The Dr. Oliver Bronson House was first built as a Federal-style residence for Samuel Plumb in 1812. The house and grounds were reinvented by architect Alexander Jackson Davis into a fully realized Romantic-Picturesque estate for Dr. Bronson and his family in two successive remodeling campaigns dating to 1839 and 1849. The house is the earliest extant design by Davis in the “bracketed mode,” and its dramatic setting framed by the Catskill mountains and the Hudson River fully expressed the romantic vision of the Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, who owned villas nearby.
Unlike other surviving A.J. Davis Hudson River villas such as Montgomery Place, Lyndhurst, and Locust Grove (all National Historic Landmarks), the Dr. Oliver Bronson House is comparatively unknown due to its twentieth century history in which the estate was absorbed into the grounds of a penal institution: the New York Training School for Girls; a progressive era reform school for female juvenile delinquents. Used for many years as the superintendent’s house, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House was abandoned in the early 1970s and suffered many years of unchecked neglect.
Beginning in 1997, Historic Hudson began a sustained program of advocacy for the house leading to the property’s designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2003 and the acquisition of the house and a small portion of the grounds through a long-term lease with New York State in 2008, and was awarded a matching $175,000 Environmental Protection Fund grant by NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, to begin to preserve the house for public use.
In 2009, Historic Hudson completed the Window Sash Restoration Project, allowing the public to experience the entire house in natural light, and, in 2010, retained Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects to design a Conservation and Stabilization Plan to guide the preservation of the house. In 2011, Historic Hudson completed the first phase to stabilize the most urgently threatened north side of the house.
With that work in place, Historic Hudson was awarded a matching $300,000 EPF grant in 2011, and is now actively campaigning to raise the $120,000 in matching funding required to continue with Phase II: stabilization of the south side of the house. The planning for Phase II, informed in conjunction with an archeological survey and historic landscape study, is currently underway, with construction scheduled for 2013.
For additional information about the Dr. Oliver Bronson House and its ongoing restoration please visit: http://dobhdaybook.wordpress.com/
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