Abandoned estate in New York

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York
Date added: May 12, 2023 Categories:
West and south elevation, with enclosed west verandah and tower, looking north (2001)

The settlement and growth of the city of Hudson, known in the eighteenth century as Claverack Landing, commenced fully in the final decades of the eighteenth century. Thomas Jenkins, acting in association with other speculators, purchased extensive tracts of land bounding the east bank of the river in 1783 from Peter Hogeboom, Jr. and the Hardick and Van Alen families. A street grid was proposed the following year and in 1785 Hudson was chartered as a city. An account published in the New York Journal in 1786 indicates that the settlement grew quickly, and by that year counted several wharves, warehouses, upwards of one hundred fifty dwellings, and fifteen hundred citizens, primarily from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In 1811 Samuel Plumb acquired two hundred sixty-three aces of land from the heirs of Thomas Jenkins, bounding the southernmost portion of Hudson's street grid just within the city limits. The property, described in the deed as "a certain farm and piece of land," is indicated on the 1799 'Penfield Map' of the city. Two farmhouses are delineated on the map, one likely the 'Appletree' house that remains, altered, on the southern boundary of the estate.

Between 1811 and 1812 Plumb engaged an unknown architect-builder to erect for him an elegant estate house in the Federal style, finished in the finest manner with Adam-inspired details likely derived from an English source such as the works authored by William Pain (c. 1730- c. 1790). A comparison of decorative features in the Plumb house with those of the James Vanderpoel house in Kinderhook, built circa 1816-1820, suggests the possibility of a single builder, Barnabas Waterman (1776-1839). A native of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Waterman was active as a 'master mechanic' in Hudson during the period. The Plumb house, however, unlike the Vanderpoel house and the majority of Federal-style residences in New England and New York, deviated from the conventional, self-contained five-bay gable-ended or hipped roof prototype, and instead employed comparatively lively massing. Plumb's house appears in the circa 1820 Wall watercolor likely as it was completed in 1812, the main house flanked by outlying gable-fronted dependencies with arcaded openings along their long sides, connected to the main house by fenced walkways. The watercolor captures a southwesterly view, the landscape of the estate largely open in character, with small copses of trees set immediately south and west of the house. Open agricultural fields extend into the distance and mark the early land use patterns of the area.

In 1835 the Plumb house and associated acreage were sold to Robert Frary, who in 1838 sold the house and eighty acres to Dr. Oliver Bronson (1799-1875). Bronson was the brother-in-law of Robert Donaldson (1800-1872), arguably the most important of Alexander Jackson Davis's many clients. Over the course of Davis's career Donaldson, a native North Carolinian with business interests in New York, proved a loyal patron and close friend. He commissioned Davis to redesign two Hudson River estates for him, 'Blithewood' and 'Edgewater,' gained commissions for Davis at the University of North Carolina, and supported Davis in his efforts to publish his book, Rural Residences. Earlier he had likewise aided Town and Davis in extending their influence into North Carolina. Donaldson acknowledged what he perceived as Davis's role in the evolution of American domestic architecture and the Picturesque movement in a letter to the architect in 1863:

Downing stole your thunder for awhile- but I always, on suitable occasion, claimed for you the seminal ideas which have been so fruitful.

Donaldson's 'Blithewood,' a Federal period estate house in Barrytown overlooking the Hudson River, was modified by Davis in 1836 in the 'Bracketed' style and with the addition of an ornamental veranda. The first residence executed by Davis in this vein no longer remains. His design for one of the 'Blithewood' gatehouses, published in Rural Residences as "Gatehouse in the Rustic Cottage Style," likewise proved a landmark conception, as it presented the prototype for the board-and-batten Gothic Revival cottage that became a staple of Picturesque design and is commonly associated with the books of Andrew Jackson Downing. 'Blithewood' was a watershed moment in nineteenth-century American domestic architecture, completely removed from the then current mode of Greek Revival classicism that prevailed and of which Davis had earlier proved an innovator. It likewise offered itself as a stylistic model for the Bronson house.

