Its name might be the first clue that Tuxedo Park had, at one time, rather elevated, Old World aspirations. A cluster of 330 houses on 2,300 acres of rolling forestland 40 miles north-west of New York City, it is an oasis of history and notable architecture that manages to be at once sophisticated and rustic.
Tuxedo Park was created as a planned community, initiated in 1885, when such schemes were much in vogue. However, the “village”, as residents call it, might be the only one envisioned expressly as a playground for New York elite and developed from a gentlemen’s sporting club. It is fronted by grand, solid stone gates built by Italian and Slovak masons to distinguish it from the neighbouring hamlet of Tuxedo, populated by the working classes.
With about 730 residents now, the village had only 13 homes at the time of its founding by Pierre Lorillard, a sportsman and scion of a wealthy tobacco family. By 1916 the village had grown to 116 residences, with 136 supporting structures, such as stables, servants’ quarters and community buildings. Notables such as arbiter of manners Emily Post had taken up residence, Mark Twain visited and read to village children, while Edith Wharton sketched a posh Tuxedo Park in The House of Mirth.
Lorillard hired society architect Bruce Price to design the Park’s first “cottages” in the Victorian shingle style. Popular in the north-eastern US from 1874 to 1910, these rough-hewn structures blended into their wooded grounds. One such “cottage” currently listed with estate agency Towne & Country Properties Sotheby’s International Realty is the Price Collier home. At 10,000 sq ft with nine bedrooms on 11.3 acres, it might more accurately be denominated an “estate” and is priced as such at $6.85m.
These Price-designed cross-gabled houses with squat half-towers and inviting porches covered in earth-toned shingles soon stood next to mansions designed by some of the most renowned architects of the period, such as Warren & Wetmore, creators of New York’s Grand Central Station, and Carrère and Hastings, who did the city’s public library. The stunning range of well-executed historical styles landed the community on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. There are Tudor revival, Queen Anne and Jacobean-style homes, Dutch colonials and Japanese-accented mansions, the odd Mediterranean or Italianate villa, even a majestic French château and an arts and crafts-style cottage with a faux thatched roof.Peter Regna, who has been restoring a home in Tuxedo Park for three decades, says the local gardens were obviously European-influenced. “Many of the houses had very elaborate gardens: some were French with parterres and fountains; others were Italian with a lot of water and marble statuary; and there were English gardens that were very roaming and green,” Regna says.
Katherine Norris, an agent with Tuxedo Park Estates, says Europeans are attracted to the Park, perhaps the only gated community with its own private school, the Tuxedo Park School, which accepts students from outside the village. Norris says about four British families live in the area, along with a handful of families from Germany, Bosnia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.
As in Europe, the Great Depression and the second world war took their toll, with some mansions destroyed by mysterious fires or abandoned. There were about 65 mansions of more than 10,000 sq ft at the Park’s height; now there are about 50.“Tuxedo Park is really an enclave with no shopping or businesses,” he says. “It’s really just a destination useful for getting away from it all....”
As many as 35 per cent of Tuxedo Park’s homes are used as weekend getaways ....