Wyndcliffe Mansion exterior.
All photographs by Luke Spencer

Hidden in the overgrown forest by the Hudson River Valley in Rhinebeck, New York is the Wyndcliffe Mansion. Built in 1853 in the Norman style and commissioned by Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, the home inspired a movement of mansion building in the Hudson River valley. Originally sprawled across 80 acres, the mansion was glorious in its prime. Now, bricks falling daily, the mansion stands in its ghastly beauty for visitors who dare to brave its disrepair.

Throughout the 168 years of liveliness and loneliness during the mansion’s existence, both the New York wealthy and the New York curious have explored its beauty. Although some say that the walls of Wyndcliffe Mansion talk, they do not tell all the secrets of this Hudson River Valley treasure. Have no fear, here are ten secrets to learn about without traveling to the depths of the forest.

1. The creation of the Wyndcliffe Mansion inspired the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses”

Wyndcliffe Mansion exterior.

The popular phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” denotes a feeling of inferiority regarding social class and material wealth. When one is “keeping up with the Joneses,” they are trying to match the high standards of their neighbors. After neighbors saw the glorious mansion owned by Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, they needed one for themselves, keeping up with the actual Jones family. This phrase is now commonly used throughout the United States.

Following the completion of Wyndcliffe Mansion in 1853, various mansions popped up around the Hudson River Valley including Hyde Park (the Vanderbilt Mansion), Olana (Frederic Edwin Church of the Hudson River School’s Mansion), and the Glenview Mansion (owned by John Bond Trevor, a New York financier). Many of these mansions are still in good condition today and can be visited by mansion enthusiasts. Although they tried to “keep up with Joneses” in their prime, they have surpassed the Joneses in the current era.