We are happy to report that CVPA is making progress on all fronts! The Campaign for the Point 2023 – which encompasses the reopening of the Hoyt Carriageway Bridge, urgent stabilizations at the Hoyt mansion, readying a tour program for launch this summer and hiring CVPA’s first staff person – is designed to keep the momentum building and moving forward.
Hoyt Carriageway Bridge Update
Last year, a Hudson River Valley Greenway Trails Grant helped support CVPA in hiring engineer Peter Melewski LLC to compile a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for the Hoyt Carriageway Bridge. This extensive engineering report determined that the steel structure is sound and that necessary repairs include only replacing wood stringers and decking, metal safety fencing and limited repairs to a concrete pier and abutment.
As the HSR recommended, CVPA removed trees encroaching on the east side of the structure last summer. Amtrak waived its normal flagman fees for CVPA to perform this work, which was completed pro bono by Dave’s Tree Service.
In a subsequent $10,000 project in December 2022, CVPA retained Melewski to conduct load rating and other engineering requirements that prepared him to draw up construction plans for the rehabilitation. Melewski also helped CVPA assemble the contractor bid package so we could collect quotes to support grant applications and donor requests for the final $200,000 re-decking phase. In December, with support letters from NYS Parks, the Town of Hyde Park, and Central Park Conservancy, CVPA applied for a major grant to help fund the final phase. If the grant application is successful, CVPA will need to raise $50,000 in matching funds to reopen the bridge.
“We are organizing volunteer projects to help with some of the match and are on course to reopen the bridge in fall 2023,” says Jon Lawson, Chair of CVPA’s Board, who heads up the organization’s newly launched Site Committee. “We anticipate several volunteer workdays to complete some of the budgeted work,” Lawson says.
Stabilizations for the Hoyt Mansion
Designed in 1855 by Calvert Vaux as the country seat for Lydig and Geraldine Livingston Hoyt, the nearly 170-year-old Hoyt mansion is amazingly sound. “However, every building needs regular and timely maintenance,” says CVPA Board member Peter Sweeny. A prominent architect specializing in adaptive reuse in New York City and the Hudson Valley, Sweeny keenly appreciates the importance of protecting the site’s major asset. As the co-chair of CVPA’s Restoration & Sustainable Reuse Team, Sweeny has made stabilizing the Hoyt residence his urgent priority. For more about Peter Sweeny, see Meet Our Team in this issue.
In 2014, Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance received major grants from NY State and the federal government to help support more than $1.1 million in restorations to the structure. The roof was replaced, a ramshackle mid-20th century addition removed, chimneys rebuilt, and masonry walls repointed. More recently, the South Portico that serves as the main entrance was stabilized to prevent collapse and protect its hand-hewn stones. However, as the years advance, so does deterioration. The foundation is open to the elements on two elevations, as are numerous windows. Several slates have slipped on the decorative, polychrome slate roof.
“As stewards of this nationally important but underrecognized piece of American design history,” Sweeny says, “we must act before the deterioration becomes irreversible and a pivotal moment in American Picturesque architecture is lost.” To guide that action, Sweeny recently compiled a scope of work to stabilize the structure, including protecting a deteriorated bay window extension, sealing areas of the foundation and second story windows that are open to exposure and catching up roof maintenance.
To develop the scope, Sweeny drew on a thorough assessment of The Point’s buildings developed in 2019 by leading restoration architects Jan Hird Pokorny Associates (JHPA). “The JHPA report, completed with support from Parks & Trails New York, is a fundamental resource for prioritizing issues at The Point and organizing projects to address them,” says Sweeny. In 2023, Sweeny hopes to grow his Restoration & Sustainable Reuse Team to tackle the identified stabilization needs and to organize other projects critical to the future of the site. “We could use additional members versed in preservation as well as professionals with real estate development and marketing expertise and other skills who can help the Team identify sustainable uses and capable partner-users for The Point’s historic buildings,” Sweeny notes.
Creating A Tour Program
CVPA is pleased to announce two grants that will fully fund the Campaign for The Point 2023’s Tour Program component. A grant from Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation is supporting Kyle Toth and Emily Cooperman from PS&S Architects & Planners – the scholars who completed the Cultural Landscape Report-Historic Narrative for The Point in 2021 – to outline narrative bullets that will best tell The Point’s story. Although overgrown with weeds and home to boarded up and underutilized buildings, the country seat and picturesque landscape that Calvert Vaux designed remains essentially as Calvert Vaux envisioned them nearly 170 years ago.
A grant from Hudson River Valley Greenway Trails Program will support review of the proposed tour narrative by CVPA’s Scholars Circle whose members will then make recommendations about telling the site’s important story. Presenters at CVPA’s 2022 Symposium, Designing the Landscape That Made America: Calvert Vaux and His Peers in the Hudson Valley will participate, along with others who are guiding CVPA’s planning for the future of The Point. “Working with Vaux biographer Frank Kowsky, Olana President Sean Sawyer, Central Park Conservancy Director of Planning Lane Addonizio, Landscape Gardens on the Hudson author Robert Toole, retired Hudson River Estuaries Program Director and author of America’s First River Fran Dunwell and others steeped in aspects of the topic is very exciting,” says CVPA Board member Kitty McCullough. McCullough explains that a Native American scholar will inform CVPA’s acknowledgement of the original stewards of the land that became The Point. A specialist for native plants and invasive species will also help develop protocols to better manage trail maintenance and share what’s learned with tour visitors.
Creating opportunities for visitors – both real and virtual – to experience The Point and learn about its singular role in the evolution of American architecture and landscape design is a critical next step for CVPA. “Pete Seeger built the Clearwater because he believed that if he could get people out on the Hudson River to experience its beauty and magic, they would want to save it,” McCullough says. “And leading Mid-Century Modern designer Russel Wright, who created an 80-acre woodland garden to surround his Garrison NY home, believed that if he could get people out into nature to experience its restorative powers, they would want to protect it.”
McCullough, whose past roles have included development director at Clearwater and executive director of Wright’s Manitoga thinks the same will be true for The Point. “If visitors can walk The Point and experience its magical setting and pivotal moment in the history of American design, they will recognize how important the site can be to both America’s story and to the Hudson Valley’s future,” says McCullough.
CVPA’s tour project will produce onsite tours of the landscape, as well as online tours of both the landscape and the Hoyt mansion’s interiors. Opening the Hoyt residence to the public will require extensive, costly rehabilitation, including not only toxic abatement and addressing other safety concerns, but also the restoration of roads, water and electric service. “Tackling these costly steps will need a growing group of supporters,” notes CVPA Chair Lawson. “We hope that experiencing the rich story of Calvert Vaux at The Point via landscape tours, and exploring the house and grounds virtually online, will share the magic and encourage people to care about the site’s history and future.”
CVPA is forming a Landscape Committee to help shape the tour initiative. “There are numerous companion projects, says McCullough. “Turning the new tour narrative into exciting tours, using what we learn about native plants and invasive species to enrich the landscape tour and improve trail maintenance, sharing the story of the original stewards of the land….” McCullough notes. “We hope local landscape designers, master gardeners, garden club members and those who enjoy landscape history or who simply love digging in the dirt will join us in spreading the story of The Point.”
To learn more about CVPA’s new Landscape Committee, please contact Kitty McCullough, k[email protected]
To donate or learn more about Campaign for The Point 2023, please click here.