The Great Summer Part 2

The train trip from New York to Ridgely, or, more precisely, from Weehawken, New Jersey, to Kingston in Ulster County, New York, 100 miles or so up the Hudson, was a lovely ride. On the right lay the broad, deep river, straight almost as a canal, with its traffic of ships and ferries and its lighthouses in midstream, like Victorian dwellings set adrift; on one’s left rose the tall Hudson Highlands pressing close at first to the water’s edge, later on flattening out into the wide river valley with its farms and pastures, its orchards, its green, sun-splashed woods, its little towns, its steepled churches and its distant mountains.

At Kingston one boarded another train for Binnewater, a tiny station some seven miles west. Here the party was no doubt met by a surrey and spanking pair and driven the four miles to Ridgely Manor along a gently rolling country road, past apple orchards, corn and pumpkin fields, wooded hills, and occasional farm buildings. Most of these last were of the nineteenth century–neat red barns and white houses scalloped along the eaves with wooden rickrack called Hudson River Bracketed; but here and there a small weathered stone house, dating back to pre-Revolutionary days, stood half hidden among protective elms and chestnuts. Half a m ile beyond Stone Ridge, the small village through which the road passed, the horses turned into the avenue of Ridgely and trotted up to the Manor–a graceful and welcoming house said to have been designed by a pupil of the famous architect Stanford White and as dignified, substantial, and unassuming as its owner, Francis Leggett.


(excerpt from Swami Vivekananda and The West: New Discoveries by Marie Louise Burke)

Ridgely featured on the BBC

In January, 2013 the BBC produced a short documentary piece on Ridgely, along with a feature piece on Swami Vivekananda.  This post contians an excerpt, and you can find the full piece (including video) below:

Few in the west have heard of Swami Vivekananda, who was born 150 years ago this week. Yet this Bengali intellectual, still revered in India, introduced many people to yoga and meditation.

The crunch of car tyres on gravel, the heavy smell of an imminent thunderstorm, swaying elm trees – random childhood memories of my grandmother’s house, Ridgely, in upstate New York.

I also dimly remember casual references to a Swami. “That was Swami’s sofa.” “The end room – that is where the Swami used to sleep.”

Click here to see it. (opens in a new window)

The Great Summer Part 1

“Swamiji is starting today Allen Line [Allan State Line]. Numidian. from Glasgow. a telegram just received says!” Thus Josephine MacLeod wrote to Mrs. Bull on August 17, 1899. Her letter, full of heavy underscorings, continued:

Do what you choose. Come at any hour–you are always welcome.

You better meet me in New York & we will go together to meet our Prophet. He ought to be 10 days en route–but I will write you definitely tomorrow the day the ship is expected & you meet me in town.

Do not tell Mrs Crossley a word. Let her stay in Princeton so we can have our Prophet without one thorn or criticism–in all his holiness.

I think I may keep Miss Stumm over–she has her worth.

I am in Heaven.

Lovingly Jojo

(Mrs. Crossley was a London friend of Mrs. Bull’s who had crossed the Atlantic with her in June. She was not well and not, it would seem, in full accord with Swamiji’s views. The more fortunate Maud Stumm was an artist in her late twenties who had met Swamiji once or twice during his first visit to the West and who evidently had admired him. She was now visiting Ridgely.)

Five days later, Miss MacLeod again wrote to “Saint Sara,” telling her, with more underscorings, the exact date of Swamiji’s arrival in New York:

Swamiji’s boat the Numidian sailed on August 17th & is due in New York on Monday August 28th [double underscore] so a letter just announced. So you take the midnight train on Sunday, arriving at 6.–go directly to 21 [21 East Thirty-fourth Street, the Leggetts’ town house]–where a telegram is to be sent me announcing the day & hour of arrival.

Betty [Besse Leggett] goes to East Hampton on Friday & will meet you in New York on Monday, and I also will be in town that day by noon.

Our Prophet again with us!

I have invited Mrs. Coulston to go to 21 & to come up here for 3 days visit–not one uncongenial element!

God is kind.

If quite convenient you might bring up a trunk of blankets-in case 18 single ones aren’t enough–besides 10 eider down quilts.

What do you think?

I can easily bring a few pairs from our town house & this will be less complicated so do not worry or trouble about it.

I am so thankful to know you are coming to us alone.

