The Estate and Environs
  East Gate House
West Gate House
Stables and Coach House
Power House and Engineer's House
The Palm House
Toolhouse and Potting Shed
The Ice House
The Bowling Alley
Laundry
The Farm and Later Artist Colony
Vanderbilt Tea House
Oakdale Railroad Station
Other Buildings in Idle Hour
The Mansion
  The First Mansion
The Second Mansion
Entrance Hall
Dining Room
Living Hall
Library
Queen Anne Salon
Corridor
Smoking Room
Cloisters
Palm Garden
Tennis Court & Cloister Wing
Staircase
The Second Floor
The Third Floor
Basement
Post Vanderbilt Years
Dowling College
Home > About Us > The Estate and Environs - Power House and Engineer's House


The Estate and Environs
Power House and Engineer's House

Power House Even an estate as romantic as Idle Hour needed heat and light. Thus, in 1900, while the second mansion was under construction, work on the Power House began, in order to supply modern light and comfortable heat to the newly designed home of the Vanderbilts.

Situated not far from the mansion, but removed from the immediate vicinity, on Central Boulevard, is a one and a half story brick structure with buttresses and segmented arches above window and door openings. The Power House chimney projected out into the roadway and was removed about 1940.

The electricity and heat produced by four coal-burning nine ton boilers reached the mansion via an eight hundred foot long concrete underground viaduct which was excavated by a team of horses hauling a scoop. This provided a conduit, also, for water and communications. It was large enough that an adult could progress through it in a deep crouch. The steam heat produced in all parts of the large house was found to be in perfect order. The ashes produced by this giant system were hauled to the salt meadow south of the orchard, which was the estate garbage dump.

However, this was not the situation with the electrical power. From the start, the power to the over one thousand mansion lights was ineffective. The electricians were puzzled; it was finally discovered that the hundred cubic feet of marble in which the switchboard was set had running through it a vein of iron ore which diminished the electrical force. The mass of marble was torn out and replaced with a non-conductive material. The change was made at considerable cost to the electricians, the work occupying a full month's time for sixteen men.

During the nineteen forties and fifties, National Dairy Corporation permitted the Oakdale Boy Scout troop to use the facility for meetings.

Some years after Dowling acquired the property, it became the college's Performing Arts Center, with musical, dance, and theatrical presentations and practice space.

Engineer's House Across the street from the Power House is the Engineer's House, constructed in 1904. A two story house with a first floor of smooth brick and a half-timbered second floor, it is another example of nineteenth century English style architecture frequently found in the accessory buildings on the Vanderbilt estate. Its location was dictated, no doubt, by the importance of the engineer's constant surveyal of the mechanical equipment in the Power House. For many years, the Engineer's House has been a private home.

Now a visit to The Palm House.