Mount Gulian stood on its hill above the Hudson River for 200 years. But an arsonist’s fire destroyed it in 1931. Family members, household staff and neighbors rescued furniture, paintings, and silver from the home. The ruin, with just the stonework remaining, was left to the mercy of the woods for thirty-five years.
In 1966, Bache Bleecker, a Verplanck descendant and his wife Connie founded the Mount Gulian Society for the purpose of reconstructing the homestead.
The new-born Society immediately hired a restoration expert, Edward Litwin. He excavated the ruins of the old homestead during the summer of 1967. All that remained after the fire was a cellar choked with weeds and the rubble of handmade bricks and cut native sandstone, and remnants of stone walls, fireplaces and chimneys. To help him with the restoration, Mr. Litwin studied old photographs and consulted people who remembered Mount Gulian, although the dwelling had metamorphosed over its long life.
original house, built between 1730 and 1740 by Gulian Verplanck II, a merchant
from New York City, was a small structure capped with an A-roof. That the
house grew in size came as no surprise to Litwin. From a stone in the cellarway
with 1767 carved on it, he concluded that it was probably enlarged around
that time. A stone foundation indicated that the two porches and the hallmark
gambrel roof were probably added sometime after 1767, but before the Revolutionary
In 1804, Gulian II’s grandson, Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, built an addition and laid out the garden. General Lafayette, on his return to America in 1824, stayed in a room in the addition and planted a rosebush in the garden. The Mount Gulian Society decided not to rebuild the addition. The house would be reconstructed to its 1783 state, when General von Steuben used it as his headquarters and the Society of the Cincinnati was formed.
restorers dug deep to reach Mount Gulian’s colonial days. Part of
a large fireplace with a beehive oven in the northeast corner of the cellar
was found as were the brick arches holding up the fireplaces. Once the
ruins revealed all they could, oak floor beams and pine floor planking
of the same dimensions as the originals (the planks are fascinatingly
irregular) went into place along with first floor doors and window frames.
Mr. Litwin and his sons strengthened and pointed up the original stone
walls and restored the fireplaces.
By autumn, 1970, the roof was framed, sheathed and covered with cedar shingles. During the summer of 1971, the porches were reconstructed. Now the gambrel roof, curving bell-shaped to the porch columns, restored the house to its former grace while land clearing revealed stately old trees, some of them unusual specimens long forgotten. In 1973 a blacksmith fashioned hinges and other hardware for doors and shutters. The windows awaited panes: some would be period glass.
Reconstruction was completed in 1975, one year ahead of schedule. Today, visitors will notice the aforementioned architectural features, including the roof which slopes down and outward in a graceful bell-like curve to become the roof of the veranda, the original colonial kitchen and beehive oven, unearthed in the reconstruction, and the four capped chimneys. The home today, overlooking the Hudson River, features a large meeting/exhibit room, a museum room featuring 19th century pieces, and the southeast dining room. Adjacent to the home is a restored 18th century Dutch barn.