The Bronson family had longstanding ties to America dating to the mid-seventeenth century, having originally settled in the Hartford, Farmington, and Waterbury areas in Connecticut. Dr. Oliver Bronson was the son of Isaac Bronson, born in 1760 and a major figure in post-Revolutionary War real estate and securities speculation who amassed a considerable fortune and likewise gained note as an authority on banking theory. His money lending proved critical to the development of Oneida and Jefferson counties in the early nineteenth century. Oliver Bronson was the eldest son of Isaac Bronson and Anna Olcott, the latter also of early Connecticut lineage. Oliver Bronson married Joanna Donaldson (1806-1876), sister of Robert Donaldson, and while in Hudson was listed among the city's first superintendent of schools and a shareholder in the Hudson Gas Company. Like many affluent gentlemen of the period, Bronson chose to settle along the banks of the Hudson River, on an estate reflecting the prevailing Romantic philosophies of the era.

Alexander Jackson Davis and Dr. Bronson were likely introduced by Robert Donaldson, perhaps at 'Blithewood,' where Bronson would have been personally familiar with the modifications Davis designed for his brother-in-law. Following Donaldson's lead, and likely at his suggestion, Bronson retained Davis's services in 1839 in a similar project, the modification of the Federal-style Plumb house in a more 'appropriate' rural fashion. Davis's first recorded visit to Bronson's Hudson house was in April 1839, during which time he designed various fixtures and embellishments. He returned again in June, at which time he provided sketches for the stables, barn, and unspecified ornament. Of note is a purchase made by Bronson the week prior to the Davis visit in April, which indicates a transaction between Bronson and Charles and Andrew Jackson Downing. This purchase undoubtedly consisted of trees and other plant materials from the Downing Nursery in Newburgh, the planting of which Davis likely commented on and possibly oversaw. A notation in his Day Book" indicates that as early as 1830 Davis had begun to familiarize himself with the theories associated with English Picturesque landscape design, and, as the decade wore on, drew increasingly from the influential work of John Cladius Loudon (1783-1843). Davis returned to stay with Bronson in Hudson in early October following a visit to his friend Thomas Cole's house in nearby Catskill, and spent three or four days there likely in superintendence of ongoing construction. No drawings are known to exist for Davis's 1839 work on the Bronson house. In addition to drawings for architectural modifications, an entry in his Day Book indicates that Davis also produced a "landscape view" of the estate in late 1839.

The Donaldson-Bronson patronage was of pivotal significance to the development of the 'Bracketed' style, of which the Dr. Oliver Bronson House is the oldest known extant example, and Davis's early work in the Picturesque vein. After commissioning Davis to design the Gothic Revival villa that, though unbuilt, was offered in Rural Residences, Robert Donaldson engaged Davis for the 'Blithewood' design which undoubtedly inspired Bronson's work in Hudson. Davis was likewise commissioned by Isabella Donaldson to produce designs for a bracketed country church and school in Annandale-on-Hudson in 1836, similar in form to the board-and-batten "Design for a Model School House" included in Rural Residences. The concept of these economical yet effective designs, well suited to picturesque locales by virtue of their irregular rhythm and, in the cases of the domestic work, generous verandahs, was later acknowledged by Downing in his Cottage Residences of 1842 in design V, "A Cottage in the Bracketed Mode:"

This bracketed mode of building, so simple in construction and so striking in effect, will be found highly suitable to North America...Indeed, we think a very ingenious architect might produce an American cottage style by carefully studying the capabilities of this mode, so abounding in picturesqueness and so easily executed.

