Seek a Bygone Era within the Walls of Hyde Hall

Hyde Hall

So much of this country’s history is not in our history books. Historic homes like Hyde Hall hold America’s history within its walls. About 8 miles north of Cooperstown NY, Hyde Hall is a fine examples of neo-classic country architecture within the United States, is a stunning reminder of a bygone American era when powerful English families established vast estates in the former colonies.

Built between 1817 and 1834, the home contains much of the original furnishing and artifacts from the original family that lived there. George Clarke, who commissioned the mansion (designed by Philip Hooker) was the grandson of another George Clarke (1676-1760), who held several posts in the government of the colony of New York, including acting governor between 1736 and 1743.

Hyde Hall is a neoclassical country mansion designed by architect Philip Hooker for George Clarke, a wealthy landowner. The house was constructed between 1817 and 1834, and designed with English and American architectural features. It is named after the ancestral home of the Clarke family, Hyde in Cheshire in northwest England.

The younger George Clarke inherited his grandfather’s extensive fortune and lands in New York and settled in Albany in 1806. In 1813, he married Ann Low Cary Cooper, a member of one of New York’s most prominent families and the widow of James Fenimore Cooper’s elder brother. In 1817 he purchased lands on Lake Otsego adjacent to his wife’s estate to build his country villa. 

The mansion was built in three phases, starting with the Stone House, built between 1817-1819, a cozy wing that housed the family rooms. The rooms in this wing are cozy and comfortable and include a pair of library-living rooms, as well as two bedrooms. Next came the much larger wing with kitchens, storage rooms and a servants’ dining room; on the second floor were bedrooms.

The third phase was the Great House, built between 1828 and 1834 in a neo-Classical style that contrasted gently with the Stone House’s Palladian Federal style. It emphasizes right angles and avoids curved forms for doorways, windows and moldings. Within the Great House are two entertaining rooms, a drawing room and a dining room. The mansion was completed in 1834, but Clarke died just a year later.

The house tour was interesting — this house is worth the visit! The docent who led us through was knowledgeable and eager to answer our many questions, including about what haunts Hyde Hall. And of course, it’s exactly the sort of place that would be haunted. (In fact, it was featured on a 2013 Ghost Hunter’s episode.) During the tour, the docent mixed in a bit of the haunted ghost stories along with the house’s 200-year history.

Sadly, this house was almost lost. Despite remaining in the family until the 1960s, it was in sad shape when the mansion and 600 surrounding acres passed to New York State as the result of an eminent domain proceeding to create Glimmerglass State Park in 1963 and it was almost demolished. Thankfully, some folks organized to save this venerable old mansion and began restoring it to the gem of a house museum it is today.

Know before you go: Hyde House is located on the grounds of Glimmerglass State Park, a lovely park offering, among other things, picnic tables.

Getting there: 267 Glimmerglass State Park, Cooperstown, NY
Hours: Tours are available from May 29 through October 31; tours run on the hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.