Sunnyside is a historic house on 10 acres (4 ha) of grounds alongside the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. It was formerly the home of noted early American author Washington Irving, best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", and is a National Historic Landmark.

Early history

In some sense, Sunnyside began almost 200 years before Irving with Wolfert Acker (sometimes spelled Wolfert Eckert), a Dutch-American inhabitant of the region. His property, "Wolfert's Roost", was part of the Manor of Philipsburg; it contained the simple two-room cottage (built 1656) and surrounding land. It came into the Van Tassell family, who owned it until 1802. That year, 150 acres (0.61 km2) were deeded to the family of Benson Ferris, one-time clerk of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, whose wife, Maria Acker, was a descendant of Wolfert Acker.

Washington Irving

In 1832, Washington Irving visited his nephew Oscar Irving who lived near the Hudson River. Near Oscar's property was a small parcel of land and a run-down farmhouse formerly owned by the Van Tassell family. Irving had recently undertaken a substantial trip through the prairies of the Arkansas River and Mississippi River and the frontier lifestyle made him lament his lack of a home of his own. He was also frustrated because he had lived most of his adult life as a guest in other people's homes. As Irving wrote, he was eager for a home and was "willing to pay a little unreasonably for it". Irving finally purchased the property on June 7, 1835 for $1,800.

Irving wrote a story, Wolfert's Roost, about Acker and the site. In a letter to his brother Peter, he described it as "a beautiful spot, capable of being made a little paradise... I have had an architect up there, and shall build upon the old mansion this summer. My idea is to make a little nookery somewhat in the Dutch style, quaint, but unpretending. It will be of stone."

Irving requested that George Harvey become his aesthetic collaborator and foreman in the house's subsequent remodeling and enlargement. The result, with its wisteria-covered, stepped-gable entrance and Spanish tower, is instantly recognizable.

Irving accepted a nomination as Minister to Spain in 1842. He left Sunnyside in the care of his brother Ebeneezer when he left for Spain, though he was sad to leave it. As he wrote, "The only drawback upon all this is the hard trial of tearing myself away from dear little Sunnyside." He returned to New York on September 19, 1846.

In its time, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said that Sunnyside stood "next to Mount Vernon, the best known and most cherished of all the dwellings in our land." The public interest in the home drew several gawkers hoping to catch a glimpse of Irving working. Irving's neighbor Nathaniel Parker Willis joked, "Could not Sunny-side 'pay' to be got ready for a boarding-house?"

Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside on November 28, 1859. The Irving family continued to inhabit the cottage until 1945, when John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased the house. He opened it to the public in 1947.

Modern use

Sunnyside is now operated as a museum by Historic Hudson Valley, which charges an admission fee.

Sunnyside contains a large collection of Irving's original furnishings and accessories. In particular, all furniture and most accessories in his writer's study are original. The dining room, drawing room, and picture gallery, as well as most bedrooms, are open to the public and contain much of their original furnishings.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

There is a partial replica of Sunnyside in the Washington Irving Memorial Park and Arboretum in Bixby, Oklahoma, with a statue of Irving seated on the side porch.

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via