We have thousands of guests walk through our doors every year. Whether they are visiting us to stay at our home, attending a wedding in our gardens, or just stopping by to speak to our owner Bill and tour the grounds. One thing in common everyone has in common, is they always ask about the history of property and the home. While we love to chat about it, we always give the cliff-notes. Now it’s time we share the full known history of where we call Home.
Bykenhulle, originally known as Ivy Hall, is a historic house located on Bykenhulle Road near the hamlet of Hopewell Junction, New York, United States, in the Town of East Fishkill. It is a wooden house in the Greek Revival architectural style.
First built in the middle of the 19th century by a member of the locally prominent Adriance family, it was originally the center of a large farmstead. By the early 20th century the failing farm was subdivided, leaving the house on a smaller lot. A later set of owners bought it for use as a country retreat and renamed it after the original Dutch spelling of their name.
They renovated and restored the house with the intent of preserving its historic character. It retains enough despite the much newer residential construction around it that, in 1991, it and two of its outbuildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Peter Adriance, one of the descendants of Dutch settlers who moved from Long Island to Dutchess County in the late 18th century, gave the newly built house to his daughter Mary Ann and her husband, James Wilkinson, himself the scion of a wealthy Quaker family in the area, in 1841. Its eight fireplaces, twin chandelier living rooms, and cotton wall-covered dining room provided elegance for the new bride and groom. The house is similar in design to Peter Adriance’s own manor, which was built in 1830 and is located on Beekman Road. Originally, both houses were located on the same estate, before the 400-acre farm was subdivided into multiple plots of land. From his 400-acre farm, he partitioned 150 acres to them. The house was in the highest of contemporary style, its dimension and decor less restrained than other Greek Revival farmhouses of the time. Finishings like the door hardware and marble mantelpieces would have been made in the city and brought to the house, testifying to the affluence of the Adriance family. They were on conspicuous display in the social spaces visitors would have experienced; the more restrained private and functional rooms are a reminder that the house was still the center of a large working farm.
A year after Peter Adriance died in 1852, his daughter and son-in-law availed themselves of the large inheritance he left her and moved to Poughkeepsie. They sold the house to a cousin on her mother’s side, Charlotte Storm Genung, also descended from another old Dutchess settler, and her family. The Genungs named the house where their descendants would live for the next five decades Ivy Hall.
Very little is known about the Genungs during this period, as they apparently lived quietly, running the farm, making no changes to the house, building some of the outbuildings, and taking little role in public affairs. The barn was built in English design with large pegged oak beams, one swing beam of which is over 18 inches wide by 14 inches high and spans the 30 foot width of the barn. The two story carriage house located on the property, is also an original structure. A county history in 1882 to which Charlotte’s son Isaac contributed notes his ancestry and lists his profession as “farmer and assessor”. It is the only record available about the Genung period of the house.
When Isaac died, his heirs were either unable or unwilling to sustain the farm, and defaulted on the mortgage. The farm and all its buildings and structures went into foreclosure. At a 1907 auction on the steps of the Dutchess County Court House in Poughkeepsie, it was sold for $4,000 ($112,000 in contemporary dollars]) to a Moses Lee of Patterson. Two years later, he realized a profit, selling it for $5,750 ($160,000 in contemporary dollars) to Webster Wagner of New York City, a wealthy descendant of the co-inventor of the Pullman car. He delegated farming operations to tenants, preferring to use Ivy Hall as his country house.
It is believed that Wagner converted the poultry barn into a hunting lodge and built the pheasant coop so that he would have game birds to hunt, as hunting was a popular hobby among wealthy men of the era. He made no alterations to the house. In 1929 Florence Bicknell, wife of U.S. Rubber chairman John Bicknell, bought the house from Wagner for $100 ($1,000 in contemporary dollars]). It is not known why the property changed hands for such small amount. The low price could have reflected the onset of the Great Depression, a personal relationship between the parties, or might simply be an error in record keeping.
Indicative of a strong interest in historic preservation as a reason to own the home, the Bicknells changed the name of the property to Bykenhulle, the original Dutch spelling of their name. That principle guided their completion of the main house’s transition from farmhouse to country retreat. They added the current historically themed wallpaper to the front hall, put in modern heating and plumbing in an unobtrusive fashion and remodeling the northern rooms into a library and dining room. They made more changes to the upper story, eliminating a stair and replacing it with a false fireplace. In the process of modernizing the kitchen wing completely, they changed its original layout but kept its scale and design consistent with the main house.
In the late 1930s the Taconic State Parkway was built through the area, cutting the main house area off from some of its former pasturelands. In 1963, when the Bicknells sold the land, Mary Ann Wilkinson’s wedding gift was subdivided into 1–2-acre lots, spurring the current exurban residential development. The pool was added to the property in 1972, and a traditional garden planted in 1990.
In 1972, William and Florence Beausoleil purchased the Bykenhulle House, with the horse barn, a poultry house, a carriage house and six acres of property. The Beausoleils’ moved from Poughkeepsie taking up residence in Bykenhulle with their six children. William Beausoleil was an IBM Fellow and prolific technology inventor while Florence concentrated on family life and developing the beautiful formal gardens on the property. During this time, the family put in a large vegetable garden, dabbled in raising Arabian horses on the property, and Bykenhulle became the backdrop for neighborhood block parties and many family celebrations.
In 1991, Bykenhulle celebrated its 150-year anniversary and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. During this time, as the children moved out to start their own lives, the House formally opened as Bykenhulle House Bed and Breakfast. Bill and Florence added a beautiful sunroom, ballroom and patios to entertain guests. These graceful additions now serve as an elegant venue for weddings, showers, birthday parties and special events.
In 2016, the Bykenhulle House celebrated 175 years in Dutchess County!
Information and images obtained from local history, Wikipedia, and the National Register of Historic Places.