Monday, August 21, 2017

A Visit To Boscobel

Chronica Domus
A view of Boscobel House's sublime façade
Photo: Chronica Domus


It was hot and humid the afternoon my family and I arrived in Garrison, New York last month. The mercury hovered around the 85 degree Fahrenheit mark.  None of this really mattered, mind you, for the sublime beauty of both Boscobel House and its environs far eclipsed any discomfort we might have felt under the collar.

Boscobel, which was built for States and Elizabeth Dyckman between 1804 - 1808, is an extraordinarily scrumptious house done up to a fare-thee-well.  It is furnished with a staggeringly extensive and jaw-droppingly gorgeous collection of American Federal furniture and decorative arts. I was left swooning at every turn. Gazing upon Boscobel's delightfully airy and delicate façade, I could not help but be reminded of the prettiest opera houses and theaters with their balconies, billowing curtains, and swags. I don't think there's another house quite like it anywhere. 

Meandering through Boscobel's herb garden to reach the main house, I am stopped in my tracks by the most picture-perfect orangery imaginable.  Oh, how my inner-gentlewoman gardener would so adore having one of these beauties in her own modest garden.  Alas, there is little room to accommodate such a horticultural fantasy but what a pleasure it was to be visiting this one.

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The clapboard and brick orangery is surrounded by plantings of culinary and 
medicinal herbs and flowers 
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Hollyhocks appear like towering giants against the orangery's pint-sized dimensions
Photo: Chronica Domus


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The rose garden, located just behind the house, is adorned with
several metal benches - this one resembled the one in my own garden
Photo: Chronica Domus


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This is the view from the rose garden, where the verdant Hudson River Valley can be admired
(West Point Military Academy is just visible to the right)
Photo: Chronica Domus 


Before our guided tour began,
 we had time to view the special exhibition in the gallery. Make-Do's: Curiously Repaired Antiques features a sizable portion of Andrew Baseman's intriguing collection of inventively repaired ceramic and glass articles. Each piece has been restored using either bits of tin, metal staples, or molded silver deeming the object useful, once again, to its owner.  What a refreshing concept to ponder in our modern throw-away age.  If you too are interested in viewing this marvelous assemblage of oddities, you have ample time ahead of you to plan your visit.  The exhibition runs until October 1.

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Long before Super Glue and two-part epoxy were invented, items such as those in the
photograph above were repaired using metal staples, pieces of tin, or molded silver
Photo: Chronica Domus


At 1 p.m. our little group gathered at the foot of Boscobel's front steps where we listened attentively to our guide as she explained how Boscobel came to be a house museum.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


I was fascinated to discover that the building had been saved from demolition in 1955 by the efforts of a group called Friends of Boscobel and Lila Acheson Wallace, co-founder of Reader's Digest. Mrs. Wallace provided much of the funding required to save Boscobel and move it from its original location in Montrose, New York. She was also an influential force behind its decoration.  Many years later, Berry Tracy, the curator of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reinterpreted the decorative scheme to reflect a more authentic Federal interior.  And, what a stupendous interior that is! Let's go inside.

Stepping into the cool, front entry hall, one is immediately struck by the scale and detail of the airy space.

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The large entry hall not only welcomed guests of the Dyckman family but was also used 
for dances and musical recitals, and on occasion for dinner parties
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Painted oilcloth was often used as a protective water-resistant floor covering in the
eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries especially in high traffic areas
Photo: Chronica Domus

Berry Tracy was responsible for acquiring much of the Federal period furniture in the house.  Outside of a major decorative arts museum, I don't believe I've seen a collection quite so extensive.  Pieces by noted cabinetmakers Charles Honore Lannuier, Michael Allison, and Duncan Phyfe grace every room.

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Boscobel's rooms are sumptuously decorated and furnished with Federal
period furniture and decorative arts
(note more of Andrew Baseman's repaired ceramics displayed upon the mantelshelf)
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Can you imagine the fun of dining by candlelight in such an exquisitely decorated room?
Photo: Chronica Domus


It is not only the public rooms of the house that are outfitted so well.  The photographs below show a more domestic-oriented space which was used by the household staff to store the family's glassware and ceramics.  This room was also where hot and cold beverages were prepared, and where the paraphernalia involved in the preparation of such drinks was kept.  I must admit, as much as I adore poking around the more formal rooms of such house museums, it is often the domestic spaces which most intrigue me.

