Boscobel (American)

A few more road-trip posts—then it’s back to Salem and work: I’m prepping for two summer courses and have several scholarly projects on the back burner. Every time I am in the Hudson River Valley visiting my brother, I go to see one or more of the grand estates in the region. On this particular trip, I was looking forward to seeing two Gothic Revival houses in the southern part of the Valley: Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, and nearby Lyndhurst. However, I presumed too much; I happened to be passing through on a dreaded Monday when most museums are closed, these two house museums included. Next time. Proceeding north toward my brother’s house in Rhinebeck I passed by the grounds of another estate which I had not seen–and the gate was open, so to Boscobel I went. I have to admit to a certain snobbiness on my part regarding Boscobel; it’s never been high–or even on–my “must visit” list for several reasons. First of all, it’s a Federal house, built between 1804 and 1808 by Loyalist  States Dyckman (actually he died just after the foundation–his wife Elizabeth oversaw its completion). Now of course I love Federal architecture, but being from Salem I always assume that we have the best Federal houses right here: it’s Samuel McIntire or nothing for me! And as an English historian, the word “Boscobel” means only one thing to me: the English house where Prince Charles/Charles II hid out from Cromwell’s troops following the Battle of Worcester in 1851. So this Boscobel could only be a pale imitation–of either McIntire or the original. I also have a slight prejudice against historic houses that are transplanted, as this American Boscobel was:  it was originally built in the slightly-more southern Hudson hamlet of Montrose, but moved to its present location in Garrison in 1961 (in pieces!) after it was threatened by demolition by a Federal construction project. But all of these “reasons” were stupid: Boscobel is well worth seeing: it has been meticulously reconstituted and its present site is simply stunning, with beautiful grounds and one of the most striking Hudson views I have seen–just across from West Point.

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Boscobel: front, back (entrance from street), views from the house and river’s edge; herb garden and orangerie.

The interpretation of the house was also interesting–how it came to be and how it was reconstituted–particularly in regard to its furnishings. As a Loyalist, Mr. Dyckman had spent the Revolution in England and had bought lots of pieces while there, but Mrs. Dyckman seems to be have been more devoted to American furniture makers–including Duncan Phyfe. As all the furnishings were dispersed when the house went into decline from the late nineteenth-century on, its recreators had to either find original pieces or choose appropriate substitutes. It has been an ongoing process, but the house’s interior certainly gleams in perfect Federal fashion. I couldn’t take any pictures but the website seems to feature all of the rooms. The grounds were adorned with sculptures, the herb garden (though decidedly not in the right place) was in full bloom, and I got some more clues for my evolving research into in the relationship between English Royalists of the seventeenth century and American Loyalists of the eighteenth: altogether a very enlightening visit.


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Boscobel in pieces, c. 1960; the grounds today.

2 responses to “Boscobel (American)

  • Robert Cutler

    Dear Ms. Seger,

    As a trustee of Boscobel, I’d like to thank you for your kind words about us in your blog, which I enjoyed very much, and hope you’ll be able to come back some time to take our free audio tour (included in the $11 grounds pass).

    It covers the stories of how Boscobel, Storm King Mountain, The Hudson River and our Independence were saved.

    It includes original interviews with Pete Seeger; Bob Boyle, who more than any other saved the Hudson, and who created, founded and ran the Riverkeeper program while holding down his day job as a first rate writer for Sports Illustrated; John Cronin, who was awarded the Jefferson Medal primarily for his courageous work as the second Hudson Riverkeeper; Bobby Kennedy, who over 40 yrs has lead teams of young environmental lawyers to successfully sue polluters 400 times and win $4.5 billion from them to clean up the river; John Adams, who founded and ran NRDC for 35 years; Al Butzel, who helped save Storm King Mountain and who also stopped Westway dead in its tracks. All these people and others tell what they did to jump start the environmental movement here in the Hudson Highlands in the 1960’s.

    Col Jim Johnson, former West Point cadet and officer, and now professor of military history at Marist, tells how our independence was almost lost and then saved right here in the Highlands by brave and fast thinking patriots. He also tells us about the great but little known Thaddeus Kosciuzko, and why he was chosen by Cadet Robt E Lee in 1828 as the single most important hero of our Revolutionary War.

    I hope this is sufficient enticement for you to return to what we, totally biased, think is the most beautiful historic site and view in America.

    Best regards, and do let us know if and when you come back!

    Robert Cutler

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