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Nydrie, Esmont

Nydrie Esmont, 1920

Name:  Nydrie

Date:  ca. 1920

Image Number:  University of Virginia Library, Accession #10758-a

Comments:  In the 1890's, Harry Douglas Forsyth purchased the Tom Coles Farm at Green Mountain in southern Albemarle County, Virginia, and it contained some seven hundred acres of land.  Forsyth was a British-born financier and sugar baron who had moved from New Orleans to southern Albemarle with his wife, Sarah Rice Johnson Forsyth.  By 1898, the Forsyths commissioned the building of Nydrie, a massive manor house modeled after a Scottish baronial house on Loch Nydrie in Scotland.  Nydrie contained fifty rooms, not including hallways and the basement.  Nydrie's main entrance hall measured 22 feet by 61 feet, with a height of 28 feet.   

A reporter from Charlottesville's The Weekly Chronicle wrote in 1898 that Nydrie's construction "furnish[ed] employment to hundreds of workmen."  The construction costs came to at least $120,000 at the time with the main building making up about half of the total cost.  An equally immense set of stables, a maintenance shop and several employee houses for estate workers had been built on the Forsyths' property prior to erecting the Nydrie house. 

Harry Douglas Forsyth (b. 1946) passed away on October 11, 1902, and was buried at Christ Church, Glendower, VA.  His wife, Sarah Rice Johnson Forsyth, continued living at Nydrie until she passed away on December 27, 1920.  Sarah was buried in Richmond Hollywood Cemetery, and Mr. Forsyth's remains were moved to Hollywood Cemetery to be buried by his wife.  About three decades after the Forsyths established Nydrie, the property came under the ownership of the Van Clief family.   Originally from New York, the Van Cliefs ran a well-respected stud farm at Nydrie.  Nydrie Farm was the co-breeder of "Jet Pilot," the horse that won the 1947 Kentucky Derby.  According to Lorraine Paige, an Esmont resident who worked for the Van Cliefs, the family employed twenty to thirty people in various roles at Nydrie.  There was even a furnace attendant for the main house, which was a position once occupied by another Esmont resident, Johnny Paige.

The Van Cliefs ordered the demolition of the Nydrie mansion in the 1970's due to its high costs to maintain.  The Van Cliefs continued to live on the Nydrie property and operate the Nydrie Stud Farm until they sold the property in 2008 to Nydrie Farm LLC, owned by Eric Shobe.  Nydrie is located at 2554 Nydrie Drive, Esmont, VA.

Following is an 1898 article from The Weekly Chronicle, Charlottesville, VA, which describes Harry Forsyth's plan for the construction of Nydrie:

Will Make A Grand Estate:  What Mr. Forsyth is Doing On The Southside
A Residence That Will Cost Sixty Thousand Dollars - Improvements On The Whole Estate Will Cost One Hundred And Twenty Thousand Dollars - A Good Thing For That Section!

The Weekly Chronicle  Charlottesville VA; Vol. 22, No. 37, September 22, 1898.

We have several times referred to the splendid residence which is being erected by Mr. Forsyth of New Orleans in the southern part of the country.  It is worthy of remark for itself, as being a princely establishment, and also because it has proven a bonanza to that section in furnishing employment to hundreds of workmen, and a consequent means of promoting the interests of everybody in that section.

Some time ago, Mr. Forsyth purchased the old Tom Coles farm, at Green Mountain, which contains some seven hundred acres of fine land.  Mr. Forsyth is a sugar grower, manufacturer, and heavy dealer in sugar, who has made millions in the business.  With a view of highly improving the property above referred to, he last year built thereon several good dwellings for employees and a large and costly barn and stable of brick with slate roof; also an immense dam forming a lake of splendid pure spring water.  This year, he is erecting the most splendid private residence known in the Piedmont section of Virginia.  It is built of brick, with brown stone trimmings, and slate roof.   The main dwelling is 68x175 feet, and three stories high, with a good basement.  The main entrance hall is 22x61 feet and 28 feet pitch, which will be furnished elaborately and highly ornamented.  It will be used as a ball-room, and just above the front entrance, even with the second floor, is a music gallery.  The building contains fifty rooms, besides the basement rooms and large halls, including dining room (16x28 feet), six storerooms, two pantries, bathrooms, a billiard room (21x24 feet), a drawing room (20x24 feet), and a library.  The basement rooms will have floors of cement, and the main hall of tiling.  Two large tanks will be placed in the two towers for water supply.  Several elegant and commodious outbuildings will be erected on the rear premises.  All of the rear premises will be enclosed by a high brick wall, in which will be placed elegant iron gates for egress and ingress.  The library is to be finished in walnut, the billiard room in ash, and the halls and stair case in quartered oak.  The brick and terra cotta work is being done by Messrs. Graham & Holland of Lynchburg, and the woodwork by Capt. J.T. McLaughlin of Lynchburg, sub-contractors under Pettyjohn & Co., of Lynchburg, the original contractors.  The building will cost $60,000 or more.  An immense water ram has been constructed just below the dam, supplying the entire premises with an abundance of pure fresh water, delivering it through a 3-inch pipe 2,700 feet in length, supplying also the stables and farm pens.

At present the building is surrounded by a large oak forest, which will be converted into a park, with flower gardens, walks, drives, etc., and surrounded with an ornamental fence and gateways, that will excel anything ever seen in this section of the country.  It is said that the main gate alone will cost about $7,000.

It has been a blessing to the vicinity immediately surrounding the place to have these improvements made, as they have furnished wages to many families that needed it.   It is thought that Mr. Forsyth will spend about $60,000 outside of the residence, making a total cost of about $120,000.

Scottsville Museum wishes to thank Maxwell Johnson for his research and photographs on this Esmont community home!

1)  Nydrie (dwelling and farm), ante 1920, Accession #10758-a, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.; see also:
2)  Hallock, Jennifer; Gardiner Hallock & Kristie Baynard (February 2007).  "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District" (PDF).
3)  The Weekly Chronicle  Charlottesville, VA.  "Will Make A Grand Estate."  Vol. 22, No. 37, September 22, 1898.
4)  The Hook, "Historic Horse Farm Off the Market,", July 22, 2008; see:
5)  Lawrence, Sarah, and Lorraine Paige.  "Interview of Lorraine Paige by Sarah Lawrence of the Race and Place Project on February 7, 2002, and February 14, 2002. (Oral History)."  Race and Place, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 2002.

Copyright © 2018 by Scottsville Museum

Image Located On:  University of Virginia Library, Accession #10758-a



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