The mansion from which robber baron Jay Gould directed his financial empire is under threat from the bleak economy, shrinking local support and new challenges in historic preservation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns and manages the Tarrytown estate, laid off the director, two education curators, the communications and internal events manager and the office manager last week and eliminated their positions. The annual Boo Fest, always held at the end of October, has been canceled.
"...we are taking steps to redirect the future of that site," said David J. Brown, the National Trust's executive vice president and chief information officer, in an internal memo obtained by Patch.
The prospect of having closed to the public, available only as an event venue, or sold piecemeal worries Sleepy Hollow Historian Henry John Steiner.
"It would be tragic to divide it up," he said. "Personally, Lyndhurst has always been a pilgrimage for me, a real sanctuary. It has this wonderful history. Architecturally it's renowned as a Gothic Revival structure. And now that so much has been done with the Greenway trail and the idea of connecting these Hudson River properties, it seems a shame to see it under threat."
The National Trust last week announced a set of national layoffs along with a plan to pull itself out of the red, change its focus, ally with young preservationists and shrink the number of sites it cares for.
"The imperative for these changes is both mission-driven and financial," says the introduction to a "white paper" on the National Trust's new initiative, Preservation 10X.
The report discusses a new focus on the organization's work and 23 sites. That's a drop of six from the 29 sites described on the National Trust's About Us Web page.
Lyndhurst was the only site named in Brown's Sept. 21 memo to employees that detailed nationwide staff reductions and reorganizations.
Laid off at Lyndhurst were Director John Braunlein, education curators Judy Beil and Ira Stein, Manager of Communications and Internal Events Stephania Brown and Office Manager Virginia Cassell.
Officials at the National Trust could not be reached Saturday for comment.
They are among the many events and activities Lyndhurst has held in the past decade to bring people to the site and create a base of financial support, Steiner said.
"There are big estates left virtually intact that are coming under new possiblity of being subdivided," he said. "They are generally not moneymakers in good times. They're scrutinized more closely when eonomic times are not really good. It's those times from a preservationist standpoint that we need to protect them the most."
Editor's Note: Henry John Steiner is the Sleepy Hollow Historian. He was mis-identified in the original version of this report.