The Vanderbilt Era (1894-1935)
Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt purchased the 600 acre property in 1895 because of its beauty and Frederick's deep interest in horticulture. By then, the Langdon mansion had deteriorated, as had much of the gardens. Frederick contracted with McKim, Mead and White of New York City to build a new mansion on the site of the original 2 buildings. When construction of the mansion began in 1896, one of the spectators was a 14 year old Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose family were close neighbors.
The new mansion was to be very modern, including electricity. The power plant to supply it was completed in 1897. The mansion was completed two years later, in 1899. Final alterations were made to the mansion in 1906 by Whitney Warren of New York City. The mansion stands today much like it was after these alterations.
Hyde Park was also a seasonal home for the Vanderbilts. Their main residence was a townhouse in New York City. However, they also owned houses in Palm Beach, Maine and in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Despite this, Hyde Park was the only place where Frederick could indulge his passion for gardening. The layout for the formal Italian-style gardens was started in 1903. The couple would spend April through July and September through November at the estate. Even when away, Frederick remained in touch with his head gardener and made the decisions as to what plants would be in the garden and when seeds and cuttings would be started.
During the early part of the 20th century, Dutchess County contained a number of large estates such as Vanderbilt's in Hyde Park. It was the custom of the estate owners to enter the local fairs and competitions, sending the finest plants and flowers from their greenhouses and estates. Vanderbilt was a frequent winner at the Dutchess Horticultural Society's annual flower show and at the Dutchess County Fair.
Mrs. Vanderbilt died suddenly in 1926. After her death, Mr. Vanderbilt became a virtual recluse, living on the third floor of the mansion with the servants until his death in 1938. Since the couple were childless, the estate was inherited by her niece, Margaret Van Alen.