Boscobel is a restored Neoclassical estate near Garrison, New York, considered to be a prime example of Federal domestic architecture in America. Construction of the house began in 1804 and was completed in 1808. It sits on 16 acres of rolling land with sweeping views of the Hudson River, West Point and Constitution Island.
The estate was created by States Morris Dyckman (1755-1806), the great grandson of one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam (now Manhattan) who arrived in the New World from Westphalia in 1662. States was born in Manhattan, a Tory stronghold during the American Revolution, and he remained a loyalist who refused to support American resistance to the British. From 1776 to 1779 he served the British Army as a clerk for the Quartermaster Department in New York. When his superiors were accused of profiteering during the War and recalled to London for an audit of their accounts, he accompanied them and remained in London, working on their defense, for the decade from 1779 to 1789.
After they were cleared of all charges, States was granted an annuity by his aristocratic benefactors in the Quartermaster Department that allowed him to return to New York with the intention of living the life of a gentleman farmer with an English style country estate. His extravagant tastes and lifestyle soon led him into financial difficulties, however. In 1794 he married Elizabeth Corne Kennedy, twenty-one years his junior, the granddaughter of a wealthy Loyalist neighbor. By 1799, he was forced to return to London to reclaim his annuity, which his benefactor’s heirs were refusing to pay. He succeeded in this only after threatening his noble clients with exposure of documents that would incriminate the Quartermasters if the investigation were reopened.
States named Boscobel after the original estate in Shropshire, England where Charles II went into hiding after his defeat by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester in 1661. In Italian, the name translates “beautiful woods or forest.” States did not have long to enjoy his new country seat, however; he died midway through construction, in 1806, at age fifty one. Boscobel remained in the Dyckman family until 1888, after which the property had a succession of private owners until 1923, when the Westchester County Parks Commission acquired the land for public use. The house was not restored and remained vacant.
In 1932, during the Great Depression, a team of three architects from the Westchester County Emergency Works Bureau were assigned to document the house by measuring it and preparing scale drawings of floor plans, elevations and sections. They also produced measured drawings and photographs of plaster ceiling ornaments, mantelpieces, stairways, woodwork and other architectural elements. This documentation proved invaluable when, in 1941, Westchester recognized that it could not afford to maintain, let alone restore, Boscobel and threatened to raze it. When the Veteran’s Administration acquired the property in 1945 as a site for a new hospital, Boscobel was put up for auction and sold to a wrecking contractor for $35.
A public outcry stopped the demolition and allowed a citizens group to buy the remaining portions of the structure. In 1956 Lila Acheson Wallace, co-founder of Reader’s Digest, provided funds to purchase the tract of land near Garrison where the house now sits. It was dismantled over a five month period and moved piece by piece to barns and other vacant buildings on the new site. Restoration commenced in 1957, and the completed project formally opened to the public in 1961. Boscobel is now operated as a nonprofit organization that offers house tours, educational programs, a venue for weddings and other celebrations, and a home for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. It is a favorite site for picnics.
MENU: A BOSCOBEL PICNIC (A SPRING PICNIC ON THE LAWN OF A GREAT MANSION OVERLOOKING NEW YORK’S HUDSON RIVER)