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All the best households utilized plate warmers which were positioned in front of
a roaring fire until their contents were warm to the touch
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Silver serving dishes, candlesticks, and Argand lamps sit atop a mahogany tray
Photo: Chronica Domus


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More of Andrew Baseman's repaired antiques are seen on the mantelshelf and table
Photo: Chronica Domus


Heading upstairs, I discover that the wooden handrail is elegantly supported by several iron balusters.

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The view from the second floor
Photo: Chronica Domus


The bedchambers, all three of them, are kitted out with more period furniture and accessories.  A refreshing slumber could be had by anyone so fortunate as to spend a night in one of these comfortable rooms.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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The bedchamber's fireplace kept the chill at bay as did the brass bed warmer
which was slipped between the sheets in advance of the occupant
Photo: Chronica Domus


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No detail has been overlooked in the decoration of the bedchambers including 
the linen press, chock-full of crisp white linens to dress the bed
Photo: Chronica Domus


My favorite formal room in the house was States Dyckman's magnificent library.  It took my breath away.  I really should have packed the smelling salts.

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The perfect storm of wall color, rush matting, and furniture had me 
panting for breath as I stepped into this sublime room
Photo: Chronica Domus 


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Would you believe the body of this incredible chandelier is made from a single piece of 
carved and gilded wood?
Photo: Chronica Domus


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Had I the resources and space, this is a room I would gladly replicate in my 
own house
Photo: Chronica Domus


The upstairs library holds a fraction of States Dyckman's book collection which is housed in an impressive and handsome mahogany secretary bookcase believed to have been made by Duncan Phyfe, circa 1810 - 1820.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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This is son Peter Dyckman's bedchamber which features a bed built in Duncan Phyfe's workshop
Photo: Chronica Domus


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If I were Peter, I'd have a difficult time leaving the comfort of my fireside chair
(Oh look, there's more of Mr. Bateman's repaired ceramics parading along the mantelshelf)
Photo: Chronica Domus


Our tour was rapidly drawing to a close but not before our guide showed us into one final room, the kitchen.   

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Photo: Chronica Domus


It is here that we are treated to some of Boscobel's warm hospitality in the form of refreshing lemonade and delicious cookies.

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Thirst quenching cups of lemonade and sweet treats are offered to Boscobel's
appreciative visitors
Photo: Chronica Domus


What a hospitable and welcoming gesture, and a delightful way to wrap up a most enjoyable tour.  So much more civilized than exiting through a gift shop, would you not agree?

Now that I've had the good fortune to visit this fine house, I fully understand Mrs. Lila Acheson Wallace's philanthropic urge to save it.  Boscobel is nothing short of a jewel.


Boscobel House and Gardens
1601 Route 9D (Bear Mountain Highway)
Garrison 
New York 10524


22 comments:

  1. Moire non to do justice to this fabulous series of photos you're sharing. I've spent an hour getting my friend Miss Marthy Tidwell to explain the vagaries and verses of SAWMILL GRAVY, for her knowledge of Southern kitchen lore is way superior to my own.

    Do come see. She's written you a letter.

    r

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello racheld,

      Yes, I felt I could not leave a single photograph out of this post as it is all so gorgeous at Boscobel.

      I've just popped over to yours and read the marvelous description of Sawmill Gravy, thank you. You've cleared the fog.

      Delete
  2. I find "make-dos" fascinating, especially the ceramic ones with the large staples. What an impressive collection is displayed here! Thank you for sharing your tour of this beautifully decorated house. The lemonade and cookies is the perfect ending.

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    Replies
    1. Hello slf,

      Yes, I agree those "make-dos" are indeed a fascinating window into how our ancestors valued their beautiful ceramics and glassware enough to save them through ingenious repair work. I believe this particular exhibition is the first of its kind, and I hope it finds itself traveling to other museums around the country. I am certain others will be as fascinated as I was to view it.

      Delete
  3. I just realised that when I lived in NY i never took the opportunity to travel around locally. All the old restored houses I have seen in the states have been in the south - New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah. I must try and do a northeast tour. It really is nice to see an American twist to the classics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Naomi,

      Oh, I have a few more houses in the area to post about that I got to visit during my trip so stay tuned. Then, plan a visit to NY and its environs and go see these places for yourself. They are all gems in their own right.

      By the way, all of the places you visited are on my future travel list too. There are several houses I've already earmarked to visit. Cannot wait!

