Cellist's home to be open for tours

Staff reports

For the first time, the public will have the opportunity to tour the former home of renowned Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who made his home 28 years ago on the famous Gelston Castle property, located on Robinson Road in the town of Warren.

The Herkimer County Historical Society will be holding “A Weekend at Gelston Castle” fund-raising event on the property the weekend of Sept. 28-30.

On Friday from 5-8 p.m., the public is invited to attend a gala event in Rostropovich's home to kick off the weekend. A fine selection of hors d’oeuvres will be catered by Albany Street Café throughout the evening in a setting that overlooks the beautiful Mohawk Valley. The cost is $40 for each person and those planning to attend are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance.

The grounds and Rostropovich's home will be open for tours Sept. 29 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sept. 30, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

The cost is $10 a person and tickets may be purchased in advance or at the entrance that day.

The property is unique because of the castle that was built on the grounds in 1834 by Harriet Douglas Cruger, the great-granddaughter of the original land owner who came from Scotland. Harriet traveled the world meeting literary greats such as Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth, but it was her summer home at Gelston Castle that she loved the most. It is even said that she is a ghostly spectre on the property today.

Later generations of Harriet's family continued to use the castle as their summer home and married into many famous families, including the Monroes, Roosevelts and Robinsons. Buried on the property are the great-niece of President James Monroe, Fanny Monroe Robinson, and the sister of President Theodore Roosevelt, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson. Theodore Roosevelt and his niece, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, were frequent visitors to the property.

The remoteness of the estate, along with the close proximity to a Russian Orthodox Monastery in Jordanville, brought another famous figure to the property in 1979, when Mstislav Rostropovich purchased it. Initially Rostropovich entertained the idea of restoring Gelston Castle to its former beauty. Several architectural consultants, however, advised him that it would be more costly to undertake the renovation project than it would be to build a new structure on the property. As a result, Rostropovich built a new million dollar home on the grounds.

For the first time, the public will have the opportunity to tour Rostropovich's home. Visitors will be able to see the spot where he practiced his cello with a window looking out at the scenic vista, the high ceilinged alcove where he entertained his guests, his private chapel in the uppermost regions of the home.

They will also be able to tour the grounds of the property, walk around the foundations of Gelston Castle where the Herkimer County Historical Society has set up museum panels around the structure telling its rich history. The original 1787 cottage is still intact and just a short walk on a scenic path through the woods takes visitors down to the Robinson family cemetery.

The property sits on a rise overlooking the Mohawk Valley with a skyline of the Adirondack Mountains in the distance. Theodore Roosevelt, after one of his visits, wrote a letter to his sister Corinne touching on the “magnificent view.”

The property is located on Robinson Road in the town of Warren near Jordanville, NY. It can be reached by taking Route 28 in the village of Mohawk and then taking a left on Route 168. Take the third right hand turn on to Mortz Road and then a left hand turn on Robinson Road. The entrance to the property will be up the road on the right. There will be signs to direct visitors.

For more information on “A Weekend at Gelston Castle” event, please call the Herkimer County Historical Society weekdays at 866-6413 or check out the Web site at www.rootsweb.com/~nyhchs on the Internet.