And so begins Washington Irving's immortal tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center is perched high on the hill above Sunnyside, the famed author's home, in an area rich with history and folklore. In addition to Sunnyside, visitors to "Sleepy Hollow Country" enjoy touring Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate in Pocantico Hills; Lyndhurst, once the home of financier Jay Gould, and Philipsburg Manor, a colonial farm.
Upon arrival at Tarrytown House, guests staying at this historic estate hotel immediately sense that they are someplace very special. Located only 25 minutes outside of New York City, the property has been in use over 165 years and harkens back to a time when America was young. As the nation's industrial and economic might grew, it produced a new breed of wealthy gentry who began calling Westchester home in the 1800s.
"Uplands" was the name of the white porticoed Georgian home now called the King Mansion, which was built around 1840 by J.S. Cronise. Details are sketchy and the luxurious home had many owners until Thomas M. King, Vice President of Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, purchased it around 1900.
In 1895, William R. Harris, founder of the American Tobacco Company, purchased the home sitting on the site of the current Biddle house. He spent a small fortune taking granite from the surrounding area to create what we see today. Years later Thomas King's son Frederick would marry Harris' daughter Sybil who reigned as "queen" of both estates until 1921.
In the same year, Mary Duke Biddle, of the Duke Tobacco family from North Carolina and one of America's richest women, purchased the large granite mansion from the Harris's. She renamed her new estate "Linden Court," in honor of the beautiful Linden trees which adorn the property. An avid sportswoman, Mrs. Biddle had pink clay imported from France for her indoor tennis court, now known as the Fairfield House, which still is covered by the glass roof placed over the court in 1933. She also had a bowling alley installed on the lower level of the mansion, and a golf tee built off of the West Terrace adjacent to the pool. Mary Duke and her fun loving husband, Anthony Drexel Biddle (Ambassador to Belgium and Spain), entertained with lavish parties.
Sybil and Frederick Harris lived in the King House as neighbors to Mrs. Biddle until Sybil's death in 1955.
It is believed by many that a former lady of the mansion continues to walk the halls of the second floor of the King House, usually appearing as an apparition dressed in white.
In 1959, Mrs. Biddle purchased the King House and reunited the two estates. Sadly, she passed away in 1960 and her children, Nicholas and Mary, took control of the property. They sold it to the African nation of Mali, who used it for a short time as a diplomatic retreat.
The property was acquired in 1964 by Robert Schwartz, a visionary and journalist who had served at one time as New York bureau chief for Time magazine. Schwartz saw that corporate America needed a new type of lodging facility designed exclusively for business meetings. With encouragement from supporters at IBM and AT&T, he purchased what would soon be named Tarrytown House and set about inventing the nation's first executive conference center.
Schwartz' client list soon read like a who's who of American business, attracted by a winning combination of excellent service and a tranquil environment devoted to ideas and problem-solving. He built a reputation for Tarrytown House as an intellectual center, bringing in such luminaries as Margaret Mead on culture and Judith Crist on film. The innovation closest to his heart was a school for entrepreneurs, with Tarrytown House as the campus and Bob Schwartz as the professor-in-charge.