Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Architectural Treasure Lost

Yesterday, Wildcliff, a house designed by premier 19th-century architect Alexander Jackson Davis, was destroyed by fire.

Photo: New Rochelle Patch

Wildcliff, which stood atop a hill in New Rochelle, overlooking Long Island Sound, was built around 1852. In 1940, Clara Prince, whose family had acquired Wildcliff in 1913, donated the house to the City of New Rochelle, with the intention that it be a destination for children to learn about science and nature. From 1964 to 1981, the house was the Youth Museum. When the Youth Museum closed, the house was abandoned. 

Interest in the house remained. In 2002, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2012, a group formed to lease Wildcliff from the City of New Rochelle and refurbish the building and grounds to create a nursery school, gallery, office spaces, and spaces for adult education. Today, it seems, the house is a total loss.

Learning of such tragedies often makes us hold closer and cherish more the things that are ours. If the loss of an A. J. Davis house in New Rochelle moves you to value more our own A. J. Davis masterpiece, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Historic Hudson is making a Giving Tuesday appeal for the house. A project now underway will adapt the house's 1812 cellar into usable space for meetings and gatherings and support for events at the house and on the grounds, thus making the National Historic Landmark a real resource for the community. If you are moved to help make that happen, click here

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