Wyndcliffe: the Abandoned Mansion that allegedly inspired the idiom: ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’

wyndcliffe-2 (Image: Joseph, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

The abandoned mansion known as Wyndcliffe stands on the eastern bank of the Hudson River near Rhinebeck, New York. Built in 1853 at a time when new rail links made it possible for wealthy merchants and bankers to work in the city but live in the countryside, this Norman-style brick-built villa originally called Rhinecliff and set amid 80 acres of land, was designed by George Veitch with construction led by John Byrd.

Its first owner, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, may have inspired the idiom ‘Keeping up with the Joneses‘.  The phrase may refer to this 24-room mansion because its construction initiated the building of several more grand houses intended to display wealth and social status.

wyndcliffe (Image: Joseph, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Wyndcliffe’s Gothic features may be considered grand by most but notably Edith Wharton (Elizabeth Jones’ niece), a writer and designer, thought it gloomy on her childhood visits and apparently once dubbed it a monstrosity.  Before it was abandoned around 1950, Wyndcliffe had several owners including a beer baron and cooper named Andrew Finck who called the villa Linden Hall or Finck Castle.

Finck, who may have been an associate of Jacob Ruppert (famous for owning the New York Yankees), manufactured beer barrels and allegedly brewed ale during prohibition – presumably within the Wyndcliffe estate.


wyndcliffe-5 (Images: Nathan Swan (website), reproduced with permission)

While other grand houses in the Hudson River Valley have been demolished or renovated, Wyndcliffe stands in a ruinous state. Much of the abandoned building’s eastern side is badly damaged, including a collapsed turret.  More recently, parts of the north side of the structure have begun to fall apart.  Thankfully, Wyndcliffe’s carriage house has been restored, as has a nearby Mediterranean style villa, and Wyndcliffe itself was actually purchased in 2003.

wyndcliffe-6 (Images: Nathan Swan (website), reproduced with permission)

Since that time, efforts have been made to clear the remaining two or three acres of land currently belonging to the mansion and several of its trees have been felled.  Before the mansion was boarded-up and fenced-off by its new owner, glimpses of the internal rooms revealed wood-panelled walls, the remnants of staircases and the library’s grand sliding doors. (Check out this cool video by Nathan Swan.)

Explore 20 Spectacular Abandoned Mansions of the World.

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About the author: Alexandra Smith



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