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Rokeby and the Feral Astors


Went hiking a ways up the river yesterday. Poets Corner used to be the grounds of one of the Livingston mansions, and some semblances of the original landscaping are still there. Enormous meadows of goldenrod plus this spiky, magenta-y blossom that I can't identify, but which is everywhere this year.

Purposefully got myself lost on the drive home and eventually found myself on the road that leads to Rokeby, one of the last of the great Hudson Valley mansions that remains in private hands.

Rokeby! Feral Astor descendents living in squalor! Be still, my beating heart!

I steeled myself and drove up the rutted lane that leads to the house, and there it was. Not picturesque at all despite the Stanford White and Olmstead Brothers pedigree.

I read the memoir The Astor Orphan in which Alexandra Aldrich describes growing up in Rokeby last winter. Good for status detail but not very well written. Alexandra Aldrich is no Little Edie Beale. Aldrich and her parents occupied three small rooms on an upper floor that once upon a time used to be the servants’ quarters. The roof leaked, and there was no heat. I’m surprised Dutchess County’s Child Protection Services didn’t yank her.

The rest of the house was a hoarder’s heaven stacked with Astor possessions going back 200 years. Yeah, yeah – a fair number of antiques, probably in bad condition, but also newspapers, broken lawn mowers, cheap wicker furniture coming unraveled, and tons of rodent droppings and bat guana.

I wanted to get out of the car and take some photos, but I didn’t dare.

Now, I want to figure out a way to become Bestest Friends with the feral Astors who still live there and who show up at various convenience stores around Rhinebeck from time to time.

Alexandra Aldrich eventually rebelled against her upbringing by marrying a Hasidic Jew, but the marriage didn’t last.

For some reason, this reminds me of a woman I went to graduate school with who was the daughter of a Unitarian minister. When she rebelled against her upbringing, she became an Episcopalian.

Nobody I’ve ever told this story to has found it in the least bit funny, but every time I think of Robin Hobart – that was her name – I laugh and laugh and laugh.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2016 01:37 pm (UTC)
Bells and smells will get them every time
Sep. 7th, 2016 02:18 pm (UTC)
Nah. It was the most extreme form of adolescent rebellion Robin Hobart could imagine -- which I continue to find highly amusing after all these years.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 7th, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it is a kind of Addamsy house.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )