Reframing Greenwich History

Few towns in the United States can rival Greenwich for its illustrious history. Last year we celebrated the 375th anniversary of its founding as a Dutch settlement in 1640. Over the past three decades members of the Historical Society and friends have made a series of acquisitions and restorations of buildings on Strickland Road that comprise the historic center of Greenwich. We now have the opportunity to bring them together as a unified campus—a campus that does justice to our heritage and to the vision of Claire and Hugh Vanderbilt and a host of others who have volunteered so much of their time and treasure to the preservation of our past.

The Bush-Holley House (circa 1728) is nationally recognized as the home of American Impressionism. It was a boarding house and studio for renowned artists J. Alden Weir, John Henry Twachtman, Elmer MacRae and Childe Hassam—together known as the Cos Cob Art Colony—who brought American artists to the attention of the European art world. In 1957 it became the home of the Greenwich Historical Society and, as a national historic landmark, remains the centerpiece of the new campus.

A well-researched master plan, named Reimagining the Campus, was executed by architect David Scott Parker. Designing the new campus on the steeply sloping terrain of the Bush-Holley historic site was a major challenge. It had to tie together all the currently disconnected buildings of the present campus and meet the contemporary needs of the Historical Society. “To meet those needs,” says Parker, “we fused the recently acquired Toby’s Tavern next door into the plan, thereby creating important additional museum space and a new impressive campus entranceway and lobby that we rendered in a traditionally inspired wood and stone architectural style.”

Besides the Bush-Holley House, the historic campus includes the Archives building with its vast collection of historic documents and memorabilia; the Justus Bush Storehouse and former Cos Cob post office, restored and renovated and now serving as the Visitor’s Center and administration offices; the old barn that had been expanded and remodeled as the Vanderbilt Education Center; and the recently acquired Toby’s Tavern and former Railroad Hotel that will provide galleries for exhibitions with the latest technology and meeting rooms for youth and family programs.

Equally important is the Toby’s Tavern acquisition, which allows the Historical Society to double its critically needed parking space and provides entrance level access from the parking lot.

Parker also points out that “an elevator and pathways increase visitor traffic flow and safety and helps unify the facilities, while maintaining the bucolic character and historic integrity of the site.”

Last November 10, Peter Malkin, chairman of the capital campaign committee, announced that the Historical Society had received 80 percent of the $13.5 million cost of the project from private and anonymous donors, and that it was ready to go to the public for the balance.

The need has become more and more apparent. Over the past several years, attendance at educational family events and after-school programs has grown by more than 30 percent. In addition, the society’s archives are continually called upon for research by realtors, the media and many others. In order to cover the costs of exhibitions, publications and programs, an endowment fund increase of $5 million is also being sought.

Participation by the Greenwich community is critical for the project’s success. By contributing to the creation of this new reimagined historic campus, we will celebrate our town’s unique legacy and help new generations of Greenwich citizens, young and old, learn about our incredible history.

For gifting information, contact Katrina Dorsey at 203-869- 6599

 

 

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