Historic Hudson

Dr. Oliver Bronson House

 
 

The dr.Oliver Bronson House & Estate

National Historic Landmark


East Elevation of Bronson House. Undated Photograph.

East Elevation of Bronson House. Undated Photograph.

The Dr. Oliver Bronson House was built as a three story Federal style residence for Samuel Plumb in 1811-1812. The house and grounds were reinvented by architect Alexander Jackson Davis into a fully realized Romantic-Picturesque estate for Dr. Oliver Bronson and his family in two successive remodeling campaigns dating to 1838 and 1849. The house is the earliest extant design by Davis in the “bracketed mode,” and its dramatic setting framed by the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River fully expressed the romantic vision of the Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church who owned villas within a three mile radius of eachother.

Unlike other surviving A.J. Davis Hudson River villas such as Montgomery Place, Lyndhurst, and Locust Grove (all National Historic Landmarks), the Dr. Oliver Bronson House is comparatively unknown due to its twentieth century history in which the estate was absorbed into the grounds of a penal institution: the New York Training School for Girls; a progressive era reform school for female juvenile delinquents. Used for many years as the superintendents’s house the Dr. Oliver Bronson House was abandoned in 1970 and suffered many years of unchecked neglect.

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Beginning in 1997, Historic Hudson began a sustained program of advocacy for the property leading to a designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2003 that included the house, outbuildings and approximately fifty-five surrounding acres of the historic landscape. In 2008, a long-term lease with New York State secured the house and 1.2 acres, a small portion of the original estate. Since then over $1.2 million in private funds, foundation and government grants have begun to preserve the house for public use.

The 2009 Exterior Conservation and Stabilization Plan is nearly complete. The next phase- a $650,000 project- is underway with the last few items of exterior work to be completed in the summer of 2019. The 1812 basement kitchen area will be restored for meeting spaces and utilities will be brought into the house for the first time in fifty years.

With the stabilization nearly complete, advocacy continues with productive conversations with New York State in setting aside a large acreage, at a minimum the fifty-five of the National Historic Landmark, for a public access park immediately adjacent to the urban core of the city of Hudson.


West Elevation of Bronson House. Ca. 1880’s.

West Elevation of Bronson House. Ca. 1880’s.

 

The house as built in 1811-1812 with open farmland to the Hudson River. William Guy Wall watercolor. Unpublished study for the Hudson River Portfolio, ca. 1819. Courtesy: New-York Historical Society.

The house as built in 1811-1812 with open farmland to the Hudson River. William Guy Wall watercolor. Unpublished study for the Hudson River Portfolio, ca. 1819. Courtesy: New-York Historical Society.