In the fall of 1849, Davis was again engaged by Bronson to provide alterations to his Hudson house. Entries in Davis's Day Book indicate that the architect "arranged [the new] plan" with Bronson during the visit in late September, and a set of nine drawings and specifications were prepared in early October at the cost of thirty dollars. The new scheme, envisioned by Davis in the small pencil rendering of circa 1849, reoriented the house so the facade would face west toward the river and included the addition of a one-room deep block cast in the Italian villa or Tuscan mode. The Italian villa, with its characteristic tower and neo-Renaissance details, proved a highly popular style in the Hudson Valley that was likewise popularized by Andrew Jackson Downing. Although, according to Downing in The Architecture of Country Houses, the style was not "essentially country-like in character," it was nonetheless "remarkable for expressing the elegant culture and variety of accomplishment of the retired citizen or man of the world." Although Italian villa designs were typically asymmetrical in configuration, the Bronson addition fell within the restraints of the earlier Plumb house and was instead symmetrically composed, similar in that regard to the house which Davis re-designed in collaboration with Samuel F. B. Morse, Locust Grove, also in the Italian style, located in Poughkeepsie." The Italian style offered an alternative to the darker and somewhat more mysterious Gothic, of which Davis proved himself an innovator for domestic conceptions. It carried, as pointed out by Pierson, a "more respectable formality," and offered itself as a conscious continuation of the classical tastes that prevailed in America throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century." Like the Gothic style, it was also inspired by English examples, as noted by Downing following his return from England, where he had viewed "spacious Italian villas, more Italian than in Italy."

The 1849 additions allowed Davis the opportunity to develop his ideas regarding interior design, albeit on a somewhat limited scale. The rectangular block of the first story was roughly comprised of three squares, the outer two lengthened by semi-octagonal extensions. The central hall from which the outlying rooms radiated was formed into an octagon by the addition of four angled walls; semi-octagonal one-story window bays projected from the semi-octagonal ends of the flanking rooms, further playing on the form of the original Plumb house bays. The surviving sketches indicate Davis's intention to strike a balance between the first story of the existing house and the addition, with two rectangular blocks terminated by semi-octagonal ends joined by the original rear parlors of the Plumb house. Projecting bays and generous windows framed suitably Romantic views, while Picturesque marble mantels and fine finishes and trim lent the new first story an elegance befitting the refinement of the earlier house. Large bedrooms on the second and third stories were likewise offered the extensive western view shed of the river and mountains and appointed with fine finishes and trim. Davis gained internal and external harmony by repeating the sculptural niches of the west elevation in the octagonal hall, yet provided a hint of asymmetrical tension in varying the dimensions of the bays. A second verandah provided a vital link between the new interior space and landscape.

Following the completion of the new elevation, construction of which likely began late in the fall of 1849, the Bronson villa rose dramatically above the crest of the ridge on which it rested, as captured in the quick pencil sketch authored by Davis. Although it remains a matter of speculation, it is likely that a carriage road accessed the house from the west side of the estate along South Bay, where visitors coming north on the Hudson to visit Bronson would likely have disembarked. Picturesque villas as conceived by Davis and Downing relied on approach routes for added dramatic effect, and the new elevation would have been best viewed from a western vantage point. Davis authority Jane Davies, in a visit to the estate in the early 1970s, took notice of an unusual building located on the western edge of the estate that, though long since gone, survives in Historic American Building Survey documentation for the City of Hudson. The building appears to have been a small vernacular residence that was modified with projecting bracketed eaves and an unusual flared gable with a distinctive 'oriental' character. It likewise featured a louvered window in the gable field similar to that used on the Bronson carriage house. If in fact it was associated with the Bronson estate, its stylistic characteristics would suggest it was part of the 1839 modifications.

In 1849 Bronson added an additional twenty-nine acres south of his original purchase, which reunited land originally associated with the Plumb estate that was excluded in the original Bronson purchase. In 1854, following a sixteen-year residence and two modifications to his house by Davis, Dr. Oliver Bronson sold the estate to Frederick Fitch Folger, and returned to Connecticut. In 1904, the house and grounds, then home of Elizabeth and Matilda McIntyre, were purchased to expand the New York State Training School for Girls, established in the 1860s at a site southwest of the estate. The Bronson House served as the residence of the school's director until sometime around 1970, when the facility fell vacant. In 1997 Historic Hudson became involved with the preservation of the house and remaining landscape, and with the cooperation of the New York State Department of Corrections has opened the house for fundraising benefits once a year. The money raised at these events has been used to stabilize the house and fund historic structure and historic landscape reports. Historic Hudson is currently working on establishing a lease agreement with the state, a major step in realizing the future utilization of the site.

Please visit Historic Hudson to see the progress being made on the restoration of this property.

