Boscobel House and Gardens
Garrison, New York - August 21, 2010
Boscobel House is situated near the edge of a cliff overlooking the Hudson River about 90 miles north of New York City. It has a great view of the snaking river valley with West Point and Bear Mountain Bridge visible on the other side. The house was built by early Dutch settler States Dyckman who died two years before the house’s completion in 1808.

In 1955, the house was almost demolished and was saved only when Lila Acheson Wallace, wife of Reader’s Digest founder, donated $50,000 to have the house moved to a similar location a few miles north. Since 1961, the house has been an estate-museum showcasing the Federal style of American architecture.

When I went there, I found the admission steep at $16. Maybe because I’ve been spoiled by the $8 admission charged at Grey Towers in Milford, Pennsylvania which I consider to be a much grander estate-museum.

What’s more, photography was not allowed inside the house. Having no reason to go inside (photography was the reason I went there) I settled for their grounds-only tour of $9, still steep for my pockets.

On the bluff’s grassy edge overlooking the river valley, I saw four young people on picnic blankets, another pair of women also on picnic blankets, and a woman sitting alone on the grass reading a book. Older couples strolled on the grounds here and there with one saying she was so glad they made the trip. A family with two adorable little girls came rushing near closing time, the parents trying to keep up with their girls who ran to the expansive lawns soon after they left their car.

In other words, whereas my family endures the crowds for a day out at free public parks, the steep price at Boscobel I suppose keeps the unruly types out.

While standing on the stone balcony facing the river valley, my camera still mounted on my already folded tripod, a man’s voice started talking behind me as he approached. “It’s a good day to be out taking pictures,” he said. I turned and saw the gardener in his green uniform. He was pushing a cart that held his tools including a large, vintage, tin can water sprinkler.

He said the marshland looked particularly green today. Not knowing what he meant I asked if it turned brown in the fall. He stuttered, “um, just a different green”. He tried describing the sky but had some difficulty and in more than a few words said the scene was like “strokes”. When I said, “Like painting?” his face lit up and he said, “Yeah, painting.”

I asked about the big tent in the lawn and if concerts were held there -- symphony, brass, or rock? He said, “Um, music is always in the background but, um, no. Sometimes they wear modern costumes for, um, Shakespeare.” I said, “Oh, plays!” He said, “Yeah, plays.”

As we walked back toward the house and he pointed out where the nature trail started, I figured he either wasn’t very articulate or wasn’t well-versed in conducting a tour as maybe he saw his colleagues do. Or maybe the images he was trying to convey were just plain difficult to put into words.

I said I lived across the river partly to say I would check up on the estate’s website from time to time and partly to let him know we’re practically neighbors.

But later I thought maybe he saw himself as a gardener who could never afford to pay steep admission prices for places such as this and so it was always a treat -- a privilege, even -- to engage in conversation the estate’s many distinguished and varied guests. It was a perk that came with the job.

If so, then, for next time around, I will have to learn to know when to shut up and just play my part.

Click on a picture to enlarge.
Boscobel House facing the bluff.
Hudson River Valley -- view from the bluff.
Edge of bluff.
South side of Boscobel House.
Boscobel House front.
Rose garden.
Stately entrance.
Woodland Trail.
View at top of the trail.
Wooden bridge on the trail.
Wooden gazebo along the trail.
Tent where Shakespeare plays are held.
Old Spring House.
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