Art Works Blog

Blue Star Museums Spotlight on Boscobel House & Gardens

Located in New York’s bucolic Hudson River Valley, visiting Boscobel House and Gardens is like stepping back in time. Constructed from 1804-1808, the house is a leading exemplar of Federal architectural style. Originally sited on a 250-acre farm in Montrose, New York, the house was dismantled and rebuilt in Garrison as the result of preservation efforts. Today Boscobel boasts one of the leading collections of furniture and decorative arts from the Federal period, including work by Duncan Phyfe, Michael Allison, and Charles Honore Lannuier. There are nearly 1,000 pieces in the collection comprising kitchen utensils, sewing tools, paintings, toys, and dolls, among other household goods.

Visitors can take advantage of docent-led tours of the house or explore the gardens and other outdoor landscapes while following a self-guided audio tour, which offers three hours of stories about the Hudson River Valley drawn from the likes of Pete Seeger, Bobby Kennedy, Jr., and others. Boscobel also presents an annual art exhibit, which this year features the under-the-radar 19th-century painter Thomas Prichard Rossiter (on view through November 29). On Sunday, August 30, Boscobel will also host a military reenactment day highlighting several wars from the American Revolution to World War I. We spoke with Boscobel House and Gardens Executive Director Steven Miller to learn more about this window onto our American heritage. 

NEA: Why is Blue Star Museums an important program for Boscobel House and Gardens?

STEVEN MILLER: Blue Star Museums is an honorable affiliation for Boscobel House & Gardens. It allows us the opportunity to show appreciation to the individuals who have sacrificed so much for our country and who protect our freedom every day. Plus, as a not-for-profit, Boscobel relies on partnerships with other significant organizations to jointly spread awareness about our distinct missions.

NEA: What do you want people to know about Boscobel House and Gardens? What's unique about it?

MILLER: Boscobel is unique because it was rescued and relocated! It was almost destroyed in the 1950s, but was sold at auction to a demolition contractor for $35. Its preservation is due to the financial backing of Lila Acheson Wallace, co-founder of Reader's Digest, and the determination of a group of individuals who were able to acquire the structure, dismantle it and have it moved piece by piece to its new home in Garrison where, in 1961, Governor Nelson Rockefeller said it was, "one of the most beautiful homes ever built in America."

NEA: What's your favorite object in the collection at Boscobel, and why?

MILLER: I would have to say the music box in the family parlor because we actually hear what people heard two hundred years ago and can understand the sort of enjoyment this kind of entertainment provided.

A large entry hall with a central staircase that branches off to the left and right after the first flight of stairs

Boscobel’s largest room, the entry hall, is lavishly decorated with a Neoclassical archway, block-printed wallpaper and a marbleized canvas floorcloth. Photo courtesy of Boscobel House & Gardens, Garrison, NY.

NEA: What is a must-see when visiting Boscobel? What's one of the unsung treasures?

MILLER: The must-see is our iconic and breathtaking view of the Hudson River and its highlands--one of the most famous vistas in the Hudson Valley. Of course, one does not truly experience Boscobel without a guided tour of the neo-classical mansion, which contains one of the nation's leading collections of furniture and decorative arts from the Federal period. Our experienced and renowned docents paint a descriptive picture of life with the Dyckmans in the early 1800s, and it is truly a step back in time experience like no other.

NEA: This year your annual exhibit is Every Kind of a Painter: Thomas Prichard Rossiter. What inspired this exhibit? What are some interesting or important things that you want visitors to know about the exhibit?

MILLER: This exhibit was inspired by our board chair Barnabas McHenry who has long had an interest in reviving Rossiter's reputation as a distinguished American 19th-century artist. I think visitors should know that Rossiter's original home is located next door to Boscobel, right here in Garrison. I also believe they would be interested to know that Thomas Rossiter was not very well known because he didn’t concentrate on one specific subject; instead, he painted everything from portraits to landscapes to history images. The exhibition includes many paintings never before shown publicly, and its importance is evident by the number of pictures lent by individuals and institutions throughout the country.

NEA: Can you tell us about the Living History: Military Reenactment Day that's coming up on August 30?

MILLER; This is a terrific annual event for families and military history buffs. It is produced by Boscobel's Education Department and is included with paid admission to Boscobel, which means it is completely free to Blue Star families!

From 11am to 4pm, reenactors from the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and WWI will demonstrate military camp life including tactical weapon demonstrations, inspections, formations, musket firings, artillery demonstrations and drills. Plus, the 6th New York Independent Battery will fire its Parrott cannon to salute Boscobel's neighbor, The West Point Foundry Preserve, where the guns were made.

It's a day to honor and learn about Boscobel's ties to American wars.

a sweeping country view of gardens backgrounded by the Hudson River and mountains

The commanding view from the great lawn at Boscobel: the Hudson River and its Highlands, Constitution Marsh, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Photo courtesy of Boscobel House & Gardens, Garrison, NY

NEA: How can families prepare to visit Boscobel? What are one or two tips for getting the most out of a visit to Boscobel?

MILLER: Boscobel is all about beauty and style; it's meant to be enjoyed and admired at a leisurely pace. Stroll the gardens (stop and smell the roses!), take in the views, enjoy a tour and learn about Federal architecture and the early 1800s lifestyle of the Dyckman family. Guests can also take a self-guided walk around the grounds with the Boscobel audio tour, which includes fascinating historic stories of the Hudson River Valley told by local legends, such as Pete Seeger and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. There are also picnic areas and freshly prepared food available for purchase in the Carriage House. Dress appropriately if you would like to hike the Woodland Trail of Discovery, and end your day with a look around the Museum Gift Shop. There’s a little something for everyone at Boscobel.

NEA: What's your favorite Blue Star Museum (next to your own museum, of course) and why?

MILLER: I would say The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City because it has such a wonderful mix of art from around the world and the highest quality exhibitions.

This is our last Blue Star Museums post for the summer. Tune in next week, when we return to Big Read Fridays!

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