      Delete
  4. What a beautiful home and they should use your photos in a promotional brochure. That staircase is spectacular. On a completely prosaic note, I wonder if people had difficulty sleeping on those horsehair mattresses. They look rather uneven and while turning might some have rolled right off the sides?
    Best,
    KLGaylin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello KL Gaylin,

      Oh, you do flatter my photographic skills a tad too much, but I thank you nonetheless. I believe anyone taking snaps of Boscobel could not fail but take a pretty picture because the house and grounds are so sublimely beautiful.

      As for mattress stuffing, I believe by the early-eighteenth century someone wised up to the benefits of cotton and wool. I imagine these were far superior choices for a comfortable night's slumber as compared to horsehair and straw, and probably more sanitary too.

      Delete
  5. Amazing that this beautiful building faced demolition. The 1950s to 1970s were a tough era for historic properties in the US (Penn Station NY is an example). Wonderful that they moved it out of harms way to rest in the lush, green Hudson Valley.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Diogenes,

      It is incredible to think that Boscobel went up on the auction block in 1955 and was sold to a demolition contractor for $35 who then sold off many of the original architectural elements (since restored thank goodness). It was only through the down-to-the-wire efforts and fund raising by Boscobel Restoration Inc. and Benjamin West Frazier that the house was saved.

      I had no idea that Penn Station was also in peril of being demolished. What a tragedy that would have been!

      Delete
  6. Dear Chronica,

    Penn Station New York was in fact demolished in 1962. Here you can see the original:

    http://mashable.com/2015/07/20/original-penn-station/#K7fmEb9EpPqu

    It was replaced with Madison Square Garden. There are several other Penn Stations, such as the one in Philadelphia, that still stands. And Grand Central remains untouched.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you came back to clear my befuddled mind. I somehow got my stations mixed up and was, in fact, thinking of Grand Central Station. Thank you for clarifying.

      Delete
  7. PS - Hard to believe that Boscobel sold for so little in 1955. That was far less than the price of a car at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is, indeed, an insane price to pay for the pleasure of demolishing such a gem of a house. I visited a few other historic house museums on my trip East and I believe both of those were in peril at some point in their history of meeting the wrecker's ball. Astonishing!

      Delete
  8. Hello CD, When I was in college, I took a course in Federal architecture in which Boscobel was heavily featured. Despite its importance, I (like Naomi) never managed to get there--this was our loss!

    I too am fascinated by objects that were repaired a long time ago. The opposite of today's invisible repairs, the old objects seem to brag about how they have been restored to use.
    --Jim

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    Replies
    1. Hello Jim,

      Well then, you really must make the pilgrimage to Garrison the next time you are in New York as I am certain you'll appreciate this wonderful house as much as I.

      The owner of the collection featured in the special exhibition writes the blog Past Imperfect, The Art of Inventive Repair if you'd care to take a gander. I believe you may enjoy reading it. Here's the link:

      http://andrewbaseman.com/blog/

      Delete
  9. Thank you for this beautiful post. We're honored that you took such care, and we loved your descriptions from start to finish.

    http://www.facebook.com/BoscobelHG/
    http://www.instagram.com/boscobelhg/
    http://twitter.com/BoscobelHG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Lauren Daisley,

      Thank you for your kind comment. It was an absolute pleasure to visit Boscobel and enjoy both the house and its environs. I only hope that my amateurish scribblings do justice to this beautifully preserved gem and can steer fellow house museum enthusiasts to Garrison.

      I look forward to a return visit the next time I find myself in upstate New York.

      CD

      Delete
  10. So exquisitely decorated! So refined and subtle. Thank you so much for introducing this to me. xox. You make the perfect guide.

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    1. Why, thank you Lisa! Boscobel is indeed exquisite for many reasons. Please, do yourself a favor and plan to visit the next time you are in the Hudson River valley.

      Delete
  11. Excellent post, wonderful photographs!
    When I glanced at the title, all that came to mind was: ideal combination, that of CD and Boscobel. The perfect house for our dear civilised blogger. Do admit.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Toby Worthington,

      Thank you for your very kind comment. Indeed, I find Boscobel to be a picture-perfect house and one I'd be only too pleased to move into. I am, however, more than happy to visit it, content in the knowledge that such a jewel is being properly cared for and maintained, and is open to the public and to those that appreciate its beauty. It is akin to enjoying other people's children or pets knowing you can hand them right back at the end of the day.

      I am working on a few more posts of historic houses that I visited on my tour East that I hope you come back and read.

      Delete

Please do leave a comment as I enjoy the dialogue with my readership, thank you.

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