It seems like it could be something straight out of a fairytale.
Driving up to the entrance, gates open before you and a brick-lined, curved driveway leads you down to an enormous Mediterranean-style fountain that sits in front a sprawling estate. Head to the back of the property and you’ll find panoramic views of the Hudson River, a rushing waterfall and a trio of peacocks enjoying their home. There’s even a white carriage on the back lawn, evoking memories of Cinderella’s getaway vehicle.
But Rivermere on the Hudson, the name of the 11,000-square-foot estate that is less than a mile from downtown Croton-on-Hudson, is not a make-believe castle taken from the pages of your favorite childhood story.
In fact, the process of renovating and revamping the 10-acre site at 180 N. Riverside Ave. was far from a fantasy for its owner, Indira Rajan.
“It was a complete disaster,” she said of the property when she first stepped inside. “But I walked in, and what I saw made me feel that this was something I’d like to work on as a project.”
When she first entered the home, the property had sat vacant for years, Rajan said, and had decayed and fallen into disrepair during that time.
Still, Rajan said she could see the home’s potential.
“It was a challenge for us, because we didn’t want to change the way it was,” she said. “We felt it was not right to change anything dramatically, but we just wanted to bring it back to life and make it look as best as it can.”
Rajan and her husband spent a year renting the estate before ultimately buying it in March. During that time, they worked to renovate the sizable property.
“It was a big, big task,” she said. “It was fun looking back but at it, but at that time, not so much.”
Today, the mansion is home to seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a fitness center and an in-home movie theater. There are stained glass windows, an outdoor deck and patio, and an indoor pool offering views of the river.
“The whole property, the beautiful views, it will just be great for people to experience,” she said. “We just want to share it.”
Rajan, who was born and raised in India before moving to the U.S. in her mid-20s, said that one of the reasons she was drawn to Rivermere was that it reminded her of her childhood home.
“I grew up in a joint family, so there were always a lot of people around us and it was very much like an open home, where everyone would come in and out,” she said. “It’s harder in this part of the world to do that, but in our little way, maybe we are living some of our childhood.”
Rivermere is not the first foray into property ownership for Rajan. After a trip to Hawaii, she and her husband decided in 2004 to buy a large piece of property and build a home of their own.
“We went back and forth for a few years, wondering if we should do it or not, but we just fell in love” with Hawaii, she said. “We wanted to plant all the tropical trees that we grew up with, and that’s how it started.”
Later, the couple chose to buy a second home in Hawaii, and today, Rajan rents out both properties as vacation homes and event spaces.
Rajan also hopes Rivermere will fill what she feels is a void in the marketplace.
“In the Indian community, we like to do a lot of big parties and things like that,” she said. “We just felt that there was nothing in this area that could accommodate us.”
Still, Rajan stresses that she does not want Rivermere to become a “commercial establishment.”
“We are not competing with wedding (venues) like Tappan Hill or the Monteverde. This is not a place where we want to do events everyday,” she said. “We want to create something unique for the people coming through, just something very customized. We want them to understand how special this property is.”
Since buying the property, Rajan has hosted a large Indian-American wedding and a string of parties and gatherings. For those events, she enlists the help of outside catering, valet and staffing companies.
For Rajan, who has a degree in hotel management she earned while living in India, Rivermere is part of the realization of her dream.
“Sometimes, when we went through those months of renovations, I did doubt myself,” she said. “I wondered if I really needed to do this, but you know, at the end of the day, I just felt that I had taken such a long break from work, and I wanted to get back to it.”
Before becoming a mother, Rajan spent years working her way up in the travel industry.
“I went from full time to part time and then no time, because I felt that (my children) were my priority,” she said. “So I said, now is my time to do something I’m passionate about. This is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
She and her husband, now empty-nesters with two children in college, live in Rivermere full time and spend their time traveling when the home is being rented out.
“We’re sort of finding our way,” she said. “It’s an experiment. But it’s so fun.”