Wheatleigh was built in 1893 by Henry H. Cook as a wedding present for his daughter, Georgie, who married Carlos de Heredia, a Spanish Count. Cook was a New York financier, banker, director of railroads and real estate tycoon. He was a descendant of Captain Thomas Cook, founder of Portsmouth, R.I., and the son of Constant Cook, who helped build the Erie Railroad. It is said that Cook built Wheatleigh as a “summer cottage” for his daughter because she had brought a title into the family.
Wheatleigh was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns based on a 16th century Florentine palazzo. Many of the materials and over 150 artisans were brought from Italy to accomplish the intricate carvings both interior and exterior. Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York, was responsible for creating “Wheatleigh Park” on the land surrounding the palazzo.
For many years the largest portion of the 380 acres Wheatleigh estate was used as a working farm. The Count and Countess resided in their “summer cottage” – along with forty in help for only six weeks a year. Their permanent residence was on Fifth Avenue in New York City. During the “Gilded Age” Wheatleigh was the site of many grand parties and musical events.