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Historic Lyndhurst Cuts Staff, Event

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, in financial crisis and losing support nationwide, put the Tarrytown estate's staff on the chopping block as part of a massive reorganization.

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.

According to the Lyndhurst Web site, two public events in October are still on: the Oct. 9 and the Scarecrow Invasion, Oct. 10-31.

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. 

Bjorn Olsson October 03, 2011 at 12:52 PM
In my view, the really amazing part of Lyndhurst are the grounds, that the size of the estate is still pretty intact. The main house is very nice, of course, but I always thought the most amazing feature of the estate was the magnificent greenhouse with surrounding stretches of land. Every piece of land sold off will detract from this magic, and make the estate a less attractive place to visit. Now, if they could restore the greenhouse and maybe make it a "working estate" with a victorian kitchen garden, etc...
James Abbott October 03, 2011 at 08:47 PM
This is an embarrassment for American preservation, especially after the National Trust spent years milking this important 19th century estate. One of the most important examples of Gothic revival architecture and Romantic landscape design, this property deserves a better representation of the 'stewardship' so generously promoted and marketed by the National 'Trust' for Historic Preservation. James Archer Abbott, Baltimore
Hilltop October 03, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Just talked to the acting site manager. Lyndhurst will go on and highly improbable that property will be sold off. Lots of misinformation around. Go out and support Lyndhurst on October 9th at the Scarecrow Autumn Festival. http://lyndhurst.wordpress.com/
Krystyn Silver October 03, 2011 at 09:44 PM
It is not a secret nor is it news that the downturn in the economy has organizations across the country facing financial challenges. This is also the case for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and its many historic sites. A recent report by the American Association of Museums stated that 70 percent of museums nationwide reported economic stress. Rather than continuing not to address these challenges, the Trust is tackling them and taking a renewed focus at all of its 29 sites. Lyndhurst is a vital part of the community here in Tarrytown and will continue to be. Even as it takes steps to make changes in how it operates. It is because of Lyndhurst’s importance to this community, that it was chosen as the first place the National Trust could begin re-imagining the possibilities for a much more sustainable operating model for traditional historic house museums—potentially becoming a blueprint nationwide for sites that are facing similar challenges. What’s not true is that Lyndhurst is closed to the public. In fact, this weekend Lyndhurst will host its Annual Fall festival, the holiday Fairy Tales will begin Thanksgiving weekend and numerous wedding and other events are happening in 2012. And any current discussions about operational changes at Lyndhurst do not consider dividing up the estate and will forever honor the bequest of the Gould family. Sincerely Krystyn Hastings-Silver Acting Site Administrator
Jill Gertz October 03, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Unfortunately Lyndhurst has to compete with the Historic Hudson Valley sites and fades to the background. Lots of people drive from Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton to Sunnyside Manor in Tarrytown and don't even realize they drove passed Lyndhurst.. The "craft fair" thing is so over

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