be accomplished by the exigencies of the site rather than deliberately made. A picturesque effect should be the last thing to be thought of.”
For sale now is Lorillard Lake House, one of the enclave’s original and typically rustic homes, which was designed in 1893 by James Brown Lord as Lorillard’s own house and remodeled in 1905 by Warren & Wetmore, architects of Grand Central Station. (The house’s living room actually looks a lot like Grand Central!)
With a total of 8.10 acres, the sylvan estate has long been owned by the Lobkowicz family, an ancient Czech noble clan. The family’s head, Prince Philip Peter Lobkowicz, passed away in 2017, and the family house in Tuxedo Park was put up for sale the next year at $4.2 million. With more land included to sweeten the pot, the price has gradually increased to its current ask of $6 million. It’s listed by Walter Deane at Tuxedo Park Fine Homes.
The house measures 5,535 square feet, with seven bedrooms and six baths. Particularly notable are the oval living room, with its herringbone-pattern tile floor and 24-foot ceiling, and the dining room that offers dreamy views of Tuxedo Lake through a curved wall of windows. The suede-lined library sports a colorfully painted antique fireplace, the unexpectedly small and dated kitchen opens to a huge family room, and the lower level contains a gym and wine vault along with storage rooms. The uppermost floor contains a second family room that features a massive stone fireplace and an octagonal skylight at the apex of the vaulted and beamed ceiling. In addition to the stone-built main house, the grounds include a stone outbuilding, a barn, and a floating dock on the lake.
Now then, put on your dinner jacket and enjoy some old school luxury living. Just don’t light up an Old Gold inside the house!