The Bard Era (1764-1821)
In 1740, Fauconnier's granddaughter, Suzanne Valleau married a Philadelphia surgeon named Dr. John Bard. He, too, was the son of Huguenot immigrants who had settled in New Jersey. In his life, Bard would establish himself as a leading physician, becoming the first president of the New York Medical society.
Through his wife, Bard inherited Fauconnier's land in 1764. Unlike succeeding generations of owners, John Bard appeared to appreciate the area only for its commercial potential. He built a farm on the east side of the Albany Post Road (now Rt. 9), the main route between New York City and Albany. He hoped to use the farm, road and river as a transportation center, but the plans never appeared to come together. None of the buildings from this time survive. However, several of the stone walls still stand. Bard advocated using part of the river front as a natural harbor. This area is still known as "Bard Rock".
Dr. John Bard was constantly having financial problems due to bad investments. In 1768, he actually tried to sell the estate, including the farm. However, it appears that his son, Dr. Samuel Bard eventually talked him out of it. In later life, he was forced to come out of retirement due to these problems. He went into partnership with his son, until in 1799, at the age of 83, he died on the estate at Hyde Park.
Unlike his father, Samuel Bard appeared to be very interested in estate development and landscaping. He was constantly urging his father to make various improvements to the Hyde Park estate. However, most were not done. His father transferred the property to Samuel a few years before his death. Samuel then set out to make the changes he had dreamed of for years. Bard was a respected physician in his own right. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and went into partnership with his father in 1765. He was one of the founders of the medical school at Columbia University and was the author of numerous important medical studies. In 1770, he married his cousin, Mary Bard and settled on the estate. He died on the estate in 1821 at the age of 79.
Even as a young man studying in Scotland, Samuel's letters to his father reflected an interest in agriculture, gardening and country estates. One of his first tasks after inheriting the property was to build a large house on a ridge overlooking the river. He chose the spot for its panoramic views of the river and the mountains beyond. So good was this choice that succeeding estate owners would build their own houses on the exact same spot.
It appears that during Samuel Bard's ownership, the area became a true 'working estate'. It included his father's farm, fulling and saw mills, orchards and vineyards. In particular, Bard was constantly looking for new and exotic plants and trees for the estate. He is credited for planting the magnificent Gingko tree which graces the lawn south of the mansion. It is estimated that the tree was planted in 1799, which makes it one of the oldest surviving Gingko in North America. Historical documents indicate that Bard had a garden and greenhouse as well, but it is not known where they were located.
Although few artifacts from this era survive, the time was an important one for the estate. Like his contemporary, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Bard was a pioneer in the new American horticultural and agricultural movement. Later owners and designers would build upon his ideas to create an area of lasting beauty.