Most of the glorious mansions that dot the Albany Post Road corridor have either been lovingly restored, or they have been torn down entirely. There are very few that stand somewhat forgotten and waiting for a new chance at life. Today we will look at a house right here in Poughkeepsie that is a hidden treasure and truly needs some loving, Maple Grove. Some of the biggest names in architecture have left their marks here in the Hudson Valley. Names like Richard Morris Hunt, McKim, Mead, and White, Andrew Jackson Downing, A. J. Davis, and Calvert Vaux, just to name a few. Maple Grove has the look and feel of the last three names mentioned, Downing, Davis, and Vaux, but sadly no one really knows who designed or built the house. However, the detail of both the exterior and interior is still (for the most part) intact from its 19th century additions and alterations and the house is an excellent example of Hudson Valley Bracketed architecture, a term coined by author Edith Wharton.
Charles A. Macy purchased a farm just south of the city of Poughkeepsie in 1850. This purchase included about 35 acres of land and some small farm buildings that were built in the 1830’s (you can still see them very easily while driving down South Road). Based on an obituary from the New York Daily Herald on July 23th 1875, Macy was born in Nantucket and during the course of his life he had served in many different banks in New York City. When it came to religion he was a Quaker who regularly attended meetings at the Rutherford Place meeting house in New York City. In 1831 he married the daughter of a Poughkeepsie real estate agent, Sarah Ludlam Corlies (you can see the lovely couple pictured on the right). The Macy family did not stay at Maple Grove for long, and it appears that two other families also called it home before Adolphus Hamilton purchased it in 1870. In the 1870 United States Census, it shows Adolphus living in Poughkeepsie with his wife Matilda and their three children, plus two servants and a coachman. It shows him as a “Retired Merchant” with property valued at $35,000.
One of Hamilton’s daughters, Elise (seen on the right), married a local doctor who had been widowed, Dr. John Kinkead. With that marriage came two children from his previous marriage, Cornelia and George. Elise and her husband had lived in the city of Poughkeepsie at 143 Academy Street until the death of her mother when they moved to Maple Grove. They began making alterations to the house in 1891 when they hired the architectural firm of William R. Walker and Son. The interior was redesigned in the Colonial Revival style with an elaborate stairway and a giant window to light the stairway which flowed down into the new library also designed in the same style. Plumbing and mechanical systems were likewise updated during this time. The carved detail and wainscoting that can be found through the interior was mostly done between 1891 and 1892 and can still be seen today. Dr. John Kinkead retired from medical practice around 1902 and at Maple Grove he enjoyed tending to his apple and peach orchard and his hobby of beekeeping.
Meanwhile, across the street from Maple Grove, Elise’s sister Edith had also married a Kinkead brother named Henry and lived at Southwood, a lovely home just a little further south. They had two daughters Elise and Jennie who were quite close with their Aunt Elise at Maple Grove. Dr. John died rather suddenly in 1909 and Elise split her time between a home in California and Maple Grove. As the years went by, Aunt Elise was worried about the future of her home which she had worked so hard to make just right. The reason for her worries was that her step-children, George and Cornelia, preferred traveling and staying busy, over living a quiet life in a country manor. She knew that if they were given the house, they would sell it. Aunt Elise did not want the home to leave the family. Her two nieces, Jennie and Elise convinced her to put them in charge of the title, that way Cornelia and George could use it whenever they wished, but would not have the right to sell it. That’s what happened when Aunt Elise died in 1944.
After the deaths of Cornelia (1949) and George (1955), Jennie and Elise continued to use the house at a place to hold tea parties and dinners. In 1985, a fire was set by an arsonist to the back kitchen area of the house. The caretaker Stephen Rendes did what he could to get as many of the antiques and family items out of the home. Elise, the last member of the family who was still living on the property, had begun giving the land over to the Zion Episcopal church in 1968. The church then founded the St. Simeon Foundation and established housing for seniors on the Maple Grove Property. When Elise died in 1987, the rest of the land and the house was left to them. In 2005, the exterior of the western façade was restored but there is still much work to be done. You can visit their website if you are interested in helping. http://www.maplegroverestoration.org/involved.htm
(The modern interior photos seen here were taken by our Historian Shannon Butler in 2013 when she volunteered some of her time at Maple Grove)