Building Description

The Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate is located west of Worth Avenue, U.S. Route 9, just within the southern boundary of the City of Hudson in Columbia County, New York. The estate is accessed by a paved drive that curves briefly southward from the primary entrance on Route 9 before turning north to loop around in front of the house. A carriage house and barn, located south of the house, are also accessed from the main drive. The land slopes gently downward from Worth Avenue past the house and outbuildings, dropping steeply further west as it approaches the Hudson River. Steep ravines flank the house and outbuildings to the north and south. The significant loss in elevation between the house and the river largely shields the property's view shed from the adjacent New York State Hudson Correctional Facility, situated west of the property. The non-wooded portions of the estate command expansive views toward the river, Mount Merino, and the Catskill Mountains to the south and west.

The Bronson House was a handsome Federal style building that received modifications and additions designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1839 and again in 1849. The original wood frame building, completed in 1812, was two stories in height with a one-bay gabled attic story, oriented with its facade facing east toward present-day Worth Avenue. The exterior of the house is embellished with both refined Federal style details and later picturesque alterations and additions designed by Davis. The interior is highlighted by an elegant elliptical stair, dating to the original building period, and other details representing both original construction and later work by Davis. The first set of alterations designed by Davis for Dr. Oliver Bronson, a relative by marriage to noted Davis patron Robert Donaldson, included a reworking of the eaves in the 'Bracketed' mode. Designs for the carriage house and barns, were likewise furnished by Davis at this time. The 1849 work, much more extensive in scope, included the construction of a one-story, one-room deep addition with a three-story engaged central tower of Italian villa origin, constituting a new, west-facing facade. Both the early and later additions by Davis included the use of ornamental verandas. Documentation regarding Davis's work for Bronson is chronicled in the Architect's Day Book and Office Journal, in addition to surviving drawings.

The relationship between the house and landscape, integral to the architectural vision of Davis and his friend and associate Andrew Jackson Downing, represented the very essence of the picturesque doctrine to which the two men subscribed. Although suffering the effects of deterioration due to an extended period of vacancy, the Bronson House survives largely intact and still maintains a vital relationship with its associated landscape and setting. The house, which is the earliest extant example of Davis's work in the 'Bracketed' style, and the outbuildings and interrelated landscape, framed to the west by an extensive panorama of the Catskill Mountains, remain an evocative and balanced complement that thoroughly capture the Romantic ideals of the era. The involvement of Downing in the development of the associated estate landscape, to an extent not fully known, further enhances the significance of the house and its surroundings. Changes made to the estate plan in the post-Bronson years have been limited in scope and effect.

The city of Hudson is situated on the east bank of the Hudson River, approximately thirty-five miles south of Albany, on the extreme central western edge of Columbia County, New York. The Bronson House and Estate are located immediately south of the city proper, west of U.S. Route 9, or Worth Avenue. The Bronson Estate, a narrow rectangular tract of land comprised of open fields and woods, is bounded on the east by Worth Avenue and to the west by the correctional facility. On the eastern boundary, the estate is separated from Worth Avenue by a stone and iron fence, approximately eight hundred and fifty feet in length, with a small Second Empire style gatehouse situated on the south side of the entrance. Woods bound the north side of the estate, which fronts the southernmost edge of development in the city, from Worth Avenue west to the perimeter of the correctional facility. The only significant intrusion to the view shed is along the southern boundary, where a modern commercial facility compromises an otherwise relatively intact setting. The nearby correctional facility is sufficiently hidden by the topography of the grounds. The estate enjoys striking views to the west and southwest toward the Hudson River, which gives way to the landscape of Greene County on the opposite bank. This panoramic view shed includes the Town of Greenport, Columbia County, in the foreground, and the Blackhead Range of the northern Catskill Mountains across the river; Mount Merino rises to the immediate south.

