Washington Irving’s Sunnyside

My main summer goal is taking more advantage of the cultural and recreational offerings in Jersey City and the New York City region. After writing my post on Washington Irving’s relationship with Jersey City, I decided to visit Irving’s estate, Sunnyside, a National Historic Landmark in Irvington, New York.

Sunnyside, former home of Washington Irving. Another visitor can't help but snap a few photographs of her own.  (Photograph by author)
Sunnyside, the former home of Washington Irving. Notice that the Hudson River lies within throwing distance of the abode
(Photograph by author).

Sunnyside is an amazing experience for any lover of American literature, culture, or history. The tour guides dress in historically appropriate garb and tell enthralling stories about Irving, his family, and his home. For an hour, you can step back into the early days of the American Republic and into a quiet, rustic Hudson Valley decidedly in the past.

Residents and visitors to Jersey City (this being a JC-centric blog), often forget or simply fail to realize that relaxing beaches, lush parks, and quaint towns are accessible and convenient thanks to the region’s robust public transportation. A car is not needed to partake in these natural or cultural treasures. My trip to Sunnyside demonstrated this.

Getting to Irving’s estate proved to be extremely easy and enjoyable. I boarded a train at Grand Central Terminal (an enchanting place itself) and disembarked at Irvington, New York. From there, I walked along Main Street and turned left onto the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. The trail was an unexpected, pleasant surprise and a welcome escape from my daily environment of brick and concrete. When I reached Sunnyside Lane, I took another left and arrived at the estate in several minutes.

Sunnyside is a writer’s home. Its winding paths, trickling streams, and personal, idiosyncratic mixture of Dutch and Spanish architectural styles are the products of a man dissatisfied with mundane reality. Irving created his own private world with Sunnyside. I was grateful and flattered to be invited there for the afternoon.

Lush ivy and wisteria hug the entrance to Sunnyside, inviting guests into a private, imaginative world (Photograph by author).
Dense ivy and wisteria hug the front entrance to Sunnyside, inviting guests into a private, imaginative world (Photograph by author).

Every square inch of the grounds and the house was meticulously designed and sculpted by Washington Irving or his friend, the artist George Harvey. The deception of the Romantic-period creativity is subtle.

This stream is one of the many delightful surprises within the grounds of Sunnyside (Photograph by author).
This stream is one of the many magical surprises within the grounds of Sunnyside (Photograph by author).

Although a visitor believes that he or she is wandering through nature, every spot is a combination of sights and sounds, structured to awaken the imagination.

The interior of the house itself is equally breathtaking.  Photographs are prohibited inside Sunnyside. This policy allows a visitor to focus on the words and the storytelling of the guide and to consider the visual delights of the home. Yes, you must live in the moment.

Irving’s library and study will stoke the envy of even the most world-weary writer.

Washington Irving's Study at Sunnyside, Tarrytown, New York (Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley).
Washington Irving’s Study at Sunnyside
(Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley).

When I returned to my humble home, I began sketching plans for my own study. I know that I can’t compete with Irving, but I’ll still try.

Tours leave at specified times, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly. If you arrive early, you’re more than welcome to stroll the grounds or browse in the well-stocked gift shop.

Sunnyside guarantees a wonderful afternoon outing. Place it on your own summer must-see list.

After the tour, I sat for a moment and enjoyed the view of the Hudson River (Photography by author).
After the tour, I sat for a moment and enjoyed the view of the Hudson River (Photograph by author).

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside                                                                                            3 W. Sunnyside Lane, Irvington, NY 10533                                                                       (914)631-8200                                                                                                                         Weekdays: 10:30 a.m.; 11:00, 11:30; 12:30 p.m.; 1:30; 2:00; 2:30; 3:00; 3:30 Weekends: Every half hour. First tour at 10:00 a.m.; last tour at 3:30 p.m.

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