I love visiting the Hudson River Valley so any event or tour that I can go on is an excuse to come up here. I had visited all the sites that I wanted to see on a trip two weeks earlier but wanted to see them in more detail plus I wanted to take some pictures. The weather finally broke, and it was a much more pleasant 83 degrees as opposed to the 96 degrees the trip before. That makes the trip much nicer.
I asked my aunt along so that we could share in the experience, and I could use her phone to take pictures of the all the sites. It is a much nicer trip when you have someone along who enjoys these things. The one nice thing about traveling to the Fishkill, New York area is that it is only an hour away and a straight run…
When I was visiting Rhinebeck for the recent Sheep and Wool Festival (See day One Hundred and Forty-Nine on “MywalkinManhattan.com), I decided to visit Bard College and their contemporary art museum, the Hessel Museum. When approaching the museum, it almost appears to be a fortress with several large pieces of contemporary sculpture on the grounds outside the building.
Once upon entering the museum, you are greeted by many welcoming volunteers who will check your vaccination card and ID and your mask and then you can enter the museum for viewing. At the time I was there, NY State still had a lot of their mandates.
There were a couple of interesting exhibitions going on when I visited. The first one I visited that afternoon was “Closer to Life: Drawings and Works on Paper in the Marieluise Hessel Collection”, which was many of the works of the founder of Bard’s private collection that had been donated to the school. I have to admit that the works were very contemporary with lots of squiggles and political themes.
Many of the works you had to look at a second time to try to find the meaning in them. I was having a tough time relating the titles to the works. Reading the exhibits press release, the exhibition said “Hessel’s dedication to the depiction of the human figure as an essential act of examining the self and social relations. The exhibit focuses, with a few exceptions, on drawing as a discrete, stand-alone practice and preoccupation of artists rather than as a tool to create studies for works in other mediums. Drawing is a way of thinking and the intimacy of the act is echoed in much of the subject matter depicted in the exhibition (Museum website).
Ms. Hessel traveled extensively and had relationships with many artists along the way, who touched on the themes of the day. She traveled from Germany to Mexico City and then onto New York City at different phases of her life and it shows in the collection that she amassed. The collection twists and turns in its theme from room to room.
The other exhibition I toured was the current “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972-1985” which was an interesting exhibition of design of the home and space which seemed to be an art movement in the early to mid 1980’s that I never noticed when I was in high school and college. It seemed that home design went from the home furnishings to a form of art.
This I had seen the artist’s starting to design things like dishware and placemats for everyday use and in things like wallpaper from the dining room. There was a cross over in home design as artists became more commercialized and their work showed up on walls and floors. It is not too different today with people like Martha Stewart and her paint and home furnishing collections or Halston designing for JC Penny with the Halston II Collection.
Some of the art was quite colorful
The art in those galleries really looked something you would find in the average person’s home in the era. Some of the ‘over the top’ really looked like it belonged on a rug or on wallpaper. As the exhibition’s literature stated, “the exhibition examines the Pattern and Decorative movement’s defiant embrace of forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental or craft based and thought to be patterns and arranging them in intricate, almost dizzying and sometimes purposefully gaudy designs” (Exhibition literature).
The Hessel Museum doesn’t offer just interesting art but it approaches it in a thought-provoking way, asking the patrons to see beyond not just what is on the walls but think about the exhibit from the era in which the art is from and ask ‘does this still ring true today’. The Hessel asks us to think ‘out of the box’ and look at their works from different perspectives.
Some I understood and some I didn’t but I still enjoyed wondering the galleries and exploring the art on its terms. I think that’s what contemporary or just art in general does. We need to think about it. The museum also has a nice little gift shop to explore.
The History of the Hessel Museum:
About CCS Bard:
Established in 1990, the Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS Bard) is an incubator for experimentation in exhibition-making and the leading institution dedicated exclusively to curatorial studies-a discipline exploring the historical, intellectual and social conditions that inform curatorial practice.
The Center for Curatorial Studies has several interconnected parts:
The Hessel Museum of Art, built in 2006, presents experimental group exhibitions and monographic shows and also draws from the Marieluise Hessel Collection of Contemporary Art, comprised of more than 3,000 objects collected contemporaneously from the 1960’s to the present day. The Hessel Museum is open and free to the public. Public sculptures by Franz West, Cosima von Bonin and other artists surround the Museum. Please see the museum page for more details.