The Bronson House is located approximately one hundred and eighty feet above the level of the river on a relatively flat shoulder of land, bounded to the north by a wooded knoll and enclosed on three sides by deciduous trees screening the house from the road throughout most of the year. A circa 1819 watercolor rendering of the property depicts the house and grounds as they appeared under the ownership of Samuel Plumb, for whom the original house was built. Although liberties appear to have been taken by the artist in his depiction of the estate, the view reveals crucial information regarding the early appearance of the house and layout of the grounds. The original balanced hilltop scheme consisted of the main house flanked by outlying dependencies, set within an open landscape bounded to the east by the Branch Turnpike Road, present day Worth Avenue, and to the west by the river. The landscape of the estate appears largely open, with extensive views of the river, Mount Merino, and the Catskill Mountains.

The house and estate were altered under the direction of Dr. Oliver Bronson during his ownership of the property between 1838 and 1853. These changes included the dismantling of the dependencies, modifications to the house in 1839 and 1849, the erection of a new carriage house and construction or alteration of the barns, and alterations made to the physical landscape, likely made under advisement by Davis and possibly by Downing as well. A birds-eye view of the property, dated circa 1890, suggests that a far more extensive network of carriage drives existed than what remains today. This network apparently included a spur that encircled the knoll north of the house and a loop that circled the house from the north side and terminated in a turnaround south of where the current terrace is located. Segments of these drives have been retained, though modified from their original winding courses. The current disposition of trees on the east lawn, which largely shields the house from the main approach, is a characteristic Picturesque device, meant to provide only glimpses of the residence until a favorable vantage point has been reached. Screening would also have been utilized to lessen the visual impact of the outbuildings on the approach route. Trees were likely laid out in irregular belts to impart a naturalistic effect, in keeping with the English landscape philosophies then finding expression in the work of Davis and Downing, complemented near the house with ornamental shrubbery and flowers. Open lawns remain to the east, south, and west of the house. Small wayside embellishments were probably built to provide for contemplation of the estate's extensive views.

Following the second redesign phase by Davis in 1849, a new emphasis was placed on the house's west-facing orientation and the expansive view shed that opened south and west of the house. The addition of the west verandah, the three-story tower and projecting window bays on the north and south sides strengthened the interrelationship of the house with its setting by opening new views and framing romantic vistas, providing a harmonious transition from building to landscape. Unlike the earlier Plumb House, which sat conspicuously on an open promontory, Bronson's alterations to the house and estate redefined the relationship between architecture and landscape in the current Romantic tradition. Thus the house emerged as an extension of its surroundings, stylistically conceived in part to respond to its setting, with a deliberately conceived naturalistic landscape treatment forming a bridge between the residence and the distant mountains and river.

The Dr. Oliver Bronson House, as originally constructed between 1811 and 1812 for Samuel Plumb, was a two-story timber frame building with a one-bay gabled attic story, oriented with its facade facing east. Built above a limestone foundation laid in random ashlar above grade and rubble below, the building was probably sheathed in narrow pine clapboard. The first story of the house, rectangular in shape excepting projections on either side of the east elevation, measured approximately fifty feet in width by thirty-seven feet in depth. The second story was slightly smaller in width and square in shape, with the narrow, third-story rectangular block above. Both the center entrance and central second-story window were flanked by sidelights and topped by semi-elliptical fanlights. The house was covered by a shallow hipped roof finished with a balustrade; tall chimneys flanked the intersecting attic story. A tripartite window lit the upper story and provided harmony with the two center bays below. Vaguely decipherable in the Wall watercolor is what appears to be a full-length front porch carried by attenuated columns. Fenestration on the north and south elevations consisted of four windows on the first story, three of which lit three-sided projections on the extreme east side of either elevation, and two windows on the second story. The configuration of the west elevation is not known but likely reflected the arrangement of the east elevation. Wood fences connected the house with ancillary buildings to the north and south. The Plumb house, details of which survived Davis's modifications, was a sophisticated estate house in the Late Colonial vein, featuring the elegant and attenuated detail characteristic of the Federal style. The remaining original elements attest to the informed execution of Adam-inspired details designed by a talented and as yet undetermined architect-builder.

