If you spend much time in Vassar’s community, or infamous bubble, you know that there are many beautifully historic buildings to marvel at. Our campus is often found near the top of Most Instagrammable Campuses or Most Beautiful Campuses, but every so often, the average Vassar student will crave a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air.
To find that change you needn’t look far. Locust Grove, located along the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, is a historic estate that has much to offer to those who choose to visit the site.
Though Vassar’s campus may satisfy your architectural and scenic needs, Locust Grove is a great destination that will satiate a thirst for nature and knowledge. You may choose to explore the 25-room mansion once occupied by Samuel Morse and his family, or the beautiful foliage-filled paths, or both.
Found only 10 minutes from campus, Locust Grove is incredibly convenient for Vassar students. You will probably want to take a car or a quick taxi ride as opposed to walking, though, as the way to the estate is along the perpetually-busy Route 9.
Once you’ve arrived, you will be greeted by a well-kept visitors’ building. Inside, you’ll find volunteers and estate employees that will be happy to provide answers to any questions you have about the estate and grounds.
In the visitors’ building you can view some of Samuel Morse’s machines and inventions. Morse helped develop a single-wire telegraph model, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, was one of the creators of Morse code. In addition to these historical exhibits, often, the building will display local artwork.
If you wish to purchase any memorabilia from your afternoon, there is a gift shop that you may want to stop at on your way back to the car.
When you’ve finished exploring the indoors, you might be interested in taking a walk amont the flower gardens that replicate how the grounds staff would have kept them when the Young family bought and expanded the estate after Morse’s death.
As well as beautiful flower gardens, Locust Grove boasts a small kitchen garden that served to supply the vegetables used in the estate’s kitchen from its start. In the garden, you can now learn about the various produce that thrives when grown in the Hudson Valley.
The tranquil gardens and beautiful view from the top of the hill is an excellent opportunity for reflection and self-care for those who take the time to stop and admire the views. Since Locust Grove is set back from the busyness of Route 9, the grounds are always fairly calm and quiet, making for a tranquil study break
The beautiful views of the lake bring us to the historical background that Locust Grove represents. When Thomas Morse chose the location for his summer home, he chose this particular Hudson Valley plot because of the views and the potential to create beautiful, unique locations to enjoy time outside among nature.
After viewing the gardens, you’ll likely be drawn toward the 25-room estate that is still furnished by William and Martha Young’s 15,000-piece furniture collection.
Inside, the estate resembles a 19th-century home. Popular features include the parlor, the music room and the children’s rooms. The Italianate-style villa was designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis for Samuel Morse and his family. Morse wanted a tranquil summer home for his family to take leave from their Manhattan residence and escape the torrents of noise and people that fill the city.
Fifty years later, the estate was taken over by William and Martha Young, a wealthy Poughkeepsie couple. The couple expanded the estate both by modernizing it and adding practical conveniences such as running water, electric lighting and central heat.
In 1953, Annette Innis became the sole owner of the historic property and worked until her death in 1975 to ensure it became a museum and nature preserve for the public to come and enjoy.
After viewing as much of the estate as you wish, with or without a guided tour, you can then continue to the woods and various trails that carve out the remainder of the expansive property. They are described as moderate to strenuous, but will accommodate beginner-level hikers. The trails provide breathtaking views of the forest and meadows along the Hudson River.
Each trail has its own quirks: on the Sawmill Trail are the best river views; you can also enjoy a waterfall on the Cascade Trail or get some shade on the Lane Loop.
They are all easy hiking, and can provide you with a leisurely afternoon spent outside with friends and in nature.
You can certainly plan to spend a long afternoon at the estate and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy near the gardens, on the hill with a view or at a picnic table along one of the paths. Since Locust Grove is close to Vassar, you could also plan on stopping at an Arlington favorite to get a taste of Hudson Valley as you feast your eyes on the area’s foliage and vistas.