Built between 1804 and 1808 on a 250-acre river front site in Montrose, New York, Boscobel is considered to be one of the finest examples of Federal-style architecture in New York. Boscobel’s complex history represents several different periods and restoration philosophies. The house is restored to the Federal style of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and is highly regarded for its quality and authenticity.
Highlights from the House
The Building of Boscobel
After suffering many years of anguish from poverty, disgrace, painful sickness and separation from his wife while first serving the British army and later, working to collect money that was owed to him in England, States Dyckman began to fulfill his dream of building his stately home in 1804. Unfortunately, he died two years into the project with only the stone foundation in place. Elizabeth Corne Dyckman oversaw the construction of the house and by 1808, it was complete and ready for the installation of elegant furnishings, many of which States had previously sent over from England but some of which Elizabeth had subsequently purchased in New York City.
Decline and Renewal
Descendants of the Dyckman family lived in the house until the mid-1880s. For the following forty years, the house had a succession of oft-absent owners. In 1924 Westchester County purchased the property to turn it into a park, and in 1945 the Veterans Administration acquired the property to build a new hospital on the land. Through a series of unfortunate turns, by 1955 the original Boscobel house was slated for demolition. Local historian, Benjamin West Frazier, initiated a movement to save the property and after great effort and at the 11th hour, the group was successful in saving the house from the wreckers. The property was dismantled and stored in local barns until a site for the house was found in 1956 and the restoration process initiated.
From Decorator’s Showcase to Federal-Period Museum
After the restoration of the house was complete, the major benefactor of the project Mrs. Lila Acheson Wallace, co-founder of The Readers’ Digest, set the tone for the decoration of the house. While beautiful, concern over the authenticity of the interiors of Boscobel grew over the years. By the early 1970s, a more authentic reinterpretation of the house was commissioned and generously supported, again, by Mrs. Wallace. Berry Tracy, then Curator of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was brought on board to implement a complete reinterpretation of the house and create a plan for the acquisition of historically accurate furniture and decorative arts. Described as ‘startling’ when it reopened to the public in 1977, Boscobel soon became a visual reference for the architecture and decorative arts of the Federal period.
In his keynote address at Boscobel’s opening celebration in 1961, Governor of New York, Nelson A. Rockefeller called Boscobel “one of the most beautiful homes ever built in America.” The house itself is built in the Federal style with delicate neoclassical detailing and unique architectural features on the front façade, including an intersecting central section with second floor balcony, a Palladian-style pediment and numerous decorative swags. The carved wooden swags of drapery with bowknots and tassels installed between the balcony columns are particularly unique; no other example of this type of interior drapery being translated into exterior wood-carving is known to exist.
Unique Architectural Features
Boscobel has a particularly noteworthy elegance and lightness which can be attributed in part to the fact that about one-third of the front facade is glass. Contemporary technological advances in the manufacture of stronger crown glass enabled builders to use larger panes of glass and thinner glazing bars than had previously been used, resulting in an elegant exterior and light-filled interior. Also noteworthy are the closely-fitted matched boards on the front facade, in contrast to the overlapping clapboards used on the side and rear elevations. This provided for a smoother surface probably meant to simulate masonry rather than wood on the dress front of the house. All of these features combined give the house lightness and elegance unique for the architecture from this period in this area.
The interior rooms at Boscobel feature an important collection of decorative arts from the Federal period, with high-style furniture by Duncan Phyfe and other recognized New York cabinetmakers of the day. Much of States Dyckman’s English china, silver, glass, and part of his library have also survived and are on exhibit. The collections are displayed in beautifully-appointed period interiors with high-end reproduction carpets, wallpapers, fabrics, and window treatments based upon historical sources. For more information, please visit the Collections page.
A guided tour of Boscobel House includes the grand entry hall and all rooms on the ground floor, the second floor, as well as the lower level.