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Historical Background

Biographical Sketches

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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THE PRESIDENTS of the United States
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

National Park Service Van Buren National Historic Site
New York
Van Buren National Historic Site
Van Buren National Historic Site

Columbia County, on N.Y. 9H, about 2 miles south of Kinderhook.

The focus of this park is Lindenwald, the retirement home of Martin Van Buren from 1841 until his death in 1862. During these years, in 1844 he attempted to win the Democratic Presidential nomination, ran for President again in 1848 on the unsuccessful Free Soil ticket, and traveled extensively in Europe from 1853 to 1855.

Peter Van Ness, a prominent judge and local politician, built the residence in 1797. His son William, an associate and mentor of Van Buren, inherited it in 1804 and lived in it until the 1820's. One of his close friends was Washington Irving, who visited often, tutored the Van Ness children for awhile, and may have written some of his stories in the house. Another frequent guest was Aaron Burr, whom Van Ness supported for President in 1800. He also acted as Burr's second in his 1804 duel with Alexander Hamilton.

Van Buren, who had been born and raised in Kinderhook, decided in 1839, during his Presidency, to retire in that area. That same year, he purchased the Van Ness house and about 130 acres of land. By 1845 he had acquired 90 more acres. Meantime, 4 years earlier, after his defeat for a second term, he had retired to the residence, which he named Lindenwald after the linden groves on the property. He died there in 1862 and was buried in Kinderhook Cemetery.

Van Buren National Historic Site
Van Buren National Historic Site. (National Park Service, Glen S. Cook and Son, 1976.)

Originally the building was a simple, two-story, Georgian structure built of red brick. The woodwork was white. In 1849 Van Buren hired architect Richard Upjohn to renovate the exterior and create a "Venetian villa" appearance. Dormers were installed to provide an additional half-story for servants' quarters; a four-room library wing, two kitchens and a four-story Italianesque tower added at the rear of the house overlooking the Hudson River; the eaves laced with Victorian trim; and a Victorian porch attached to the front. The red brick was plastered over and the house painted yellow. On the grounds, a semicircular driveway, ending in a carriage circle near the house, was laid out. Ornate gatehouses were erected at each of the two entrances.

Since Van Buren's time, Lindenwald has had several owners, but exterior alterations have been minimal. The main roof and tower are now covered with slate and the lower roofs are of sheet metal. Some of the Victorian trim has been removed, and a white-colonnaded portico added across the front of the house. One of the gatehouses and a shed from the time of Van Buren still stand; the garage is a later addition.

The interior arrangement remains much as it was in Van Buren's day. The entrance opens into a large central hall, once used as a banquet room. Two pairs of spacious rooms flank the hall. On the second floor are five rooms and a central hall. The attic contains three rooms, halls, and storage space. The basement houses servants' dining quarters, kitchen, vegetable room, wine and vinegar cellar, furnace room, and other chambers. In 1944 the owners of the house sold most of the Van Buren furniture, but a few historical items remain.

The National Park Service acquired the property in 1975.

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004