The word alone was underscored five or six times, as though to ward off the uncongenial element. But as things happened, Miss MacLeod’s whole exuberant plan for her fiend miscarried. Just at that time Olea, spending a week or so at Camp Percy, Mr. Leggetts’ fishing camp in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, became ill. She returned to her mother’s home in Cambridge, where Mrs. Bull could not, or would not, leave her, and thus almost six weeks were to pass before they arrived at Ridgely Manor. Even Miss MacLeod’s own long-dreamed-of plan to meet Swamiji’s ship, to see him walking with his wonderfully majestic stride down the gangplank, his face breaking into radiance at the sight of his old friends, was not fulfilled, for the Numidian steamed into the New York harbor two or three hours earlier than scheduled. Fortunately, three people were at the dock to meet Swamiji and Swami Turiyananda–Maud Stumm, who had come down from Ridgely, Mrs. Coulston, acting treasurer of the New York Vedanta Society (Swami Abhedananda was out of town), and a Mr. Sydney Clarke, to whom Miss Stumm had telegraphed, asking him to take care of the Swamis’ baggage.

He was “tired and ill-looking,” Miss Stumm wrote later of Swamiji’s arrival. “He was carrying most carefully a big bottle wrapped in papers that were torn and ragged; this precious bottle, which he refused to relinquish before reaching Binnewater, contained a wonderful kind of sauce like curry; brought thus by hand from India. ‘For Jo!’ he said.”

Miss Stumm mentions that “the party from Ridgely” (presumably Miss MacLeod and the Leggetts) did not arrive until ten o’clock that morning, “and so disappointed!” ‘we all went back [to Ridgely Manor] together,” she wrote’ but whether “all” included Sister Christine and Mrs. Funke, one does not know. It is certain, however, that Swamiji spent almost no time in the hot, humid city, but after a stop at the Leggetts’ town house was whisked away with all speed.


(excerpt from Swami Vivekananda and The West: New Discoveries by Marie Louise Burke)

Ridgely Concert Sat. Oct. 3, 2015

Thumri Ki Kahani: a musical journey since 18th century

Featuring Pandit VIJAY KICHLU & Vidushi SUBHRA GUHA

Date: October 3 (Saturday) , 6 – 9-30 pm
Venue: MAMA (Marbletown Multi Arts)
3588 Main Street, Stone Ridge, NY 12484

Pandit Vijay Kichlu is a recipient of “Sangeet Natak Akademi Ratna” – the highest award for a performing artist by the Government of India. He is internationally recognized for promoting Indian Raga music for decades. He belongs to Agra gharana style of gayaki.

Vidushi Subhra Guha is one of the finest exponents of Agra gharana. She has been teaching & performing internationally since early 80s. Recently awarded the “Girija Shankar Purashkar” by West Bengal govt.

Suggested Minimum Donation – $25 per person
($15 for Students – ID Required)
Sponsors & Donors Welcome!
Please write checks to: “Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely”
(all contributions are tax exempt)

For more information, contact:
845 687 4574 / 845 478 2042 / 347 496 3062 / /

Ridgely closed from Sept.12-19

We will be very short-staffed during this time, so we will not be accepting overnight applications or giving tours. We will hold our Saturday and Sunday classes during this time.

Please join us at 7:30pm on Sunday, Sept. 20 for the satsang to be given by Rev. Swami Suhitanandaji, who is the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in India.

The Great Summer: Introduction

As part of our new blog series, Swamiji at Ridgely, we begin with a series of posts documenting  his multiple stays at Ridgely Manor.

Swami Vivekananda visited Ridgely, an estate in the Hudson Valley owned by his friends Mr. and Mrs. Francis Leggett, three times during his two visits to America. The first two times were in 1895. Both those visits were short–about ten days each. His third stay at Ridgely took place at he very beginning of his second visit to America. It lasted for ten weeks, from August 28 to Novemeber 7 of 1899. During those golden weeks of late summer and early autumn, the great swami was free from the pressure of engagements, as never before in the Western World. He was free to talk, to be silent, to meditate, to laugh, and to simply live the exalted life that was natural to him.
The chapter “The Great Summer,” which is a part of the fifth volume of the six volume work SWAMI VIVEKANANDA IN THE WEST: NEW DISCOVERIES by Marie Louise Burke (or Sister Gargi as she is known) tells in detail of these ten extraordinary weeks, during which Ridgely became, through his presence there, a place of pilgrimage. In this series of posts, we share excerpts from this chapter.

Welcome to our new website design

Our webmaster, who goes by the online name Bhairav Jr. (!), and I have redesigned Ridgely’s website. We wanted it to be simple to use for those who are viewing on smartphones and tablets as well as computers. We analyzed the data from our previous website and our other social media platforms to see which pages and platforms were the most popular. We kept those and either deleted or moved the others to a subsection of another category. As an example of that, you will now find most historical information under the About Ridgely section. You will find those sections and subsections listed in the column on the left of the main post.

