The House of Herman B. Duryea, Esq.
Old Westbury, New York
From AMERICAN ESTATES AND GARDENS by Barr Ferree published 1906
R. DURYEA’S house at Old Westbury, Long Island, is a striking structure, built in the pleasant woods for which the neighborhood is famous. It is placed on the slope of a hill, the entrance part in three stories, the garden part in two stories. It has a striking exterior of white stucco, the somewhat severe front being relieved by an ornamental centerpiece and balconies in the second story. The garden front is much freer in treatment—is, in fact, a festal composition of quite unusual charm. Two wings extend from the main building, and end in open rooms, or porches, with trellised arches and walls. Above each window in the wings is a sculptured relief, emblem of the ornamental character of the rooms within. A columned center emphasizes the middle of the main building, and above, behind a balustrade, is the oval exterior of the hall.
The location of the house on the hillside, and the attendant fact that the front portion has a lower story which does not appear in the rear, are distinguishing characteristics which vitally affect the plan, and make the interior one of most unusual interest. The halls and corridors are its most striking features, and are arranged and developed in a very original way. The entrance hall is
square, the pilastered walls of pink Caen stone. Steps between a screen of Doric columns lead to a corridor connecting with a suite of bedrooms on the right, and with the service department on the left. Two curved stairways, one on each side, are the approaches to the upper hall, which is the center of the house—the point to which everything radiates and by which the plan is dominated. It is a splendid and surprising room, oval in form, two stories in height, lighted by windows in the outer wall, and by others in the upper floor, from which a flood of sunshine is thrown across the balcony that runs entirely around it. The whole of the lower hall is in pink Caen stone, the upper in white Caen stone; while the upper arches, which complete the inner circle of the upper windows, afford glimpses of Caen stone columns, still higher up, that support the ceiling of the upper corridor. It is a brilliant conception, carried out in a brilliant way. The architectural parts are beautifully refined, and while entirely adequate are carefully subordinated and subdued. The main arches of the lower hall are elliptical in form, and without mouldings; the smaller round ar.ches over the doorways in the corners are slightly molded. The walls are rusticated, the arches being upheld on pilasters, which appear again in the upper floor to support the plaster ceiling. The floor, as are the floors of all the lower halls, is of red brick.
A corridor runs at right angles through the house, cutting the central oval. To the Irfi it connects with the dining-room; to the right it opens into the drawing-room. It is decorated with superb tapestries.
The drawing-room and dining-room each completely fills a wing of its own, which is joined at right angles to the main building. The drawing-room is paneled in pearl. Great panels of red damask, curtains of the same brilliant color, and furniture from Battle Abbey in red and gold, give the dominant color. The fireplace is of yellow marble, with a paneled overmantel and a rare old mirror. The lights are beautiful girandoles of striking beauty and originality. The end opens into the outdoor room, which is continuous with the house wall and covered by the same roof. It has a bricked floor and a beamed ceiling, and its arches look out upon the beautiful formal garden.
The dining-room, which occupies the space corresponding to the drawing-room on the left of the oval hall, is paneled throughout in Italian walnut, with pilasters at the windows and doors, all very beautiful in color. The ceiling is elliptical and perfectly plain. The lights are girandoles. There is no mantel, but an English stone fireplace. Above it hangs a portrait of Mrs. Duryea, by John W. Alexander. An open-air room, identical with that at the end of the drawing-room, opens from the dining-room.
The oval hall, for its part, provides space for two corner rooms, irregular in shape, which are used as sitting-rooms. One is especially set apart for the use of Mr. Duryea. It has dark green walls, on which are many old colored prints and other sporting mementos. The mantel is of green marble, and the furniture of the same color. The other room is paneled in two shades of gray. The curtains are red, with embroidered borders. The mantel is an old carved one, with an old mirror over it.
A flight of marble steps leads from the center of the oval hall to the upper corridor, which opens into it. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Duryea’s rooms, the latter a large room, with a boudoir adjoining it in the corner of the house. All these apartments are delightfully furnished, each with its own scheme of harmonious decoration and its own special color. More stairs lead to the upper third story, the corridor here forming a picture gallery. The rooms are entirely set apart for guests, and are arranged en suite with bathrooms. Each is furnished in chintz, very beautiful in color and delightfully varied.
The space immediately without the house at the back forms the formal garden. In the center, between the drawing-room and the dining-room, is a long pool, with a fountain at one end. At the farthest extremity this garden is enclosed with high trellises of wood, painted green, with a high niche of the same material directly opposite the two ends of the wings. Brilliant beds of flowers surround the house and enclose the trellises. From each side extend two broad grassed walks, bounded with privet hedges, beyond which are solemn rows of cypress. These are beautiful stretches of green grass, reaching off on the one side to the trees, and on the other to a roadway. Behind the enclosing trellises is a thick wood, which spreads away in all directions, the whole house, both front and back, being set in the woods, which have been cleared away somewhat in its immediate vicinity.
The house presents a brilliant exterior as seen from the garden, the exterior of a building quite palatial in scale and palatial in expression. Every single feature, the decorated walls, the delightful end porches, the novel trellises, the water garden in the center, the blooming plants and vines, all help in creating an ensemble of very great charm and interest.
Some Duryea House links below.
The best blog on the web about the Duryea Home click HERE.
The Wikipedia entry for Herman B. Duryea click HERE.
From OLD LONG ISLAND Blog click HERE.
For more recent history click HERE.