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Whitelaw Reid Collection

 Whitelaw ReidContents

  1. Descriptive Summary
  2. Historical/Biographical Note
  3. Scope and Content
  4. Arrangement
  5. Series Descriptions
  6. Container List
  7. Access Points
  8. Related Materials
  9. Administrative Information 

Descriptive Summary

Title: Whitelaw Reid Collection
five document boxes, two oversize boxes, four rolled plans

Historical / Biographical Note

Whitelaw Reid (1837-1912) was a prominent journalist, politician, and diplomat of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born in Xenia, Ohio and excelled in local schools and at Miami University of Ohio. After purchasing and editing a local newspaper, he made a name for himself with his coverage of the Civil War, writing articles for papers in Cleveland and Cincinnati under the pseudonym Agate. Reid was a strong supporter of the new Republican Party and secured the post of librarian of the House of Representatives from 1863-1866. In the following years, Reid continued to build his reputation as a prominent Republican and writer on current events. He joined Horace Greeley's New York Tribune in 1868, assuming the editorship after only a few years, and became further involved with politics when Greeley ran for President in 1872. In the following years Reid served as minister to France (1889-1892), permanent representative at the Court of St. James (1905-1912), and was the Republican Party candidate for Vice President in 1892, Reid assumed financial control of the Tribune after Greeley's death; the Reid family retained control of the paper until the late 1950s.

Ophir Farm was created by Benjamin Holladay (1819-1887), who purchased the 700-acre tract of land in 1864. Holladay was a well-known 19th-century entrepreneur, originally born in Kentucky, whose wealth derived from various transportation and freight enterprises in the American West. In the 1860s he organized successful overland coach services west of the Mississippi River as well as the Pony Express, obtaining lucrative postal contracts with the U.S. government. He also had investments in the Ophir Mine, located in Virginia City, Nevada, after which he named his Westchester County estate. Holladay later sold his stagecoach business to become involved in the railroad boom of the later nineteenth century, purchasing a controlling interest in the Oregon Central Railroad and later expanding it into the Oregon & California Railroad. Holladay's successful career came to an abrupt end with the panic of 1873, after which he defaulted on his bonds. The shipbuilder John Roach owned the estate for a brief period, and it was then sold to Whitelaw Reid in 1887.

At the time Whitelaw Reid and his wife Elisabeth purchased Ophir Farm, it was in a state of near ruin after years of neglect.  Holladay's huge square mansion, constructed of granite with a mansard roof, needed extensive repair and the surrounding roads, fields and gardens were completely overgrown.  The Reids hired the well-known architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White to supervise the reconstruction and Frederic Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who had helped create New York's Central Park, to plan and restore the grounds.  Renovation of the house included installation of electricity and a telephone connection, probably the first in Westchester County.   However, after six months of intensive work a fire demolished most of the structure in July 1888, only days after the Reids had moved into their as yet unfinished home.

Undaunted, the Reids rebuilt the house on the remaining stone foundations, adding a five story tower and crenellated roof line reminiscent of a medieval castle.  Reid supervised most of the work by letter from Paris, as he was appointed minister to France in 1889.  The building's lavish interior was filled with furniture, tapestries, carpets and paintings sent from Europe; an extensive portico, terraced gardens, and  tennis court were built for outdoor entertaining. The surrounding acres were refashioned into a working farm complete with cows, poultry and sheep.  Upon the Reids' return from France in 1892, the estate was rechristened Ophir Hall.

The next decade saw the Reids' most intensive use of the property as they entertained extensively and raised their two children, Ogden and  Jean.   Despite the time and expense they devoted to their country home, the Reid family  was often abroad as Whitelaw served on several diplomatic missions in Europe during the 1890s.  In 1905, he was named permanent representative to the Court of St. James, and lived in London until his death in 1912.  In the following years, Elisabeth devoted herself to charitable work in New York and France.  After her death in 1931, most of the Ophir Hall's furnishings were sold at auction.  The estate remained unoccupied until its sale by the Reid estate to Manhattanville College in 1949.  The Reids' home, now known as Reid Hall,  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Scope and Content

Booklets, research papers, photographs, correspondence, news clippings and audio tapes which document the history and architecture of Whitelaw Reid's former estate, known as Ophir Farm, on which the campus of Manhattanville College is now located.  Most of the material concerns the ownership of the estate by the Reid family, from 1887 to 1949, in particular the elaborate, fortress-like main residence  known as Reid Hall which serves as the college's administrative building.  A smaller portion of the collection relates to Ben Holladay's ownership of the estate from 1864 into the 1870s.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Whitelaw Reid
    • Subseries A. Historical accounts
    • Subseries B. Published materials
    • Subseries C: Clippings
    • Subseries D: Ophir Farm photographs
    • Subseries E: Landscaping plans for the Reid estate
  2. Ben Holladay

Series Descriptions

  1. Whitelaw Reid
    Research papers, published booklets, photographs, clippings and other materials concerning the Reid Estate, including its reconstruction and renovation, use by the Reid family, and the estate's agricultural activity. 
  2. Ben Holladay
    Clippings, photographs and notes on Ben Holladay's life.

Container List

Box 1.  Whitelaw Reid

Subseries A: Historical accounts

Folder 1

  • Chronology of Ophir Farm / Ophir Hall / Reid Hall
  • Typescript: "Notes on the History of Ophir Farm," compiled from printed sources
  • Typescript: "Annual Spring Pilgrimage: June 5, 1954,"  Westchester County Historical Society

Folder 2

  • Text of 1938 album produced by the Purchase School, "The History of Ophir Farm and its Ownership" (photographs in oversize box).

Folder 3

  • Research paper by Susanne Westhofen, "Ophir Hall during the Ownership of the Reid Family" (1990).

