The Long and Storied History of Glenclyffe & The Garrison Institute 18th Century THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION Skirmishes for possession of West Point military academy (the building across the Hudson river) were fought on and around the land where the Garrison Institute now stands. Hessian mercenaries (of the British) were held in a prison camp on the grounds, and Sugar Loaf Mountain (directly across Route 9D to the east and formerly part of the estate) housed a military post armed with cannons. BENEDICT ARNOLD’S ESCAPE Below Sugar Loaf Mountain lays the Beverly Robinson House, Benedict Arnold’s headquarters while commander of West Point. While living there he conspired to commit treason against the Patriots by giving West Point defense plans to the British Major John Andre. General Washington had been coming to plan strategy with Benedict Arnold but before he arrived Patriot soldiers captured British Major John Andre. Benedict Arnold, knowing his treasonous deeds were about to be discovered mounted a horse and fled to the British ship, the HMS Vulture. Shortly after General Washington interviewed Major Andre in the Beverly Robinson house, Benedict Arnold’s treason was revealed, and Major Andre was executed.
19th Century THE FISH FAMILY 1861- Hamilton Fish (who had served as New York Governor and later US Senator and who would go on to be Secretary of State under President Grant), purchased a large plot of land in Garrison, New York and constructed a large imposing estate at a cost of $30,000 for him and his family. The home, (the abandoned mansion south of the Garrison Institute) which he named “Glenclyffe”, was considerably large for $30,000 and had 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 3 servant’s rooms, a library, drawing room, dining room, billiard room, den, morning room and a boudoir. The property had a large green house, stables, expansive gardens, gate house and spectacular views of the Hudson. Here Hamilton Fish entertained many foreign diplomats and U.S. notables. President Grant, himself, was a visitor and planted a tree that still stands in front of the Fish mansion. 1
FISH MANSION “TOO SMALL” 1893 – Stuyvesant Fish, Hamilton Fish’s son and the president of the Illinois Central Railroad, inherited the estate. Along with his wife Mamie, he was a leader of New York society. Mamie or Marion Graves Anthon felt that she could not live in such a small home (almost 16,000 square feet), so Mamie had a large addition built to the left of the house that doubled its size (32,000 sq. ft). The addition included a new kitchen, service pantry, servant’s rooms, expanded dining room, sun room and morning room. Mamie also had the back of the house extended so she could expand the drawing room and stair hall. Where the old kitchen and servants rooms were, Mamie constructed a large ballroom with decorative oak paneling. Every single room except the library was redone. The new home now had 15 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 15 servant’s rooms and stables able to accommodate 25 carriages. Through the course of their time on the property, the Fish family expended $2 Million on improving their estate. MAMIE FISH- GLIDED AGE ROYALTY The Fish stayed at “Glenclyffe” during the autumn and spring seasons when society would be either in Europe or in the country. It was then that Mamie would give her elaborate weekend house parties, normally inviting 20 guests to stay at “Glenclyffe” for the weekend. During the autumn, she would give Halloween parties in the house where her own guests and neighbors danced in the ballroom and the servants and their guests danced in the stables. Often Mamie’s parties were not just extravagant but outlandish. Once an elephant walked around the ballroom and the guests fed it peanuts while they danced. On another occasion, when a rival detained her guest of honor, she had a friend impersonate the Russian czar. Mamie was also known for being sarcastic and sometimes catty occasionally greeting guests with “make yourself perfectly at home, believe me, there is no one who wishes you there more heartily than I do” and remarking about Eleanor Roosevelt that “it is said she dressed on three hundred dollars a year, and she looks it.”
20th Century FROM RICHES TO RAGS 1923- The Fish Estate was bought by the Capuchin Friars. Prior to 1923, the Franciscan order of Capuchins had a friary in Yonkers, NY, but they quickly outgrew it and began searching for a new property. They purchased the Glenclyffe property for $150,000. Just a month later, Dec 8, 1923, Father Adelelm Biller O.F.M. Cap., offered the first mass on the property, a service to honor the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. MONASTIC TRAINING BEGINS AT GLENCLYFFE April 1924 – The director and four students moved into the former Fish residence, which would now serve as the preparatory seminary (or teaching seminary). The drawing room had been converted into a chapel, and mass was held for the first time on April 9th. A few days later, the last of the students arrived, the building was dedicated, and the students began their classwork.
