Staatsburgh, formerly known as the Mills Mansion, was the "country home" of Ogden and Ruth Livingston Mills. They generally spent the autumn in residence there, but were known to celebrate Christmas in the house, too. Their renowned seasonal décor is based on styles of the early 1900s, and will up until after New Year's. This mansion will still be open for tours on the weekends during the winter, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. From dawn to dusk, the grounds are open for hiking and sledding down the fabulous hill right behind the big house, although administrative assistant Kathy Young advised, "No metals runners allowed." On April 1, mansion tours on weekdays resume. Check the website, http://staatsburgh.org, for updates and special events, or call (845) 889-8851.
Springwood is the given name of president Franklin Roosevelt's lifelong home in Hyde Park. After 1924, First Lady Eleanor spent a great deal of her time at her own home, called Val-Kill (Dutch for "Valley Stream"), and after Franklin's death in 1945, made it her permanent residence. The homes are open year-'round (except for Christmas and New Year's Days), as are the grounds at both residences. The FDR estate boasts 300 acres with trails to hike, and online maps show a trail that connects Springwood, Val-Kill and the Vanderbilt estate, all within a few miles of each other. Springwood and Val-Kill are about two miles apart. Springwood has the bonus of being the site of the FDR Library and Museum. There, kids can pick up their Junior Secret Service Program packet, which includes a handbook and badge. For trail maps and other information, go to www.nps.gov/hofr for information on either site, or call (845) 229-9115.
The grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion, designed by the same famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White that upgraded the Mills' Staatsburgh mansion, up the road a piece from Springwood, are always open too, from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Except for Christmas Day, the Mansion will be open for tours throughout the winter months as well, with the last tour starting at 4 p.m. Strollers aren't permitted in the Mansion, and neither are infant carriers or backpacks. An elevator is frequently available, but feeling its years and sometimes out of commission. This may be a factor for those who may be intimidated by 100 stairs. Call (845) 229-7770 or go to www.nps.gov/vama for details.
Wilderstein was the home of Margaret "Daisy" Suckley (pronounced "Sook-lay"), distant cousin and close confidante of Franklin Roosevelt. Located in Rhinebeck, it has an extensive set of trail maps on its website, www.wilderstein.org. The grounds are open from 9 a.m. to dusk, and are always free. The Wilderstein estate is located at 330 Morton Road, off Route 9, in Hyde Park. Call (845) 229-9115.
The Samuel F. B. Morse estate is further south on Route 9, in Poughkeepsie. Morse's house is unavailable for tours from January through May, but the grounds are frequently used by cross-country skiers in the winter. Trail maps are available online at www.lgny.org. Before the buildings close, however, you may want to get there to the see the current holiday decorations. Each room has been adorned by area florists to illustrate select passages from the popular poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better-known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."