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The first George Clarke of record was born in England in the early 17th century. His grandson, also named George, born 1676, was appointed Secretary of the Province of New York in 1703. In 1724, he and his wife, Anne Hyde, purchased land in Hempstead, Long Island and built an estate named Hyde Park. He was Acting Governor of New York from 1736-1743, and during this time acquired over 120,000 acres of land. George's children did not remain in New York; his eldest son returned to England, two other children had close ties with Jamaica, and another died on an expedition to Oswego in the mid-eighteenth century. In 1806, George Hyde Clarke (b. 1768) settled in New York on lands he and his brother inherited from their grandfather and great uncle. Some of his tenants contested his claim to the land, resulted in a six year legal battle which the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Clarke's favor in 1818 (JACKSON VS. CLARKE). Documents Clarke accumulated concerning this case are included in the collection. In 1817 Clarke purchased land on the north shore of Otsego Lake, near Cooperstown, New York, and engaged architect Philip Hooker to design Hyde Hall. The last years of his life were spent constructing and furnishing Hyde Hall. His son, George Hyde Clarke (b. 1822), was one of the largest landowners in the state, but suffered a reversal of fortune when his crop speculations suddenly failed. He eventually went bankrupt, and Hyde Hall fell into disrepair.

His son, George Hyde Clarke (b. 1858), bought Hyde Hall and became a gentleman farmer. After Clarke's death in 1914, his son, George Hyde Clarke (b. 1889), also became a gentleman farmer, residing at Hyde Hall. In 1963, Hyde Hall and the surrounding 600 acres were purchased by the state, and became Glimmerglass State Park. When plans were made to demolish the mansion, the Friends of Hyde Hall formed to preserve the building, its furnishings, and papers. Hyde Hall is currently maintained by the Friends of Hyde Hall, and is undergoing restoration through funding provided by the New York State Department of Parks and Recreation.