The east-facing facade, as now composed, reflects elements of both the original building and modifications drawn by Davis in 1839. The first story, minus projections, is punctuated by three evenly spaced bays, with two windows flanking the center entrance.' The entrance consists of a wood door with six recessed panels, each articulated by two low-relief arches, extremely delicate in treatment. Flanking the door are generous three-quarter-length sidelights, with a paneled treatment below matching that of the door. Paneled jambs flank the door and sidelights. The molded and reeded wood casing enclosing the entrance terminates in four foliated consoles, likewise handsome in execution. Crowning the entrance is an elliptical fanlight with raised molding and keystone, the glazing of which is finished with wood dividers and swag. The windows flanking the entrance are double-hung with six-over-six wood sash; they are currently boarded-up, as is most of the building's glazing. Original louvered wood shutters have been removed. The exterior of the first story of the facade is sheathed in vertical flush board, unlike the remainder of the building, which is clad primarily with wood shakes; the vertical board suggests the possibility of an earlier board-and-batten exterior treatment. Narrow corner boards with a finely scaled cable molding finish the corners. All these features, except the shakes, reflect the building's original appearance.

Spanning the entire first story of the facade is the remnants of an ornamental verandah that was unquestionably designed by Davis in 1839. Possibly replacing a previous porch, it measures just under fifty feet in length and rests on a mortared limestone foundation. The roof of the verandah, concave in profile and sheathed with a flat seam metal roof, is currently braced by functional wood posts. The ceiling of the verandah, comprised of narrow board crossed perpendicularly by battens, appears to be original to Davis's 1839 work; a comparison of it with Davis's watercolor view of the verandah at 'Blithewood' reveals an almost identical scheme. A circa 1972 photograph captures the appearance of the verandah and one of the posts as they appeared at that time. The wood supports were comprised of two narrow posts, each pierced by five evenly spaced diamonds, with an open geometric pattern between. The posts carried an open frieze comprised of guilloche, with a molded architrave and lobed curvilinear pattern below. Ghosts of the posts, now removed, remain on the ceiling of the verandah, showing their original location. Portions of these decorative elements have been saved.

The second story of the east elevation follows the fenestration pattern of the first story below, with three equally spaced windows. The center window, from the original construction, is treated with sidelights and elliptical fanlight like the entrance immediately below it, and finished with a handsome architrave, foliated consoles, and keystone. Davis's 1839 alterations included a reworking of the building's eaves, creating a bold overhanging projection, and the application of wood brackets below. Ten brackets, embellished with small crosspieces and acorn drop pendants, are spaced at three-foot four-inch intervals to correspond with the width of the two outermost windows on the first and second stories. Two are positioned at either corner of the elevation and project diagonally outward.

Rising above the second story is the rectangular dormer block, measuring approximately eleven feet in width, covered by a low-pitched gable roof. A large tripartite window punctuates the attic block, the sidelights of which are covered by wood jalousies; the console treatment is repeated again here. An egg and dart apron, which likely dates to Davis's 1839 work, hangs from the slightly projecting eaves. Flanking the block on either side are two brick chimneys, reworked by Davis in a typically picturesque scheme, with brownstone coping and tall terra cotta pots. Working within the form of the original symmetrical scheme, Davis added to the house's exterior an irregular rhythm reflecting the picturesque-romantic philosophies then new to the American architectural landscape.

In 1849 Davis was engaged again by Bronson, this time in a major reworking of the house that included a one-room deep addition with a central tower on the west side of the house. A sketch in Davis's Office Journal indicates the addition as it was more or less executed. The addition consisted of a rectangular block approximately fifty-eight feet in width by sixteen feet in depth, with semi-octagonal ends. One-story semi-octagonal window bays abut either end of the new elevation, yet were not indicated by Davis in his plan or elevation; they were, however, indicated in a small sketch in his Day Book. The new west-facing facade was fronted by an ornamental verandah approximately fifty-two feet in length. A drawing of the elevation by Davis rendered circa 1849 illustrates the house from a vantage point on the open southwest lawn. The new addition, complete with a prominent three-story Italian villa-inspired tower, ornamental verandah with open lattice posts, balustrade and bracketed cornice, rests prominently on the crest of the hill. Drawn quickly and with an economy of line, the sketch reveals the artistic instincts, particularly in the sensitive interrelationship between building and setting, which separated Davis from many of his contemporaries. These later additions brought to full realization the picturesque effect first imparted by the 'Bracketed' work executed a decade earlier.

