Situated on a bluff looking south on the Hudson River, Wilderstein is an interesting adaptation of a mid-nineteenth-century villa to a variation of the Queen Anne style. Wilderstein has been the seat of the Suckley family since its design in 1853 by John Warren Ritch. In 1888-89, the addition of a tower, new verandas, porte cochere, and service wing designed by Poughkeepsie architect Arnout Cannon, greatly altered the simple villa character. A rich interior scheme, furnished by J.B. Tiffany & Co., is comprised of woodwork of oak, mahogany, and cherry as well as 44 leaded glass panels. Downing Vaux altered the main stair and added the shady in 1892- Vaux & Co. designed an extensive landscape architecture plan to improve the grounds which were originally pasture. Vaux & Radford designed the Gate Lodge. Prior to 1852, Wilderstein was part of Wildercliff/
Accounting records with the contractor, Henry Latson, also named each person who worked on the project. The initial structure costs $8,503.43. Materials cost $4,922.48; labor charges equaled $3,580.95.
George Suckley emigrated to the United State from Staffordshire, England. Am important early American businessman, Suckley established a packet line which transported goods imported from Great Britain to Albany, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. He was also a partner in a manufacturing concern called Holy, Suckley, & Co. of Shefield, England which produced a variety of items such as adzes and sugar nippers. He founded factories at the start of the industrial age in England, thus controlling shipping as well as manufacturing interests. It was his fortune that secured the future of the Suckley family in America.
Gegorge Suckley's first wife, Hannah Lang of Baltimore, died after the birth of their second child. Suckley then married Catharine Rutsen, confidante of Catherine Livingston Garrettson. Suckley, a Methodist who had lived in Maryland, was a friend of Rev. Freeborn Garrettson. Garrettson dies at Suckley's house in New York City in 1827. It appears that George Suckley and Catharine Rutsen were introduced by the Garrettsons.
George and Catharine Suckley's son was Thomas Holy Suckley (1810-1888). It was he who purchased land from Mary Garrettson and initiated the construction of Wilderstein. Thomas Suckley was not involved in his father's financial empire and instead preferred the rural life in Rhinebeck. By 1840 most of the Suckley manufacturing and shipping interest had been divested into real estate, particularly in lower Manhattan and New Jersey. Rutsen Suckley, Thomas' older brother, managed the family finances.
Thomas married Catherine Bowne of Rhinebeck. Their children were Rutsen (1853-1865), Catherine Rutsen Suckley (1860-1879), and Robert Bowne Suckley (1856-1921). Robert inherited both the estates of his father, Thomas, and his uncle, Rutsen.
Robert Suckley married Elizabeth P. Montgomery (1864-1953) of Philadelphia. After his father's death in 1888, Robert decided to return to Rhinebeck from Orange, New Jersey and enlarge Wilderstein. Although he was an early investor in an electric company, the younger Suckley was not much interested in business affairs.
Robert Bowne Suckley and Elizabeth Philips Montgomery had seven children: Rutsen (1885-1890), Henry E. Montgomery, Arthur Rutsen, Robert B., Jr., Margaret Lynch (1891-?), Cathatine (1892-1970) and Elizabeth Suckley Hambley (1892-?). Catharine and Elizabeth were twins. Rutsen was the only child not to reach his majority. Henry, Arthur and Robert attended Harvard University.
After Thomas Holy Suckley's death in 1888, his son inherited the Rhinebeck propery. He enlarged the house and moved his family from Orange, New Jersey, to Rhinebeck in 1889. The Suckleys remained at Wilderstein until 1897. With twenty-seven staff members at Wilderstein, the estate was too costly to operate. The family went to Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland where they stayed until 1907.
Margaret Lynch Suckley was the only daughter to attend college. She studied at Bryn Mawr College from 1912 to 1914, forbidden by her mother from graduating. She was a friend of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's. Miss Suckley, or "Daisy" as she is known, served as a personal archivist to the President. Later she was instrumental in establishing the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York where she worked for twenty years.
Miss Suckley has given Wilderstein to a local preservation group, Wilderstein Preservation Inc., to protect Wilderstein in perpetuity.