Glynwood History: Perkins and the Purchase

A vintage hand-painted glass slide of Palisades Interstate Park, for which George Walbridge Perkins II led a crusade to buy off quarry operators.

The story of Glynwood begins with the Perkins family. George Walbridge Perkins II, born in 1862, was an executive at the New York Life Insurance Company. As he became increasingly prosperous he began purchasing real estate, including the home of businessman Oliver Harriman in Riverdale-on- Hudson. Combining the names of his wife, Evelina but often called Evelyn, and their children George W. III and Dorothy, Perkins renamed the property Glyndor. He transformed the Victorian interiors and planted extensive gardens, reshaping an ideally situated landscape that looked onto the dramatic rock face of the Palisades. (The original Glyndor was raised after a fire caused by lightning in 1926 and replaced by a new structure in 1928. That building is now managed by Wave Hill, Inc.

In the 1890s, when the Palisades were being mined for their diabase rock, used to build roads, Perkins II had a vested interest in stopping the carnage. Not only was the noise excruciating, the stunning natural monument he’d admired from his home was being destroyed. Tapped by then-Governor Theodore Roosevelt to head the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, a joint venture of the states of New York and New Jersey initiated to save the Palisades, Perkins II went to work. He showed a gift for mustering funds and land donations from wealthy neighbors, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan among them. Morgan’s hefty donation of $125,000 (roughly $3.5 million today) was used to buy off the Palisades quarry operators and through the Commission, the states of New York and New Jersey assumed control of the property. The Palisades have Perkins to thank for its existence.

After Perkins passed away in 1920, Evelyn continued to live at Glyndor with her son, George III, and his wife Linn, daughter of George Merck, president of Merck & Co. pharmaceuticals. Through a member of the Park Commission, they found a spectacular, wooded 2600-acre piece of land in Cold Spring, complete with ponds, streams and a dairy farm anchored by an enormous 19th-century post-and-beam barn. Named Jordan Farm, it had a creamery, sheep house, sheds, an ice house (ice was harvested from the pond in winter) and clapboard homes for the foreman and dairyman. The Perkins hadn’t set out to buy a working farm, but this idyllic piece of land was impossible to resist.

In 1924, they took ownership of the property—including its work horses, mule team, and a dozen cows noted as “a scrubby bunch” by a Garrison real estate agent involved with the deal. The Perkins renamed the farm Glynwood, a combination of their three names, in the family tradition. Then they got to work.

Glynwood is celebrating our 20th anniversary as a nonprofit organization, though the agricultural history of the property reaches much further back. These blogs are excerpted from a 64-page commemorative publication that is now for sale (all proceeds support our non-profit mission).