CCS Bard hosts a range of public events throughout the year. All events are free and open to the public. Please see upcoming events on the website.
The CCS Bard Archive provides access to a wide range of primary materials documenting the history of the contemporary visuals arts and the institutions and practices of exhibition-making since the 1960’s. Please see our research center page for further details.
The Graduate program in Curatorial Studies is an intensive course of study in the history of contemporary art, the institutions and practices of exhibition making and the theory and criticism of contemporary art since the 1960’s. Throughout its over thirty-year history, the program has actively recruited perspectives underrepresented in contemporary art and cultivated a student body representing a diverse spectrum of backgrounds in a board effort to transform the curatorial field. Please see the school page for further details.
The Center for Curatorial Studies is part of Bard College and located on their Annandale-on-Hudson campus. Bard acts at the intersection of education and civil society, extending liberal arts and sciences education to communities in which it has been undeveloped, inaccessible or absent. Through its undergraduate college, distinctive graduate programs, commitment to the fine and performing arts, civic and public engagement programs and network of international dual-degree partnerships, early colleges and prison education initiatives, Bard offers unique opportunities for students and faculty to study, experience and realize the principle that higher-education institutions can and should operate in the public interest. For more details on the Bard College, please see their website.
On a recent trip to the Hudson River Valley for Fall events I took a tour of Bard Campus to visit their campus and tour Montgomery Place which the college bought from the Hudson River Historical Society in 2016. It is now part of the campus and you can tour the grounds but not the inside of the house.
Montgomery Place on the Bard College Campus
Before 2016 when the house was owned by the Hudson River Historical Society who used to have tours of the mansion. When the family sold the mansion and all its contents to the Society, they left the house untouched when they moved out you got to see how the Livingston family lived not just in current times but with all the historical furniture that came with the house. The former tour used to take you through each room that had antique furniture and decorations but much of the house had been modernized over the years. Older furnishings had either been conserved or slipcovered because of age. Since the house has been sold to Bard College, you can only tour the house by appointment only through the college.
The grounds are still impressive. During the Spring, the formal gardens next to the house are in full bloom and the last time I had taken a tour there, the gardens were being maintained by a local garden club. There were flower beds, herb gardens and cutting gardens on top of the flowing lawns from the house to the river.
The Montgomery Place Gardens are changing from Summer to Fall
In the Fall on a recent visit, most of the gardens had been cut back with a few seasonal flowering bushes still showing color. The trees surrounding the house were turning a gold hue while the lawn that had been freshly cut was still emerald green. The house while a little worn from the outside still looked like it was ready to receive guests for the Fall season in the Hudson River Valley. The views from the back of the house are breathtaking from the window views of the Hudson River and the paths leading to it.
There are all sorts of hiking trails to the Sawkill River and through the forests, a trail down to the Hudson River and tours of the property. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk and there is plenty of parking by the Visitor’s Center along with a history of the estate.
The property had been home Native Americans for at least 5,000 years as a seasonal hunting ground. The Dutch settled in the area in the late 18th century using the Saw Kill River for various mills.
In the late 1770’s, Janet Livingston Montgomery purchased from Abraham Van Benthuysen 242 acres of land on the Hudson River after the death of her husband General Richard Montgomery at the Battle of Quebec. She moved into the home they built after the Revolutionary War. She later had plans made for a Federal style mansion on the riverfront property she bough and moved into her new home, Chateau de Montgomery, in 1805. She established a working farm with the help of friends who gave her tree samples (Wiki).
Upon her death in 1828, the mansion was inherited by her brother, Edward Livingston. He had spent his summers vacationing here with his wife, Louise. They renamed the estate ‘Montgomery Place’. He died the next year and his wife, Louise hired Alexander Jackson Davis to convert the mansion into a more ornate villa. Two wings and exterior decoration were added at this time of the renovation. With the help of Andrew Jackson Downing, a friend of Louise’s and mentor to Davis, she developing the landscapes. Her daughter, Cora Barton worked with the architect on designing garden and conservatory (Wiki).
Upon Louise’s death in 1860, Cora and her husband hired Davis again to build some the earlier outbuildings including Coach House, Swiss Cottage and farmhouse and then extended the landscaping to turn the estate into more ‘pleasure grounds’ and have a separation from the farming operations. The house then passed on to another relative in 1921, John Ross Delafield who added heating and modern plumbing to the house. He and his wife also extended the gardens on the estate as well (Wiki).
