May 24, 2022
On the morning of May 14th, where Astor Drive meets Montgomery Street, the original Astor iron gates were returned to their former site. These gates were hinged onto two tall stone posts in 1895 and served as the entrance to the long parklike drive to Ferncliff, the Astor family country seat in Rhinebeck. The drive extended from Upper Montgomery Street to the Hudson River. The main access from Ferncliff to Rhinebeck was referred to by the family as the F.&R. Road. The gates remained at this location until the last of the Astors in Rhinebeck, Brooke Russell Astor, following her husband Vincent’s death in 1959, divested herself of all the family’s Rhinebeck properties. The F.&R. Road was widened into a public roadway, the stone posts were moved further out, and the gates were removed. They were stored in a barn at the former home of Herbert Pinkham on River Road, across from the current drive to Astor Courts. Pinkham was the engineer the Astors had hired in the 1890s as their property superintendent, which included responsibility for designing the road network at Ferncliff. In the 1960s, that property became the home of the Verrilli family. Dr. George Verrilli is well known in the community for his appreciation of antique automobiles and his deceased wife Kay Verrilli for her serious commitment to preservation and promotion of local history. Their sons, Matthew and Stewart Verrilli (above), generously donated the gates to the Village of Rhinebeck. At the ceremony on May 14th, Matt spoke about the history of the road and regaled the attendees with a few humorous stories of the John Jacob Astor IV days involving the road. The newly installed gates (no longer on the hinges but set in cement postes) were dedicated on behalf of the Verrilli family to the Village of Rhinebeck. Mayor Gary Bassett (top right) accepted on behalf of the village, and local historian (and treasurer of the Rhinebeck Historical Society) Michael Frazier (top left) served as emcee for the event.