Sunday, December 26, 2010
A fine old house in Millbrook
"Caradoc" was built in 1902 by the President of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, a man named Roswell Miller. It speaks to the Gilded Age "chic" of Millbrook, a smart little village in the gentle hills of Dutchess County, New York, that Miller would build here. His son, Roswell Miller Jr. eventually married Andrew Carnegie's daughter, Margaret, and built another fine house nearby.
"Caradoc" is an odd name for a country house, odder still considering the myth from which it comes. Caradoc was the name of the Chief Elder of King Arthur's Round Table, a man abused by a traveling wizard into thinking a sow was a beautiful woman. While sinning with the pig, the wizard impregnated Caradoc's wife. Years later Caradoc discovered the true paternity of his boy, at which point father and son hatched a preposterous plan to give the wizard a dose of his own porcine medicine. Unsurprisingly, there were consequences to disrespecting a wizard. Cutting to the chase, Caradoc Jr. did manage to disentangle an enchanted serpent from his arm, but only at the cost of leaving the arm itself withered, and accidentally cutting off his bride's left nipple. It's complicated, as must be the reason for the President of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul RR to name his house after these people.
Miller's wife survived him by decades, dying on Christmas Eve, 1955. Six weeks later a local restuaranteur bought the house on 57 acres for the grand sum of $35,000. He subdivided the estate - none too gently, alas - leaving the house on what would eventually boil down to a 4-acre island in the middle of a new horseshoe-shaped road. The route of this road owed more to utility than aesthetics, but interestingly, almost no new structures have been built on the estate since the late 1950s. The main house bounced through a dozen or so hands - suffering considerable hard use and neglect in the process - before the current owner bought it in 2003. A slow restoration is now under way. The original design firm, Shepley Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, MA., provided the wonderful vintage images of the house with original landscaping.