Astor Courts, once called The Ferncliff Casino, was constructed for John Jacob Astor IV and his wife, Ava, between 1902 and 1904. A Beaux Arts building, it was one of the last buildings designed by the famous American architect, Stanford White.

Stanford White, together with his firm, McKim Mead and White, were the pre-eminent classical American architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Astor Courts was originally intended by the Astors as a sporting pavilion, with guest bedrooms, for the many notable people who visited the estate. The building reportedly housed the first indoor American residential swimming pool, an indoor tennis court designed with Stanford White by Rafael Guastavino and Company, an outdoor grass tennis court and two squash courts, where the present-day library is located. In addition, within the lower level there was a bowling alley and shooting range.

While the original Stanford White plans from 1902 carry the title, Astor Courts, it became known in intervening years as the Ferncliff Casino or Astor Casino, a popular architectural term for sporting facilities.

John Jacob Astor IV, known as “Jack,” and his wife, Ava, commissioned this structure to be part of their farm estate, which was known at the time as Ferncliff and comprised more than 2,800 acres at its peak. Mr. Astor, who divorced Ava in 1909, married the much younger Madeleine Talmadge Force in September of 1911. It was on their return from a extended honeymoon in Europe in April 1912 that Mr. Astor’s untimely death occurred with the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. Although Madeleine and her unborn son, the future John Jacob Astor VI, survived the sinking, neither inherited the property at Ferncliff. The property went to his first son, William Vincent Astor. In the late 1940s, Vincent Astor moved out of the main house at Ferncliff into this remodeled and refashioned building done for more full-time use. Vincent married for a third time in 1953 to Brooke Russell Marshall, now the famed deceased philanthropist Brooke Astor, and they used the building until his death in 1959. Following Vincent’s death, the property of Ferncliff was partly divided with several hundred acres becoming the Ferncliff Forest Preserve while other sections were donated to the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The building and its accompanying property is being restored to its original floorplan and decorative detail by the present owners.

Astor Courts is located on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, NY, with 50 acres of land originally contained within the Astor farm estate. It is one and a half hours from New York City. There is regular Amtrak train service from New York Penn Station to Rhinecliff, NY, a five minute drive away from Astor Courts, and on Metro North from Grand Central in New York City to Poughkeepsie, NY, approximately 25 minutes away.

Site Photography Kyle Brooks, Frank Futral

Text Chas Miller

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