Springside - A National Historic Landmark
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History

In this section: Springside is Born : Vassar’s Retreat : Next Century : Rescue and Restore : Explore More

Springside as Matthew Vassar’s Summer Retreat (1852 – his death in 1868)

Matthew Vassar, painted by James Henry Wright, 1861 (photo, Vassar College Library)

Vassar continued to improve Springside for the rest of his life. In all he spent over $100,000 turning a simple $8,000 farm into a celebrated estate. Under his guidance and with the help of his estate manager Caleb N. Bement, appointed in 1857, Springside became a model farm and highly esteemed pleasure garden. A number of new features were added, including a summer house, a conservatory or greenhouse, a pagoda, various paths, and statuary. The grand brick and stone villa designed by Downing and Vaux to be the master residence was never built, as Vassar and his wife seemed content with the 10-room Gardener's Cottage.

Jet Vale Fountain, from Lossing, 1867 (photo: Vassar College Library)

Vassar used Springside as his summer retreat for many years and lived there full-time from 1864 until his death in 1868. Proud of his creation, he regularly opened his grounds to the public and aptly named each of its scenic features – Deer Park, Rock Roost, Knitting Knoll, Stone Henge, Willow Spring, Jet Vale (left), Walnut Row, and Evergreen Park among them – to give visitors a flavor of the variety of scenery in store.

Highly esteemed by the public, as well, Springside was the subject of romantic poetry, musical works, and other forms of rhapsodic praise. In his contemporary biography of Vassar, Lossing devoted considerable space to Springside’s glory, including a written walking tour of the site, which is still useful to today’s visitor.