THING TO DO
Tour the Philip Schuyler Country Estate
—Major General Philip Schuyler
6 November 1777
Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) wrote those words about his love of country life when he took up residence in what he called his “commodious box.” He built it hurriedly in the frosty autumn of November 1777 to replace its predecessor, which was burned by the British only a few weeks before.
Restored by the National Park Service, Philip Schuyler’s house is a tangible reminder of the village of Saratoga’s founding family—now known as Schuylerville, having been renamed for the Schuyler family in 1831.
As a member of the Continental Congress, an influential New Yorker, and an experienced officer, Schuyler was given the rank of major general on June 19, 1775—making him third in command under George Washington and commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army. In the summer of 1777, as British forces overwhelmingly swept down the Champlain and Hudson Valleys, Schuyler was blamed for the loss of Fort Schuyler and the American Army’s retreat. Despite his shrewd tactics to impede the British advance, Congress replaced Schuyler with General Horatio Gates on August 19, 1777, one month before the Battles of Saratoga. Notwithstanding this personal setback, Schuyler helped the army from his mansion in Albany by forwarding supplies and encouraging reinforcements northward.
Wearied by many personal attacks and sacrifices, plagued with recurring illness and having no active command since being relieved by Gates, Schuyler resigned from the army in 1779. However, he continued to provide vital support by organizing and financing military campaigns, advising Washington, and continuing to serve in the Continental Congress.
After the Revolutionary War, Schuyler remained active in business as well as state and national politics, but his real interests took an important turn: with visionary acumen he became one of the staunchest supporters for canal construction. Although he died before his dreams of successful canals came to be, Philip Schuyler is known as a father of United States canals.
The estate was originally part of the 1684 Saratoga Patent of 168,000 acres granted to seven New Yorkers (Schuyler owned 24,000 acres). Through Schuylers and purchase the “farm at Saratoga” eventually came to Philip’s grandfather, Johannes inheritance. This bustling farm, left in the care of Johannes’s oldest son, was obliterated by a raiding party of Indians and French Canadians in 1745. Almost all of the community’s enslaved and free people (over 100) were captured; Johannes’s oldest son and heir to the Schuyler fortune was killed on the spot. Philip Schuyler became the family’s new heir.
From a second house built in the 1760s, Philip turned the remnants of the ruined farm into a busy farming, milling, and merchandising center, worked by tenants, enslaved people, and artisans (notably Scottish immigrants). With his wheat, flax, and hemp crops, award-winning linen mill, sawmills, herring fishery (transporting fish to sell as far away as Jamaica and Antigua), and general store selling goods and services, Philip’s Saratoga community and personal wealth grew substantially. Just like in 1745 though, the house, mills, and most of the buildings were destroyed on October 10, 1777, but this time by retreating British forces following the Battles of Saratoga.
Following the surrender of British forces in Saratoga on October 17, 1777 and departure of tens of thousands of troops from the area, Philip immediately began to plan the rebuilding of his Saratoga house and farm out of its charred remains. Since December’s winter was approaching fast, his new “cheaply and speedily erected” house was completed within the weeks of November. It was built upon the existing foundation of a burned building and used fresh-cut lumber from his upper sawmill. Paying high wages for labor from all over Albany County, and even by using some captive British soldiers (who knew masonry), the plain, unrefined house was finished, but it was much smaller and simpler than the one to which Philip was accustomed. As time went on the house grew in size and comfort, with structural additions and finishing coats added to cover the naked interior and exterior.
The Continuing Tradition
Throughout Philip’s life and since, this house has been the destination of many visitors, some of whom were famous citizens. George Washington (godfather of daughter Catherine Schuyler), son-in-law Alexander Hamilton (who married daughter Elizabeth Schuyler), Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Marquis de Schuyler visited this house, to name a few. Now, following in their footsteps, tens of thousands of people from all over the world continue to learn about the general, the visionary, and the man who was Philip Lafeyette.
A guided tour of the house typically lasts 45 minutes and may not exceed 15 people - there are currently no self-guided tour options. If you visit the park on a day when the house is closed, a short video presentation of the house is available upon request the at park's visitor center.
Tour times during open season:
9am; 9:45am; 10:30am; 11:15am; 12:30pm; 1:15pm; 2pm; 2:45pm; 3:30pm; 4:15pm
All are welcome!
Pets are allowed on the grounds of the Schuyler House as long as they are leashed. Pets are not allowed inside the house.
Schuyler House is located on US Route 4, just south of the Village of Schuylerville - it is about 7 miles north of the battlefield unit of Saratoga National Historical Park.
Open Season: Friday - Sunday (plus holidays), Memorial Day to Labor Day; after Labor Day hours change to Saturday - Sunday through mid-October.
Restrooms: two partially accessible outdoor restrooms are available in the parking area on site - the stalls are wide enough, but doors into the restrooms are not automatic.
Parking: two spaces available at head of walkway leading to Schuyler House
Walkway: currently there are four steps split by a metal railing leading to narrow dirt path, making accessibility to the house extremely limited.
House: a porch with two steps leads to the front of the house. The historic structure of the house only permits first-floor tours for visitors unable to navigate stairs.
Spring 2017: Plans are underway to modify the section of pavement at the end of the parking lot, making it accessible. Saratoga NHP Maintenance staff will remove the stone stairs to the walking path and construct a land bridge that slopes down to meet the existing pathway. That pathway will be widened to 5 feet, and flattened so that all ADA guidelines are met with respect to slopes which are easy for people with mobility issues to manage.
Further, the porch on the front of the house will be removed and an earthen ramp with stone side walls will be built to allow easier access into the house. While the historic structure of the house will still only permit first-floor tours for visitors unable to navigate stairs, this long overdue project will allow our visitors markedly improved access to the house and the stories interpreted inside.
The pathway will be packed stone dust (granite which is crushed into a sand like consistency) - hard enough to support wheels, but still have a historic gravel road look.
Last updated: January 18, 2017