Upon his death, his son John White Delafield inherited the house and they opened two corporations to own and operate the property. In 1981, the estate was sold to the Historic Hudson Valley, the historical society. After an extensive renovation, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992 and it was bought by Bard College in 2016 who is its current owner (Wiki).
I have visited the Philipsburg Manor House and Estate many times over the years. During the “Headless Horseman” Halloween activities, the house is open for tours. You are able to tour the rooms and see the home in a spooky environment. The house was lit by candles and the tour guides lead you through the house.
The Manor House from the bridge over the creek
During a special event at the holidays, the house had seasonal decorations, lit by a combination candles and open hearth fires in the fireplace and tour guides explained a Colonial holiday season.
The estate during the day
The Manor House as it was explained to me was a place where the Philipse family stayed when they were away from the main family mansion and was doing business on the estate. So the home was comfortable and workable and functional but not luxurious as the main manor house where the family lived.
The back gardens are used during the Spring and Summer to grow fruits and vegetables
The kitchen, common room and bedrooms were nicely furnished at the time for the owners visits but was not elegant in the form of the main manor house. This was full working estate at all times. The Mill is located near the manor house and their are walking paths around the house.
The kitchen at the manor house was functional but not elaborate
During the Halloween season, both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow are busy with activities with readings, cemetery tours, ‘haunted events’ and other activities. Please check out the Historic Hudson Valley website for the roster of events. Things have changed since the era of COVID.
a recreation of the bedroom at the Philipsburg Manor
During the Christmas holidays, the house in the past was decorated for Christmas but in the post-COVID time, the house was just open for tours. In December 2022, I got to visit the house the week before Christmas before it closed for the season. Like most older historical homes and sites will be closed until the Spring so this was the last opportunity to see the house and grounds. Unlike the past, the house was kept in regular touring state. We got to tour the kitchens and bedrooms of the home and heard a talk on how the how was run when Mr. Philispe was not in residence. This was strictly a working farm and mill for the family with the main residence being closer to the City.
The estate at the close of winter
Most of the action was outdoors with tours of the mill, the outside ovens used for the family’s bakery business and outdoor gardens that were cleared out for the winter months.
The Mill is where the process of converting wheat grown on the estate was made into flour for the New York market
The Milling wheel to process wheat to flour
The History of the Philipsburg Manor House:
(WIKI/Historic Hudson River Valley Society)
The Philipsburg Manor House is an historic house in the Upper Mills Section of the former sprawling Colonial-era estate known as Philipsburg Manor. Together with the water mill and the trading site the house is operated bas a non-profit museum by the Historical Hudson River Valley. It is located on US 9 in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, NY. (Wiki)
The Philipsburg Manor House and Mill area of the estate
The Manor House dates from 1693 when wealthy Province of New York merchant Frederick Philipse was granted a charter for 52,00 acres along the Hudson River by the British Crown. He built this facility at the meeting of the Pocantico and Hudson Rivers as a provisioning depot for the family Atlantic sea trade and as headquarters for a worldwide shipping operation. For more than thirty years, Frederick and his wife, Margaret and later his son Adolph shipped hundreds of African men, women and children as slaves across the Atlantic. The manor was tenanted by farmers of various European backgrounds and operated by enslaved Africans (Wiki).
Recreation of the baking operations on the estate
The baking oven
Baking hardtack at the ovens. This would have been used for shipping voyages.
At the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the Philipses supported the British Crown and their landholdings were seized and auctioned off. The manor house was used during the war, most notably by British General Sir Henry Clinton during the militaries in 1779. It was there that he wrote what is known as the Philipsburg Proclamation, which declared all Patriot-owned slaves to be freed and that blacks taken prisoner while serving in Patriot forces would be sold in slavery (Wiki/Hudson River Valley History).
Touring the Dutch barns for wheat seed processing
The processing of wheat and straw
A National Historic Landmark in 1961, the farm features a stone manor house filled with a collection of 17th and 18th Century period furnishings, a working water-powered grist mill and millpond, an 18 century barn, a slave garden and reconstructed tenant farm house (Wiki/Hudson River Valley History).
During the season when the estate is open for visitors, there are costumed interpreters who reenact life in pre-Revolutionary War times doing various chores around the estate. During the Halloween season, the home is open for haunted tours of the manor during the “Headless Horseman” event. During the Christmas holiday season, the home is open for seasonal activities. Please check the website during COVID for activities (Historic Hudson River Valley).