Folder 4

  • Bibliography by Missy Bailey, "A Bibliography of Whitelaw Reid." (1977).

Folder 5

Typescript: Excerpt from Bolton, Reverend Robert. The History of the County of Westchester, 1881, and copies of excerpt from J. Thomas Scharf's History of Westchester County.

Folders 6-9

  • Typescript: "With a Magnificent View," by Patricia A. McSweeney and Nancy A. Patrick, 1969-1970.  (This paper appears to have been typed in two different versions; the exact order and placement of the chapters is unclear.)   The accompanying photographs, which for the most part are unidentified, are in oversize box.

Box 2

Folder 10

  • Audio tapes of a 1971 interview with Matthew Flanagan, former employee of the Reid estate; no transcription.  Additional letters and documents regarding Ophir Farm.

Folder 11

  • Photocopy: "The Gentlemen Farmers of the Gilded Age: A Study of Model Farms Located on the Country Estates of Wealthy New Yorkers at the Turn of the Century" by Gayl Maxwell Braisted, Manhattanville College Masters Thesis, 1993

Subseries B: Published accounts

Folders 12-15

  • Copies of Reid Hall.  Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York [undated]

Folder 15A

  • Copies of "The Chapel at Reid Hall: History of Land Use of the Site Now Occupied  by Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY" by Nancy Todd, Manhattanville Professor of Biology, in Westchester Historian 2004

Folder 16

  • Copies of Manhattanville's Castle and Grounds: Its History and Legacy  (1977)

Folder 17

  • Copies of "Whitelaw Reid, Country Gentleman," reprinted from The Country Calendar (1906?)

Folder 18

  • Copies of "Ophir Farm,"  from The Illustrated American (1892)
  • Art Digest article: "Whitelaw Reid Art at Auction,", May 1, 1935
  • Typescript of article from Arts & Decoration: "A House of Many Treasures," June 1931.  (Original issue in Oversize Box 1.)

Box 3

Folder 19

  • Photocopy of article  from Summer 1971 Alumnae Review: "Reid Hall: A View from the Castle"
  • Westchester County Historian, Fall 1974, including article on "Purchase School"

Folder 20

  • 1983 Harrison Historical Calendar
  • Copies of booklet Harrison's Early Days

Folder 21

  • Various maps of Purchase and Ophir Farm

Subseries C: Clippings

Folder 22

  • Ophir Farm

Folder 23

  • Reid Family

Folder 24

  • Helen Rogers Reid

Folder 25

  • Visit of King of Siam in 1931

Box 4

Subseries D: Photographs

Folder 26

  • Long shots and aerial views of Ophir Hall

Folder 27

  • Ophir Hall Exteriors

Folder 28

  • Ophir Hall Interiors

Folder 29

  • Other buildings, structures, and gardens

Folder 30

  • Photos originally included with manuscript of "With a Magnificent View" (Box 1 Folder 7)

Folder 31

  • Portraits

Folder 32

  • Photos of Women's Land Army, 1915-1918

Folder 33

  • Photos and directory of estate buildings from unidentified album

Subseries E: Landscaping Plans

Storage Tube:   Plans (reproductions)

  1. Whitelaw Reid, Esq., White Plains, NY: Planting Plan.  F.L. Olmsted & Assoc., Sept. 28, 1891
  2. Whitelaw Reid, Esq., White Plains, NY: Valley Planting. F.L. Olmsted & Assoc. January 20, 1893
  3. Ophir Farm, Whitelaw Reid, Esq., White Plains, NY: Planting Plan for Flower Gardens.  F.L. Olmsted & Assoc.February 3, 1893
  4. Photostat reproduction of south elevation, Ophir Hall

Box 5

Series 2: Ben Holladay

Folders 34 and 35:

  • Miscellaneous notes, correspondence, articles on Holladay

Folders 36 and 37:

  • News clippings

Folder 38:

  • Various photographs of Holladay and the Pony Express

Oversize Box 1

Mounted photos of Ophir Farm roads and one view of pool

Academy Folders 1-6:  original photographs which accompanied Purchase School project text (Folder 2)

Folders 39 - 41

  • Ophir Hall floor plans; "Reid Castle" by Alexandra Sax; June 1931 issue of Arts and Decoration; three glass plate negatives

Oversize Box 2:

Political posters, 1969 issue of Look magazine including article on Ogden Reid, Ophir Farm agricultural inventory; leather-bound welcome proclamation to Reid from the "Mayor, Alderman and Citizens of the City of Bath" on the occasion of his visit, October 22, 1908.

Folder 42

Oversize clippings and original manuscript of music and lyrics to "Driver's Song"

Access Points

Personal Names

  • Reid, Whitelaw, 1837-1912
  • Reid, Elisabeth Mills, 1858-1931
  • Reid, Ogden Mills, 1882-1947
  • Holladay, Ben, 1819-1887

Geographic Names

  • Purchase (N.Y.)
  • Westchester County (N.Y.)

Topical Subjects

  • Westchester County (N.Y.) -- Historic houses, etc.
  • Westchester County (N.Y.) -- History

Corporate Names

  • Manhattanville College

Genre / Form Terms

  • Photographs
  • Subject bibliographies

Related Materials

  • Whitelaw Reid Collection in the Rare Book Room:  books by and about Reid and Ben Holladay, and auction catalogs of the estate sale in 1935 and 1936
  • Microfilm of Whitelaw Reid Papers (original manuscript collection in the Library of Congress).  239 reels.  Register available in Rare Book Room

Administrative Information

  • Access: Unrestricted
  • Preferred Citation:
    Manhattanville College Archives Series 13/1, Identification of item, date (if known); Manhattanville College Library Special Collections, Purchase, NY.
  • Collection processed and finding aid compiled by Claire Gabriel, March - June 2004