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Past seminar highlights are found below!


Fall 2006: Restoration

DAY TRIP SESSION - Saturday, October 21st

Restoration of



Photos: Chas A. Miller III

plus photos by Laura Blanco and Kathy Springhorn


Our day started with an early arrival at Olana.

Olana State Historic Site which was the home, studio and estate of famed nineteenth-century painter, Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).  Church was one of America’s most important artists and he designed his Persian-inspired house and 250 acres of picturesque landscape.  Today, Olana is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary of being saved from public sale and dispersal of its contents in 1966. 

We had the rare treat of getting into the main house which is currently closed to the public as they are installing HVAC and fire suppression systems, and thus offers a unique opportunity to view the bones and architectural details of this landmark structure.  We also had the chance to explore the upper levels of the house, spaces that are almost never seen by visitor plus climbing to both towers and out on the roof for the most amazing views ever!

Leading our visit were Linda McLean, Site Director, Olana State Historic Site and  Richard Pieper, Director of Preservation, Jan Hird Pokorny Associates.

Photo by Kathy Springhorn
Photo by Kathy Springhorn
Cynthia Everets taking a look at architectural plan details. Photo by Kathy Springhorn
Photo by Laura Blanco
Photo by Kathy Springhorn
Amber glass window on the stair landing as seen from the 2nd Floor.
An eperience unlike ever before, up on the roof to truly experience being on top of the world. Jay Jolly here chatting with Stephanie Stokes.
Top most tower.
Photos by Kathy Springhorn
Up close detail of the painted cornice.



Following lunch in Hudson at Ca'Mea, we headed back south where we made a brief photo-stop at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson to see from the outside the Richard B. Fisher Performing Arts Center designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2003.



Next up, we met Arthur Carlson, our guide and Mr. Jenrette's head painter extraordinaire.  Edgewater, built in 1825 in Barrytown on the Hudson River, combines classical architecture with a dramatic setting to create one of the Hudson Valley’s most charming river residences - the house is built on a small peninsula extending into the river and faces due west across the river to the Catskill Mountains. It was originally built by John R. Livingston for his daughter and her new husband.  More recent history includes the author Gore Vidal purchasing Edgewater in 1946 and residing there in the old house until 1969, when he sold it to Richard H. Jenrette.  Jenrette has now owned the place for 37 years.  He has repurchased surrounding land that had been sold and following extensive renovations, has filled the house with period antiques and art, including the Donaldson’s unusual suite of Duncan Phyfe furniture and family portraits as well as objets d’art from the Livingston era. 

Now this property is part of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, which comprises six houses from the first half of the 19th century.
Even with strong breezes blowsing, these chairs look mighty inviting.



We boarded mini-buses for a quick journey down the road and a long bumpy driveway to a totally unusual building constructed between 1902-04 on the Ferncliff estate of John Jacob Astor IV (who perished in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic!). It is called today Astor Courts which was the title on the original drawings issued by McKim Mead & White, but over the years was also known as the Astor Casino or the Ferncliff Casino. The building was designed by Stanford White as a sporting and guest pavilion with 5-bedrooms, a great central ballroom, indoor swimming pool that is reputed to be the first in America, two squash courts, and it has been said to have had both a shooting range and bowling alley in the basement (but these were not on the original plans and no traces survive).   There is an indoor tennis court to the designs of R. Gustavanio & Co., and once an outdoor lawn court as well.  In the late 1940's and early 1950's it was remodeled to become the home of Vincent Astor and later with his third wife, Brooke Russell Marshall Astor. Following Vincent’s death, Brooke Astor donated the estate to the to the Archdiocese of New York who later sold off portions including this building. 

After many years, it was again sold and last year the current owners (great friends of mine) started a massive renovation and refurbishment program which is currently underway.  Samuel G. White (great-grandson of the original architect) of Platt Byard Dovell White Architects has been the consulting architect on the plans and he was with us to discuss the project.

( Note: some of these photos at Astor Courts were shot on previous visits;

and photos of Versailles were taken off the web. )

Amazing views from the front of Astor Courts westwards to the Catskills.
Photo by Laura Blanco
Designs for the building were completed in a matter of only two months!
France - Versailles: Le Grand Trianon has many similar elements which Stanford White used on Astor Courts.
Vestibule entry of Le Grand Trianon.
The dome and plaster work in the Great Hall.
Detail in the Great Hall.
What is today a library, is where the original squash courts and viewing gallery were. This was altered by Vincent Astor.
Here the indoor pool has had its tile lining stripped for waterproofing and renewal.
A dophin capital.
The amazing tennis court, with direct access off the Great Hall.
The newest project observed at Astor Courts is the creation of a main floor kitchen. This space was one of the original bedrooms, which at some stage had been divided into a pantry with dumb-waiter and silver vault, plus a bathroom connecting to another bedroom. In stripping the walls back to the original layer, a large piece of early bedroom wallpaper was revealed.



At the end of the day on our way back to New York City, we made a cocktail stop to revive everyone at the home of Chippy and Keith Irvine

Chippy as you know is an author and lecturer on the decorative arts and serves as President of the Soane Foundation, and Keith is the renowned interior designer, who also served a number of years ago as President of the Foundation.   And thanks go to daughter Jassy for the hors d'oeuvres...

Then a long trek back to Manhattan on the bus...






For additional information, here are related links:

Olana - | Jan Hird Pokorny Associates -

 Gehry Builiding at Bard -

Edgewater -

Astor Courts – link is coming…  | Platt Byard Dovell White Architects -

Chippy Irvine - | Keith Irvine -  




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