The west elevation is two stories in height with an engaged, three-story tower that projects slightly from the remainder of the elevation. It is aligned on an axis with the third-story dormer block of the original house. Two semi-octagonal bays project from either side of the elevation, designed by Davis as a complement to the original bays on the east facade. Fenestration on the first story consists of three evenly spaced, segmental-arched openings; the northern bay is now enclosed. The center entrance is comprised of a wood door with four molded recessed panels, flanked on either side by pilasters and full-length sidelights and crowned by a segmental-arched transom. Wood jalousies provided ventilation in the warmer months, as evidenced by a circa 1860s photograph. The entrance is encased by a heavily molded architrave, as are the windows. Paneled wood piers separate the doorway from flanking rounded arch sculptural niches, now enclosed, and carry a broad fascia across the elevation below the roof of the verandah. The second story consists of three sets of well-proportioned paired square-shaped windows encased by molded wood architraves. The windows rest on projecting sills and are currently boarded. The projecting eave is ornamented with brackets, spaced closer than those on the east elevation, with acorn drop pendants.

The tower rises above the second story and is covered by a shallow pyramidal roof with brackets set below the eaves. The west, north, and south sides of the tower featured a faux tripartite window treatment with surrounds formed by paneled wood piers that carry the wood fascia upon which the brackets rest. The west-facing treatment featured two double-hung windows flanking a jalousied blind center bay; the north and south treatments had single double-hung windows flanked by blind jalousied bays. A blind balustrade spans the west side of the tower; the remainder, which ran around the second-story roof, has been removed. The finely scaled cable molding of the corner boards is repeated along the cornice.

Originally spanning the west elevation was a fifty-two-foot-long verandah carried by four open latticework posts. Foliated ornamental crowns set on the concave roof corresponded with the posts below and have since been removed. Running the length of the verandah below the projecting eaves is an open frieze of interlaced Norman arcading, with finely crafted acorn drop ornaments. The verandah was enclosed early in the twentieth century with fixed sash resting on a brick skirt with a paneled wood treatment above. An enclosed west-facing terrace was likewise added at that time, enclosed by a mortared rubble wall with concrete coping giving way immediately to a steep drop in elevation.

The north elevation continues to reflect the building's appearance following the second phase of modifications planned for Bronson by Davis. Projecting from the corners of this elevation are the original one-story 1812 bay and the two-story semi-octagonal projection of the 1849 addition. A small one-story window bay abuts the center of the semi-octagonal end of the addition. It is finished with thin paneled pilasters, a bracketed cornice, and paneled wood skirts. The windows of the first and second story, minus the addition, lack architraves. The windows of the addition, finished with molded wood surrounds and bracketed sills, are similar in character to those used by Davis and published by Downing in association with designs in the 'Italian' and 'Bracketed' styles. The north-facing second-story window was blind and covered with jalousies, like that opposite it on the south elevation; it is now clad in shingles. The projecting eave of the second story is embellished, like the east elevation, with brackets. The attic of the original section runs from the east elevation and terminates at the tower, punctuated by two small windows. The egg and dart apron continues from the front elevation around the sides of the dormer block. A second brick chimney with brownstone cap and terra cotta pots is situated where the old building and the addition meet. The chimneys are currently covered to prevent further damage.

The south elevation is consistent, for the most part, with the north elevation. The one-story semi-octagonal bay that terminates the end of the 1849 addition is considerably larger than that on the opposite elevation. Below the projecting bay of the original 1812 house is a below-grade entrance to the basement, shielded by a hood carried by wood brackets which appears to have been added in 1839. Between these bays is the only major exterior alteration to the building, a one-story addition added in the early twentieth century. Semi-octagonal in shape, it is pierced with windows on three sides and rests on an above-grade brick foundation. A brick chimney with terra cotta pots on the roof of the addition, reflecting the character of the four main chimneys, has fallen over. A below-grade garage was also added in the twentieth century, with brick retaining walls parged with cement.

