Kenyon-HouseThe Kenyon House and estate, once known as Cliffdale,  is hard to miss if you have ever driven on the lightly traveled Boardman Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie.

While not having a remarkable history, it does have a certain appeal for those interested in local or niche history. The property has certainly seen change, from a lawyer’s summer retreat, to a raincoat mogul’s estate, to a mainframe giant’s research facility, to playing home to several schools, a library, and a number of businesses.

Early Kenyon HouseThe centerpiece of the property has always been the Kenyon House or Kenyon Homestead. The impressive 23-room Mediterranean style house was built between 1909 and 1913 by raincoat mogul Clarence Kenyon. It was later inherited by his daughter Helen Kenyon, a Vassar graduate and chairman of the Board for the college for ten years. In 1944, business machine giant IBM, purchased the property for purposes of consolidating several scattered facilities that they ran, and the house went along for the ride.

 

From the Poughkeepsie New Yorker, July 1, 1944

“Cliffdale,” the attractive estate of Helen Kenyon, two miles south of Vassar college, has been purchased by the International Business Machines corporation, and for the time being will accommodate a research and engineering laboratory of the IBM, it was learned today.

Miss Kenyon, daughter of the late Clarence Kenyon, who was a widely known raincoat and tire manufacturer, reported having signed a contract for sale of the 217-acre property to the IBM. The consideration was not made known, but it was understood that the property was held for somewhat less than $100,000.

Kenyon Rain CoatWhile IBM added a number of large structures to the property, the Kenyon House remained architecturally intact. When IBM went into shrink mode, the Kenyon House and some surrounding property was purchased by Poughkeepsie Day School for their new campus.

Clearing up Boardman, Cliffdale, and Kenyon. I think?
There has always been some confusion as to the names that hover over this estate. I’m going to take a shot at clearing this up, but please keep in mind that place names can be marvelous enigma’s in the Poughkeepsie NY area.

Boardman Road that cuts through the property is named after Andrew Boardman (1812-1881). Boardman, a prosperous lawyer, born in England and raised in New York City purchased a farm off of Spackenkill Road shortly after the Civil War. Over time Boardman purchased a number of other area farms, ultimately amassing an estate that encompassed 800 acres. This estate was his family’s summer retreat, which he named Cliffdale.

Enter Clarence Kenyon- In 1906 local developer James Sague and his brother-in-law Clarence Kenyon, purchased the Cliffdale estate. The Kenyon House (pictured above) was added to the property by Clarence Kenyon between 1909 and 1913. Upon the death of Clarence Kenyon, the property was inherited by daughter Helen Kenyon. She lived there until the property was sold to IBM in 1944.

It pleases me to no end to see the Kenyon House and surrounding property being used for purposes of educating our young people. How nice it would be if other landmark properties extended their lives this way.

The Sojourner