The Irvington Historical Society
131 Main Street, PO BOX 23, Irvington, NY 10533     Phone: (914) 591-1020

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National Register of Historic Places, 1966

"About five-and-twenty miles from the ancient and renowned city of Manhattan, formerly called New-Amsterdam, and vulgarly called New-York, on the eastern bank of that expansion of the Hudson, known among Dutch mariners of yore, as the Tappan Zee, being in fact the great Mediterranean Sea of the New-Netherlands, stands a little old-fashioned stone mansion, all made up of gable-ends, and as full of angles and corners as an old cocked hat. Though but of small dimensions, yet, like many small people, it is of mighty spirit, and values itself greatly on its antiquity, being one of the oldest edifices, for its size, in the whole country. It claims to be an ancient seat of empire, I may rather say an empire in itself, and like all empires, great and small, has had its grand historical epochs. In speaking of this doughty and valorous little pile, I shall call it by its usual appellation of "The Roost."

 - Wolfert's Roost and Miscellanies,  Washington Irving

From The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea (Published 1866), Benson J. Lossing

    Although it is located within the village limits of Tarrytown, Sunnyside, one of America's most famous literary haunts, demands obvious inclusion here as Washington Irving was the village namesake. Even decades after the village of Tarrytown incorporated in 1870 with the inclusion of Irving's riverfront estate within its boundary, the area was still considered by many to be part of Irvington (which was known as Dearman until renamed in Irving's honor in 1854).

     Irving was a product of New York City and wrote some of his most-cherished Hudson Valley tales while living in Europe, but after settling here in the 1830s he helped pioneer the suburban movement out of New York northward into the Hudson Valley. Irving's purchase down the street from his nephew's estate included an 18th-century tenant farmhouse that he remodeled, with the help of artist George Harvey as architect, into a fanciful embodiment of an old Dutch mansion. Irving playfully referred to it as "Wolfert's Roost," in homage to Dutch tenant farmer Wolfert Acker who built the stone farmhouse. Although evocative of the region's earliest domestic dwellings, Irving's home perhaps drew as much inspiration from Scotland's Gothic and Tudor Revival buildings such as
Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, a friend who helped start Irving's career in Europe. In 1847, Irving added a tower based on Spanish monastic architecture, which Irving was familiar with from his time spent living at the Alhambra in Grenada  and later as Minister to Spain.

     Sunnyside also played  a key role in the Romantic Movement and Hudson River school of writers, artists, architects and others who helped forge a national identity through art and letters and buildings, conjoined to the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains landscape. Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, William Cullen Bryant and other luminaries no doubt walked among the stepped gables and rustic landscape that defined Sunnyside. Irving died in 1859, but his home continued to attract journalists and, to the consternation of Irving's family, unwelcome tourists. Sunnyside frequently appeared in the likes of Harper's Weekly, Currier and Ives prints, and guidebooks such as Benson Lossing's
The Hudson, from the Wilderness to the Sea. 

     The property remained in possession of the Irving family until 1945. Addiitons to the house, although sympathetic in style, greatly enlarged the home. Although long an unofficial tourist attraction, Sunnyside at last was opened to the public in 1947, two years after Louis Irving sold the property to John D. Rockefeller (through the Sealantic Fund). Today, Historic Hudson Valley owns and operates Sunnyside as a historic house museum, which has been restored to its appearance of Washington Irving's time..

Sunnyisde-On-Hudson, a print by Currier and Ives.

Historic Hudson Valley