Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Progress at the Dr. Oliver Bronson House

Because it's tucked away on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, not visible from any street, it's hard to keep tabs on what's happening at the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Hudson's only National Historic Landmark, but the stabilization of the earliest surviving example of the Hudson River Bracketed style continues.

Historic Hudson announced today that the removal of hazardous materials in the house has been completed. Asbestos was discovered in three distinct areas of the house. In addressing the problem, Crawford & Associates developed the scope of work, Op Tech Environmental of Duanesburg, NY, removed the asbestos, and Alpine Environmental Services of Albany did the air monitoring and testing.

Historic Hudson is now ready to proceed with Phase II of its work on the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, which involves stabilizing the south side of the house and demolishing the "goiter kitchen," a 20th-century addition that destroys the house's symmetry. Davis's original design intent, which has been obstructed by that protuberance, will finally be revealed. Historic Hudson needs $135,000 in matching funds to complete Phase II, and they are committed to raising it.

For readers not familiar with the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, it was originally built in 1812 for Captain Samuel Plumb, probably by master builder Barnabus Waterman. The house and estate were purchased in 1838 by Dr. Oliver Bronson, who hired Alexander Jackson Davis, the sought-after architect of the time, to "refit" the house in new romantic Picturesque style. Ten years later, Davis was commissioned again, this time to expand house. He added a new west facade overlooking South Bay, which featured a deep veranda, a three-story tower, and an octagonal center vestibule connecting matching semi-octagonal parlors. 

After Dr. Bronson, the house had a series of owners, until 1915 when it was purchased by the State of New York. It became the residence of the superintendent of the New York State Training School for Girls and remained so until 1972, when that institution closed. The house was then abandoned, threatened with demolition, and left vacant and deteriorating until 1997, when Historic Hudson began advocating for the house and its restoration. In 2003, the house and grounds were designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2008, Historic Hudson entered into a thirty-year lease with the State of New York and became the legal steward of the house to restore it for public use.

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