The Estate and Environs
Stables and Coach House
The most elaborate single accessory building on the Vanderbilt estate was the coach house, located to the east across the lawn from the mansion, where today Chateau Boulevard, Idle Hour Boulevard, and Central Boulevard intersect.
Designed by the architect of the original Vanderbilt mansion, Richard Morris Hunt, this building was considered at the time of its construction in 1888 to be the finest stable in the United States. A large whitewashed brick building, approximately one hundred ninety five feet by forty five feet, it had a huge hipped gambrel roof of slate and glass, and a tall Tudor-style tower above a large clock and an arched entrance of stone.
An addition for washing carriages was added in 1889. The builder was William Bason and Sons of Sayville, the same local company which constructed the mansion. The total cost was reported to be $400,000.
The original interior included a tan bark ring for riding, stabling for twenty five horses, a horse bath, a bridle room, a saddle room, a hitching and harnessing passage, and a harness and bit room. The stablemen had a kitchen, a mess room, and a library; a stairway led to their comfortable sleeping quarters upstairs. Hay and grain were also stored on the upper floor. Pneumatic speaking tubes for communication with the main house were part of the equipment. The monogram WKV appeared sixty six times on the stables. A large paddock for exercising the horses was located outside the stables.
William K. Vanderbilt's impressive private room, designed for relaxation and entertainment, is described as being of English style in furnishings and decoration, with a fireplace, a gold carpet, framed photographs, a divan, a gun cabinet, and a table with books and writing materials. Reportedly, it was an ideal location for stag parties!
The stable was filled with thoroughbreds, many imported from England, and manned entirely by English men and boys. James Johnson, in charge of the stable under the Vanderbilts, remained in Oakdale after they left. He lived in the East Gate House and had a real estate brokerage office there for many years.
As automobiles became a favorite playtoy of the rich, the stables progressed into a home for the newest breeds of motor vehicles, too. In 1901 the installation of electrical power there especially for the charging of batteries and blowing up of auto tires was completed. It was said that the stables could accommodate one hundred motor cars. It was here in Oakdale that Vanderbilt's interest in auto racing developed. Indeed, there were frequent reports in area newspapers of his encounters on local roads and byways with other vehicles.
By 1927 with the Vanderbilts gone, the forlorn stable housed only a Lancia sport coupe, which was owned but never driven by the man who bought the former Bowling Alley. A number of small livery businesses came and went. When the Royal Fraternity of Metaphysicians purchased the estate in 1936, the stable was used as their Junior Lodge, for the entertainment of the younger visitors. It became a laboratory of the National Dairy Research Corporation for a number of years. Later, as a part of the Dowling College facilities, it was first named John Astor Hall and later Curtin Student Center, in honor of two college benefactors. Dowling used the building at various times for a combination of purposes, including a gym, art studios, a rathskeller, storage, offices, and a student theatre.
Today it stands across from the gracious Vanderbilt Well as part of the initial view of the lovely Dowling College campus.
Next, to the Power House & Engineer's House.