Wyndcliffe, the once-grand 1852 mansion in Rhinebeck NY, is going on the auction block on September 21, and will be sold to the highest bidder. If you intend to bid, listen up, because pictures – and marketing materials – can be deceiving.
The Maltz Auction House brochure and online ads describe Wyndcliffe as a “waterview mansion” that “previously” had “nine bedrooms, five bathrooms and four fireplaces.” In fact, Wyndcliffe has no bedrooms, bathrooms or fireplaces – or floors, or ceilings for that matter. The entire inside is one giant crater. The beautiful millwork that covered much of the interior walls is little more than tinder. There are no intact doors, windows or interior stairs. Most of the roof is gone, allowing years of really bad weather to hasten the deterioration. The “full basement” (also described as being a “previous” feature) is now an open-air dirt floor. Shockingly, some of the last owner’s possessions – books and papers mainly – can still be seen in situ in what was once, probably, a library. In all fairness, the auction house does describe Wyndcliffe as “presently the ruin of a historical mansion” and cautions that it requires a “complete renovation.” Still.
While 19th century Wyndcliffe boasted gorgeous Hudson River views, 21st century Wyndcliffe does not. The structure now sits on a fraction of the land it once owned, having been subdivided many times over. A small sliver of river can be seen looking west, but this too will disappear over time, since the neighbor to the west just planted a stand of pine trees, each of which will grow just tall enough to block the view. It is possible if you build high enough you can see the Hudson from the upper floors, since it is actually “only one property away from the Hudson River,” but good luck with that.
What does remain – and what the winning bidder will actually be buying – is much of the original brickwork which is, in all truth, spectacular. Were it not for the incredible skill of architect George Veitch, Wyndcliffe would have crumbled to the ground decades ago. The buyer will also be purchasing an important piece of history, since the original owner of the mansion, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones was a cousin of Edith Wharton and the famous writer was said to have summered there. The phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses” is believed to be a reference to Wyndcliffe.
Despite its storied past and gilded age luster, Wyndcliffe will present a real challenge to anyone looking to make it habitable. And that will not come cheap. A neighbor suggested the cost to do anything at all would be upwards of $10 million. On the positive side, if you are considering demolition, half the work has already been done for you.
If none of this is daunting, and you have a truckload of cash you need to launder, this epic DIY project could be for you. But if you are thinking of buying Wyndcliffe and converting it into a bed and breakfast, corporate retreat or wedding venue, think again. Wyndcliffe is located on a small, private dirt road and the neighbors will be having none of your grand ambitions. Developing is notoriously difficult in this area – just ask the neighbor a half-mile down the road who bought another grand estate with the intention of developing it into private residences. It is now being turned into a horse farm.
If pouring millions of dollars into a seriously dilapidated shell of a mansion is your cup of tea, Wyndcliffe could be just what you’re looking for. But for god sake, see it before you bid. As anyone who’s ever gone on a Match.com date can tell you, everything is beautiful on the Internet; not so much in real life.