Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunday at the Prison with A. J. Davis

In the late 19th-century, probably when the McIntyre sisters owned the house and not long before the State of New York acquired the property, a kitchen addition was added on the south side of the house we now know as the Dr. Oliver Bronson House.

The kitchen addition mimicked the semi-octagonal shape of the principal rooms on the ground floor of the house, but it destroyed the house's intended perfect symmetry.

A. J. Davis journal entry, September 17, 1849. Avery Fine Arts Library, Columbia University
Over the years, the crumbling foundation and generally ruinous condition of the addition put the integrity of the south wall in jeopardy. The period of significance for the Oliver Bronson House is clear: between 1839, when Alexander Jackson Davis was commissioned to "refit" the house in the new Romantic/Picturesque style, and 1849, when Davis was commissioned again to expand the house, adding the rooms and the veranda on the west side of the house, overlooking the Hudson River.

A. J. Davis 1849 drawing of west elevation. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The kitchen addition did not exist during the period of significance, so, with the blessings of the historic preservation proponents at both the state and federal level, Historic Hudson, the legal stewards of the house since 2008, demolished the kitchen this past August.

This Sunday, October 5, Historic Hudson invites everyone to visit the house to see the achievement of the next step in the house's return to the way it was meant to be, the way it was in 1849 when A. J. Davis completed his work. For those unfamiliar with Hudson's only National Historic Landmark, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House is located on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility. On Sunday, the house can be accessed from noon to 3 p.m. from Worth Avenue. Enter at the gatehouse, turn right at the barns, and park on the lawn. 

The Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in July 2003 for its association with the prominent 19th-century American architect Alexander Jackson Davis. The Bronson House is the earliest surviving example of the Hudson River "bracketed style" originated by Davis.

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