Vincent Astor and his Bermuda Estate
There is a sprawling 22-acre estate in St. George's Ferry Reach
that once belonged to a business tycoon named Vincent Astor. The wooded Astor Estate with its gorgeous mansion and guest cottages is still privately owned, although no longer by the Astor families. There is an interesting story behind Vincent and his estate in Bermuda. After losing his father who died in the Titanic that sank in 1911, Vincent inherited enormous amount of wealth and properties. It was valued at over $150 million in those days.
And in today's currency, it would be valued at several billions of dollars. He was only 20 years old then and became the richest young man in America. Other than owning up thousands of acres of estate properties in places like Rhinebeck, oceanfront cottages in Newport, he also became the owner of blocks of land on Wall street and Broadway Road in New York. This included the land on which the Empire State building was later constructed.
But unlike his father and the prior Astors, Vincent had a philanthropic mind. He soon came to learn that he even owned large number of slums. Being sensitive towards the children, he turned a million dollar property into a children's playground in Harlem, built an orphanage in Dutchess County, and went on to make large contributions towards charity and other good purposes.
However like many other rich men, Vincent too had a rough and sometimes extremely painful life. He always blamed his stepmother for his father's fate, and never recognized his stepbrother who was born after his father died. In order to stay away from family influences, he later moved out to England, but continued to run his business in the U.S.
Vincent Astor and his mini train, Bermuda
(Photo: Life Magazine)
In 1914, Vincent married Helen Huntington of Dutchess County who he knew from his childhood. In the early 1930s when the Astor Estate was being setup in Bermuda, it is said that his wife Helen was personally involved and made meticulous research in bringing together the skills of Bermudian architects to build the main mansion in the estate. Vincent and Helen lived for several years at this property and came back often. Although married for long, Vincent and Helen never really got along well and later started to live separately, and finally divorced in 1939.
Vincent was very fond of trains, planes and cars. He had earlier created a railroad track in his estate at Rhinebeck where a miniature train could carry up to 20 passengers around his estate for about 3 quarters of a mile.
He replicated the same in his estate in Bermuda where he initially laid down a narrow gauge track for 800 feet in 1938 and later added another 600 feet. The train had two passenger cars each having seats for four, and two luggage cars.
The train was used to take his guests around the sprawling estate and over the hill to his private station where he connected his tracks with that of Bermuda's Main Railway
. This junction point was known as the Astor's Siding
where his guests could easily transfer between Bermuda Railway train and his own.
Other than the mansion house and cottages for the guests, Vincent had also built a boathouse in the property. The mansion and many other points in the property offer a wonderful view of the Castle Harbor
towards south, and the Atlantic towards the north.
Vincent subsequently had two other marriages. In his last life, he and his third wife Brooke created the Vincent Astor Foundation that worked towards giving back to the society in New York. Vincent died in 1959 at the age of 68. On his death, Forbes company estimated his net worth at $17 billion which was all left to his last wife Brooke.
In 1962, an aircraft of U.S Air Force crashed into Bermuda's Astor Estate and damaged many of the outer buildings. All the four crew members had died. The property is now divided into several parts and belong to private owners.
How to Reach Astor Estate in Bermuda?
Astor Estate is located at Ferry Reach in St. George. Nearest bus routes are #1, 3, 10, and 11. You will need to get down at the junction of Mullet Bay Road and Ferry Road. If you are coming from Hamilton City, after the Causeway
the bus takes left into Mullet Bay Road. Get off at the next junction and walk along Ferry Road
. You will see the boundary of Astor Estate. From St. George (Kings Square), a mini bus comes up to Ferry Road.
Raj is an avid traveler, a travel journalist and a blogger. As an author of this website, he shares deep insights on Bermuda and related areas of interest. Since years, he has been helping countless viewers by posting quality articles, answering questions and sharing experiences on this website. Launched in 2008, this website is Bermuda's one of the leading sources of information since many years.
Visitors' Reviews and Comments
Pete Hookings (March 2014)
In the late 1930s and 1940s, My dad Carl Hookings, MD lived in St George. My dad was Vincent's doctor and friend. I was around five years old. I learned to swim in Astor's pool. We would visit on occasion and Mr. Astor would meet us at the train station with his little train if we did not come by carriage. During the war he could not come to Bermuda and his place was taken care of by Percy and Mable Hammond. We went there frequently and used his boats, house and estate for weekends and parties, The Hammonds were like an aunt and uncle to me. During the 1940s they built Kindley Field and planes flew over the house almost every ten minutes.
I met Chuck Yeager at one of our parties. He was an officer in the USAAF. After the war the Astors did not want to be in the flight path of all the planes and they sold the property to Carl Biermann and his family turned the place into condos. Michael and Annette Biermann still own the place as well as the property over to the north shore. The boat house was hit by a plane taking off during the Cuban Missle crisis so it exists no longer.
My wife and I visited with Annette several years ago and she gave us a tour. WE didn't go inside the house so I don't know how they condoed it. To this day it was one of the most beautiful layouts I have ever seen. I lived at Crooked Elbow in St Georges, Kington House on the harbor road, Watlington House in Devonshire, now the Ocean View Golf Course, and at Deepdeene in Smiths Parish. My father was with the Health Department after we left St. Georges. Henry Wilkinson was his associate. Dr. Wilkinson wrote a history of Bermuda as did Canopn Tucker of St. Peters Church in St. George. My father was a third generation Bermudian.
Mark Goodwin (December 2011)
Dear sir, I lived and worked in Bermuda for many years, I worked at Bermuda Machine and Casting Co in St George's. We seemed to work all over the island maintaining the hotels, hospitals and tourist attractions. I remember going to ferry reach, we drove towards the end where there is a small lagoon, from there you can walk back down the old railway line. If you continue down the railway for a mile or two, and keep your eyes peeled to your right, you will come across the remains of Vincent Astor's miniature steam train and carriage. although this was in 1992 I'm sure they will still be there!!! Best regards.
Jim Booska (June 2011)
Hi, I'm looking for the actual location of the old Vincent Astor estate. Was the estate in the Ferry Reach Park or on Coney island
? Is Coney island included in the ferry reach park area? Thanks for your site and help.
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) June 2011
Hi, Astor Estate is located next to Ferry Reach Park. You can see the estate boundaries from Ferry Road. Coney Island is not part of Ferry Reach Park and is located at the other side of the water channel. Coney Island is connected to the main island of Bermuda by a bridge (at Bailey's bay), whereas Ferry Reach Park is located in St. George's parish. Check out the link below and zoom the map once. You will see Coney Island and Ferry Reach Park: St. George Map