One of our most important changes was to create a user- friendly blog section. We will be posting to the blog regularly along with photographs from Ridgely. We will also post podcast episodes every other Monday starting September 7, 2015. Be sure to check in every week to see new content, and to subscribe to our podcast.

Vivekananda Retreat has a busy presence on Facebook. We are hoping to move at least part of that audience to our blog and are working on a way to enable comments to be posted to our new blog after registering. We hope you will take the time to read, listen and comment on some of our blog posts.

A link to our overnight retreat application can be found on the Visit page in 2 places. Please read the information carefully before applying.

Enjoy our new simplified website. If you have any feedback about how it could be improved or would like to help us maintain some our of online platforms, please let us know.

Labor Day Weekend Retreat Sept. 6-7


Due to fatigue Swami Sridharananda has been compelled to cut short his US tour.



Sunday, Sept. 6 9:30-5:30 retreat sessions with lunch included. The topic to be announced later

Monday, Sept. 7 9:30-noon retreat sessions


History of Ridgely

Ridgely Manor, circa 1900

The estate was created by Francis Leggett in the early 1890s; he later became a friend of Swami Vivekananda and the first president of the Vedanta Society of New York (founded by Swamiji in 1894). Ridgely has been the home of Leggett’s heirs since his death in 1909.

While visiting America in 1993, Swami Gahanananda, vice-president of the Ramakrishna Order encouraged the Vedanta societies to purchase the Ridgely property. After some time the newly formed Sri Sarada Society worked for several years to acquire it.

A portrait of Francis Leggett from a family album.

In March 1997 the Trustees of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission(Belur Math, India) decided to seriously pursue the acquisition of Ridgely.Persistent efforts included a thorough feasibility study, which enabled Swami Swahananda to authorize the purchase of Ridgely. A large downpayment, offered by devotees in America, was accepted in August, 1997, and by May 1999 a total of over $1.2 million was raised. With the help of an interest-freeloan of $400,000 that was given to the retreat, the mortgage was paid in full by mid summer 1999.

As of January 2005 the interest-free loan was also paid back in full. This was made possible through a bequest of Sister Gargi (Marie Louise Burke) and the generous donations of many people. Since 1997,we have raised over$2 million that has permitted us to purchase the property, convert the property from private to public use, pay off the loan,and make needed renovations and improvements.

Going forward, our fund raising efforts must be directed toward the establishment of an endowment fund to ensure Ridgely’s long-term security!

You can read a detailed account of Swami Vivekananda at Ridgely in a chapter titled “The Great Summer” in Swami Vivekananda and the West: New Discoveries by Marie Louise Burke. Please also see the history of Vivekananda Retreat Ridgely.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. Why is Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely important?

    Swami Vivekananda, the first person to bring the message of Vedanta to the West, stayed at Ridgely on three occasions. He felt he could be himself there, relax and recover from the strain of his intense work. Now, this serene atmosphere – made so by Swami Vivekananda’s extended stays there – is available for spiritual seekers.

  • Q. Who has been living at Ridgely for the last 100 years?

    Until 1997 Ridgely was the home to three generation of the Leggett family. The buildings, particularly the Manor House, remain very much as they were in the days of Swami Vivekananda. Some of the furniture used by Swamiji remains in the houses.

  • Q. What happens at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely?

    The resident minister and a small volunteer staff live there and serve the retreatants, pilgrims and local seekers. In addition to classes and other events, spiritual advice and guidance are also available. Two group meditation periods are part of the daily routine along with other scheduled retreat programs. Retreatants may participate in any of Ridgely’s programs or they may wish to design their own private retreat. See our Calendar for more information on Classes and Events.

  • Q. When and how can I come to visit or stay at Ridgely?

    Please call, fax, write or e-mail us to find out availability. For day visits you must call at least a day in advance. The Retreat is open year-round, and is accessible by air, rail, bus or auto. See our visitors page for more information. For overnight stays you must apply a minimum of five days in advance.

  • Q. How long can I stay at Ridgely?

    Arrangements can be made to stay from a few days to a few months. Contact for details.

  • Q. Where can I get more information about retreats, conferences and seminars, and other activities?

    Sign up for our newsletter, friend us on facebook and add us to twitter. You can also see our Calendar for more information on Classes and Events.

  • Q. How can I help Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely?