The Clermont estate was
established in 1728 when Robert Livingston, Jr. (1688-1775)
inherited a tract of 13,000 acres along the Hudson
River from his father, Robert Livingston (1654-1728),
first Lord of Livingston Manor. The Manor of Livingston,
which comprised the southern third of modern Columbia
County, was the second largest private landholding
in colonial New York. Robert of Clermont, as he was
known, began construction of his brick, Georgian-style
country seat, perhaps incorporating an existing seventeenth-century
house, between 1730 and 1750. Visible across the Hudson
River from the house are the high peaks of the Catskill
Mountains that inspired the estate's name: Clermont
means "clear mountain" in French.
of Clermont's only child, Robert R. Livingston (1718-1775),
added to the family's landholdings when he married
Margaret Beekman, heir to immense tracts of land in
Dutchess and Ulster counties, in the 1740s. Clermont's
second owner was known to his contemporaries as Judge
of the Admiralty Court and Judge of the Supreme Court
of the Province of New York. Judge and Margaret Beekman
Livingston's eldest son, Robert R. Livingston Jr.
(1746-1813), was Clermont's most notable resident.
A member of the Committee of Five responsible for
drafting the Declaration of Independence, he also
served as the first United States Minister of Foreign
Affairs (Secretary of State) and, as Chancellor of
the State of New York, he gave the oath of office
to George Washington as first President of the United
Because of the Livingston
family's prominent role in support of independence,
Clermont was burned by British troops under the command
of General John Vaughan during a foray up the Hudson
River in the autumn of 1777. Margaret Beekman Livingston,
who managed the estate during most of the war years,
rebuilt the family home between 1779 and 1782. After
independence was won, Chancellor Livingston began developing
Clermont as an agricultural showplace. His experiments
with sheep breeding and methods for increasing the yield
of crops, while retaining the fertility of the soil,
received national attention. In 1792 the Chancellor
began construction of an elaborate new mansion just
south of the original house as the centerpiece of his
experimental farm. Built in the shape of a capital "H,"
this house was also called Clermont. It was destroyed
by fire in 1909, but its ruins are still visible and
indicate its size and grandeur.
concluded his public career as Thomas Jefferson's Minister
to France between 1801 and 1804. While in Paris, he
negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and entered into a
partnership with Robert Fulton, a Pennsylvania-born
painter and inventor who shared Livingston's fascination
with steam navigation. Their creation, which they called
the North River, is known to history as the
Clermont. Their steamboat embarked on its maiden
voyage between New York City and Albany in 1807, setting
off a transportation revolution in the United States.
died at his Clermont estate in 1813. The original
Clermont residence, which had remained the home of
Margaret Beekman Livingston until her death in 1800,
was willed to the Chancellor's eldest daughter. The
Chancellor's heirs initiated a series of additions
and alterations to the house during the nineteenth
The last significant changes
to the old Clermont residence were made in the 1920s,
when John Henry Livingston (1848-1927) and his wife,
Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston (1872-1964), remodeled
the home in a Colonial Revival style. After Mr. Livingston's
death, Alice Livingston continued to reside in the
house until the onset of the Second World War, when
she relocated to the nearby gardener's cottage (known
as Clermont Cottage). Thereafter, the mansion was
only opened for special occasions during the summer
months. In 1962 Mrs. Livingston deeded most of her
family's historic estate to the State of New York.
An additional seventy-one acres of the property were
given to the People of New York in 1991 by her daughter,
Honoria Livingston McVitty.
Clermont was designated
a United States National Historic Landmark in 1973.
Clermont is also an anchor
in the Hudson River National Landmark District (designated
in 1990), a twenty-mile stretch of riverfront land
in northern Dutchess and southern Columbia counties.
Restored to its early twentieth-century appearance,
Clermont's furnishings and airy pastoral landscapes
and vistas reflect the continuum of a unique and vanishing
way of life along the Hudson River.
The visitor center and
mansion are open between mid April and Labor Day;
Wednesday thru Saturdays from 10AM until 5PM and Sundays
Noon until 5PM. From Labor Day until the end of October:
Wednesdays thru Sundays Noon until 5PM.
The visitor center and
mansion are also open on Monday holidays during the
season from 10AM until 5PM.
The last tour of the day
is offered at 4PM.
Group tour reservations
(twelve persons or more) are accepted year-round on
a daily basis between 9AM and 4PM. Garden tours are
offered between mid April and the end of September,
Monday thru Friday. Reservations are accepted for
the current calendar year only, and must be made at
least two weeks in advance. Allow a minimum of one
and one-half hours at the site.
Clermont's visitor center
and comfort station are fully accessible to people
with mobility limitations. Access to the first floor
of the historic house is provided by a wheelchair
lift. Designated parking areas are provided for the
convenience of visitors with mobility limitations.
New York State Access Passes are accepted.
THE TACONIC STATE PARKWAY: take the Red Hook/Rhinebeck
exit onto Route 199 west. Continue west on 199 through
the Village of Red Hook. At the intersection with
Route 9G turn right (north). Drive six miles north
on Route 9G to the entrance sign for Clermont.
FROM THE NYS THRUWAY:
From the south take Exit 19 (Kingston). Cross the
Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge to the east side of the
Hudson River. At the second traffic light turn left
(north) onto Route 9G. Proceed north ten miles to
Clermont's entrance sign. From the north take Exit
21 (Catskill). Cross the Hudson River on the Rip Van
Winkle Bridge, then bear right (south) onto Route
9G. Take 9G south for ten miles to the entrance sign