Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Bronson House in Context

This Saturday, February 20, architectural historian Peter Watson begins his two-part lecture series on Alexander Jackson Davis, the preeminent 19th-century architect whose work distinguishes the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. Part 1, "Picturesque Transformations: A. J. Davis Reinvents Hudson Valley Architecture," takes place at 4 p.m. at Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street. In this slide lecture, Watson will examine Davis's work at the Bronson House in the context of a small group of related commissions in the Hudson Valley, which includes Blithewood, Montgomery Place, Locust Grove, and Knoll-Lyndhurst. In each of these often decades long projects, Davis and his clients transformed an existing Federal style house and grounds into "a fully immersive Romantic environment organized into a series of 'landscape pictures' following the practices of English landscape gardening." Watson posits that these Hudson Valley projects, which he calls "picturesque transformations," are "the key to understanding Davis's identity as an artist and designer and his self identification as 'Architectural Composer.'"

Part 2, "A Tale of Two Houses: Two Centuries of Change at the Bronson and Vanderpoel Houses," takes place on Saturday, March 12, at 5 p.m. at The School (Jack Shainman Gallery), 25 Broad Street in Kinderhook. In this lecture, Watson will explore the evolution of the Bronson House and the Vanderpoel House, both in their original design attributed to Hudson "master mechanic" Barnabas Waterman (1776-1839).

The talk will begin with a consideration of the historical Barnabas Waterman and "the construction of the 20th-century Colonial Revival lore surrounding him." This will be followed by a comparison of the plans, elevations, construction, and millwork of the two houses, "allowing attendees to judge for themselves."

Watson will then employ a series of digital renderings "to illustrate the specific manner in which these two quintessential Columbia County houses were altered over time to reflect the changing needs and tastes of their owners, highlighting the difficult restoration choices facing past and current stewards of these properties."

The lectures are sponsored by Historic Hudson in collaboration with the Columbia County Historical Society. Tickets for each lecture are $15 if purchased in advance at historichudson.org. If purchased at the door, they are $15 for HH and CCHS members and $20 for nonmembers.

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