Meanwhile, the stable/carriage house was being converted into a monastery. By summer the rooms that had housed the grooms and jockeys were small cells ready for the friars to move in and where the horses’ stalls had been, there was now a small chapel. The property had transitioned from a home of gilded age wealth and luxury inhabited by Mrs. Fish (who succeeded Mrs. Astor as the leader of NY society), to a simple sacred place of worship, prayer, and study inhabited by poor Franciscan Friars. The public was amused by the shift, which one newspaper reporter referred to as “sackcloth replacing silk.” EXPANDING EDUCATION 1926 – The Capuchins decided to teach aspiring friars at Glenclyffe for five years instead of having them go elsewhere after three, so an addition on the building (right wing) was undergone—adding a study hall, combination gym and auditorium, chapel, and a dormitory. The Archbishop of Simla India, Most Rev. Anselm Keneally dedicated the new college. A five year preparatory classical course was now taught from the former Fish Mansion making the property a distinct unit of the Capuchin educational system in the area. However the property lacked a real monastery. The friars could not live with the students in the college, and the renovated stables were very limited with only space for 14 friars, no storage, and poor heat in the winter and ventilation in the summer. THE BUILDING THAT WOULD HOUSE THE GARRISON INSTITUTE 1931 – The number of clergy teaching in Glenclyffe became too many to accommodate in the former stables, so the decision was made to build a proper monastery. The site where the monastery (eventually to become the Garrison Institute) was to be built was formerly the Fish’s Italian Gardens, a beautiful sunken garden full of color and fragrance. It was noted that the ruins of the beautiful garden “will give rise something of greater beauty and value.” 1932- Built in what the architect, William H. Jones of Yonkers, referred to as Early Tudor Sixteenth Century décor to express “a loving monument of the joyful Catholic faith; of men to whom religion is the beginning and end of everything”, the monastery cost around $750,000, and had five floors. The finished building included a kitchen, butcher shop, bakery, dumbwaiters, Brothers’ recreation room, Fathers’ recreation room, poor-lads’ room, hired help room, laundry room, chapel, auditorium, tailor shop and clothes room, biology room, infirmary, more than 100 monastic cells, plenty of storage space, etc. The major seminary for the Capuchins, the Capuchin Friary of Mary Immaculate was now complete. September 18, 1932- Over 3,000 people attended the dedication. The collection came to only $149, likely as a product of the Great Depression. MONASTIC LIFE 1932-1952 - Those at the friary followed a very strict schedule. The day began at 4:55 am to the beat of Surgite Fratres on a metal drum or two planks of wood when a drum was not available. Then prayer, meditation, and mass before breakfast. The day continued with classes, study periods, divine office, silent meals, and brief periods of recreation. A few nights a week, night prayers ended with a procession to the refectory for a solemn ritual. The shades were pulled for this event, and on many occasions a young friar failed to secure the shade correctly causing it to snap up in the middle 3
of prayers. On one occasion this happened twice in the same week causing the older friars to “express concern for the future of the province.” As the decades passed life at the friary becomes less strictly regimented. 1961 – Due to an influx in friars and aspiring friars, a new building was erected with recreation facilities and sleeping quarters. (This is now the Philipstown Community Center.)
WINDING DOWN 1974 –After 50 years of teaching, the preparatory seminary was closed. The building became a convent occupied by the Sisters of the Cross, a contemplative order. The education of student friars now occurred at the Maryknoll School of Theology in Ossining NY. 1985 – Over time, the Capuchins’ numbers decreased, and the order moved its students and friars into other seminaries in the region. By 1985, the three buildings at Glenclyffe were no longer in use but rather a financial drain.
21st Century THE GARRISON INSTITUTE IS BORN 2001 – The Open Space Institute bought the 93 acres of land from the Capuchin Franciscan friars assuaging community fears that the land was going to be sold to a developer (Schwartzberg Associates had proposed investing more than $40 million to build a hotel and luxury townhouses). The property cost $7.4 million. The Open Space Institute sold 12 acres including the 72,000 sq. ft. monastery to the Roses. Another building on the property went to the town of Philipstown and became the Philipstown Community Center. 2003 –After $3.5 million in renovations, the Garrison Institute opens its doors.