Sunday, March 20, 2011

Artist's Colony, Oakdale New York

Once a part of William K. Vanderbilt's estate, Idle Hour, this quaint little residential community was once a sixteen acre farm complex.

The building that I'm sitting in front of was the entrance and is called the Clock Tower, which was once the water tower for the estate. The tower's clock, while the Vanderbilt's owned it, was wound everyday by a jeweler who lived in a neighboring town. 
The outbuildings included a stock barn, which housed a herd of fifty Alderney cows and bulls.  There was a creamery, poultry barns, piggaries, a duckhouse, dog kennels, an eagle house, a forge and a house for the farm superintendent.  There was also a barn where the farm horses were kept.  A pig wallow, which are next to the piggeries, has been restored.   However, none of these looked anything like your typical farm.  Each of these outbuildings looked like residences and were set up as row houses, making them look like one long house. 

One of the homes inside the Artist's Colony. 
 The Vanderbilt's left the estate in 1926 and the farm area was bought up by artist  Lucy Sawyer Pritchard Thompson and her son, William the 3rd.

Mrs. Thompson turned the farm area into residences and invited several of her colleagues to live and work out in Oakdale.  And so the Artist's Colony was born.

 Exhibitions were popular as were theatre group presentations.  A restaurant called the Tally Ho Inn was a well known stopping off point for residents and the public alike.

Today these are private residences but you can still ride up and down the streets and marvel at the quaint houses and streets with names like Featherbed Lane, Princess Gate and Frog Lane. 

There are creeks and canals to pass as well as preserved wetlands that are filled with all kinds of wildlife.  Rob and Susan have come down here many a time in years past, no matter what the season is.  In the summer, you just might encounter couples on bikes taking in the quiet history of the colony or some neighborhood kids selling iced tea or lemonade and some homemade cookies or tempting baked brownies.

Here are some links:

This is a great site.  Idle Hour, the Vanderbilt's estate, is now Dowling College.  This is their official website and this link provides a virtual tour as well as the history of the place.

An article from long island.  I borrowed one of the pictures from this article.

Here it is on wikimapia

Old Long Island has some interior shots of Idle Hour as well as other Vanderbilt homes around the Long Island area.


  1. Always so many interesting facts about the places you visit, Clyde. Love the idea of someone coming from another town to wind the clock in the tower. Idle Hour looks like a place that would be great to take a walk through.

  2. This sounds like a great place to visit. Take a tour or a field trip. Thanks for the blog. ;)

  3. I had the pleasure of growing up in this neighborhood. Our house used to be the blacksmiths shop & stables. There was clear evidence of its history, including pounded iron window frames. It can be seen in the second picture, on the right where the three big barn doors are. When we moved in, the brick had been painted white and my parents hired a sandblaster to remove the paint and restore it to brick; so much better!
    Friends of our family lived in the white house in your first picture. I believe that this is where they housed foul. The windows in their "den", opened right onto ground level. I highly recommend a long leisurely stroll around this area someday. You are sure to enjoy it!

  4. 33 years ago, my step sister lived just outside the clock tower entrance. I would enjoyed driving through the covered entrance way , with the cottages on either side it made you feel as though you stepped back in time. It was more like being in an English country side village.
    It is a magical place.

  5. We restored the cow barn on 8 tower Mews. We purchased the burnt out section from Mr. Thompson in 1960 and began a long journey of completely rebuilding it into a 4,00o sq. Ft house with a large courtyard. I miss the wonderful atmosphere and i did a lot of art work that can be viewed in my book online titled "along the Way".