The Bard Era (1764-1821)

Dr. John Bard

John Bard was also of Huguenot origin. Born in New Jersey in 1716, he was sent to school in Philadelphia, and at a young age was apprenticed to Dr. John Kearsley. Dr. Kearsley’s wife, Anne was a daughter of Pierre Fauconnier, and it is assumed that this is how John Bard became acquainted with his future wife, Mrs. Kearsley’s niece Suzanne Valleau. Dr. Bard started his professional life in Philadelphia, but moved to New York City in 1746. In New York, Bard would establish himself as a leading surgeon, becoming the first president of the New York Medical Society.

 

 Through his wife, Bard inherited part of Fauconnier's Dutchess County land in 1764, and acquired the rest by purchase. He apparently had dreams of retiring from his practice, and becoming a successful country squire. This required farm income, so unlike succeeding generations of owners, John Bard appeared to appreciate the area only for its commercial potential. He built a farm on the east side of the Albany Post Road (now Rt. 9), the main route between New York City and Albany, which included a house and several barns.  None of the buildings from this time survive. However, several of the stone walls still stand. Bard advocated using part of the river front as a natural harbor. This area is still known as "Bard Rock".

 

 Dr. John Bard was constantly having financial problems due to losses from speculative investments. In 1768, he tried to sell the property, and did sell about half the acreage.  In later life, he was forced to come out of retirement for financial reasons, and went into partnership with his son, until in 1799, at the age of 83, he died on the estate at Hyde Park. Samuel Bard was born in 1742 in Philadelphia. After a severe illness as a young teenager, he was sent to recuperate at the country estate of a family friend. While there, he was introduced to the study of botany, which became a life long interest. After graduating from King’s College, now Columbia University, he set out for Edinburgh, Scotland to pursue a medical degree from one of the top European Universities. After graduation in 1765, he went into partnership with his father. He was one of the founders of the medical school at Columbia University and was the author of numerous important medical studies. In 1770, he married his cousin, Mary Bard.  He retired from his New York practice to the country in 1798. 

As early as his college days in Scotland, Samuel Bard had been interested in improving his father’s Hyde Park farm into a gentleman’s country estate. One of his first projects after inheriting the property was to build a large house on a ridge overlooking the river. He chose the spot for its panoramic views of the river and the mountains beyond. So good was this choice that succeeding estate owners would build their own houses on the exact same spot. He died on the estate in 1821 at the age of 79.