Only thirty minutes north of Manhattan, Castle Hotel & Spa sits majestically atop one of the highest points in Westchester County overlooking the Hudson River (note: you can just see the Hudson behind my wife in the picture below) amid sprawling acres of manicured gardens and grounds. With over 100 years of history, the Castle is undoubtedly a sumptuous escape to the enchanted era of America’s Gilded Age.
The story of the Castle begins shortly before the turn of the 20th century, when General Howard Carroll, a well-respected newspaperman, playwright and businessman, purchased the land as a home for his growing family. “Carrollcliffe” was built in two stages between 1897 and 1910. Working with noted New York architect Henry Kilburn, Carroll actively assisted in planning the Castle in a style reminiscent of Norman fortification in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The finished castle boasted 45 rooms.
From the beginning, the Oak Room, historic in its own right, served as the family dining room. Legend has it that the room’s wainscoting was brought over to Tarrytown from General Carroll’s house in St. Germain, outside Paris. Louis XIV had presented this house to James II when he fled to France after having been deposed in England. It was in this room that James’ grandson Prince Charles Edward (“Bonnie Prince Charles”) and Angus MacDonald, representing the Scottish highlanders, plotted the unsuccessful uprising of 1745 in the British Isles to overturn the German king and restore the lineage of James II.
Born in Albany, N.Y. in 1854, Howard Carroll was educated in Albany, New York City, Hanover and Gottingen in Germany, and Geneva, Switzerland. His first and longest position was with The New York Times, where he served as the Washington D.C. correspondent, befriending such leaders as Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and James Garfield. After refusing several official appointments in the Chester Arthur administration, Carroll wrote several plays, including The American Countess, which ran for 200 nights on Broadway. He also authored two books.
General and Mrs. Carroll were notable social figures in Westchester County and New York City society. They entertained frequently and on a grand scale resplendent in the tasteful luxuries of the era. During the Hudson-Fulton Tercentennial Celebration of 1909 (commemorating of the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River and the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s first successful commercial application of the paddle steamer) Carroll, considered a gourmet and connoisseur of rare wines, hosted every officer from the German fleet stationed in the Hudson River region. Included among the invited guests were J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, foreign dignitaries and ambassadors who viewed the great river regattas from the Castle terrace.
It was said that the size and scope of the gathering convinced the Carrolls’ to expand their castle. A new addition, completed in 1910, provided the Great Hall as the new dining room, an adjacent pantry, a formal ballroom, and additional servants’ quarters, garage and stables. Following General Carroll’s death in 1916, his widow and children, Caramai, Arthur and Lauren, occupied the Castle until 1940, when it was rented for a brief period to a local school. Today, the elegant Ballroom at the Castle is still known as the Caramai Ballroom.
In 1941, Emerson and Ruth Axe bought the Castle and 64 acres of land for $45,000, and turned it into the headquarters of H.W. Axe & Company, an investment counseling firm. Under their ownership, what became known as Axe Castle also was called “High Finance on the Hudson”. As a military man, General Carroll undoubtedly would have approved of the Castle’s use during World War II. The roof and 75-foot tower were partially enclosed, and served as an observation post by the Tarrytown Civil Defense to monitor air traffic in the area.
In 1981, the town of Tarrytown designated The Castle a historic landmark, protecting the outside structure from any alterations in the future. Between 1994 and 1996 the Castle was transformed into a luxury hotel with a gourmet restaurant and meeting and event facilities. The restoration of the Castle’s original suites, which offer spectacular views inside and out, and the creation of the 24-room addition named Carrollcliffe was a salute to its proud heritage.
Taken with a Sony RX100 M3.