The interior of the Bronson house, like the exterior, combines elements of the original Federal period work with Davis' modifications. Both the 1812 house and the 1849 addition can be read clearly from one another, with the original stair of the Plumb house forming the highlight of the interior space. Plumb's original house utilized a center hall, double-pile plan, the first story with paired front and rear parlors, the second story with paired front and rear rooms, and a single room in the third story block. Kitchen facilities were located in the southeast corner of the basement. Davis's single pile addition is formed by a central, octagonal-shaped hall adjoining the original center hall of the Plumb house on the first floor that accesses the flanking rooms and the west verandah. Bedrooms flank the central tower room of the second floor; a single room comprises the third-story tower space. The interior retains a significant level of integrity of materials and design, notwithstanding damage to many of the marble mantelpieces and an addition to the south side of the first story. Original window sash is retained throughout most of the house, as are period doors, finishes, and trim. Like the exterior entrance details, the Federal period interior displays a high level of craftsmanship and a competent use of Adam-inspired detail, while the 1849 Davis work, while sensitive to the original concept, reflects in both form and detail characteristic Picturesque-inspired elements.

The east facade entrance leads into a large square-shaped vestibule flanked on either side by the front parlors. The interior doorway casing is composed of attenuated colonettes that flank the sidelights, covered by iron grilles. Walls are finished in plaster, currently covered with faded and peeling wallpaper, with molded wood baseboards below. Floors are laid in wide plank pine. The parlors are separated from the vestibule by large six-paneled wood doors, approximately nine feet in height, with molded and reeded wood architraves.

The front north parlor, square in shape with semi-octagonal ends, retains its distinguished Federal style details and is highlighted by an exceptional carved wood mantel that rests against the center of the west wall. Attenuated paired colonettes carry foliated consoles that frame the mantel's frieze, comprised of three panels, the center one graced by a large, beautifully carved ellipse. The windows retain their original architraves and paneled skirts; two retain period six-over-six double-hung wood sash. Likewise remaining is the handsome casing and hood that frames the inside of the doorway between the parlor and the hall, graced by an ellipse, thin cable molding, and foliated consoles. Walls, like the ceiling, are finished in plaster on split lath with reeded and molded wood baseboards below. The opposite south front parlor reflects its original circa 1812 layout, modified in 1849 with new baseboards, architraves, paneled jambs, plaster crown molding, and a marble Picturesque mantelpiece. A dumbwaiter in the northwest corner is set behind a paneled wood door and indicates the room's original function. One window retains intact six-over-six sash. Ceiling heights on the first floor average approximately twelve feet.

The vestibule leads through an elliptically arched opening, springing from thin clustered colonettes, into the stair hall. The elliptical stair is set against the south wall and curves upwards uninterrupted to the third story in graceful fashion. The turned newel post and balusters are mid-nineteenth century in character, unlike the remainder of the stair, and therefore likely date to the 1849 work. The face string of the stair is embellished with an intricate carved fan pattern and a delicate, finely scaled cable molding. The wall in the hall is curved to harmonize with the dynamic of the stair, as in the hall above. Behind the stair on the south wall is the entrance to the original rear south parlor, which retains its original architrave, door, and a transom repeating the delicate arch motif likewise used on the front parlor doors. Two doors along the north wall originally led into the rear north parlor; both retain Federal period architraves and one its original paneled door. The north rear parlor, altered with the addition of a bathroom and closet between it and the hall, retains original window sash and a damaged Picturesque marble mantelpiece. The ceiling has been dropped and the original plaster walls covered with wood board. The south rear parlor was completely reconfigured as a pantry, bathroom, and hall leading into a kitchen addition. The twentieth-century kitchen addition is accessed from the hall and is semi-octagonal in shape, with a stone fireplace against the south wall and an L-shaped counter in the northeast corner. The room is lit by three windows and is connected to the semi-octagonal projection of the 1849 Davis addition by means of a short hall.

The stair hall leads into the octagonal-shaped hall of the 1849 addition, from which the verandah and the flanking rooms are accessed, and is a highly intact and signature feature of Davis's hand. Although Davis's conception of the floor plan of the addition was restricted by the pre-existing center hall scheme of the original house, which necessitated adherence to a strict east-west axis, he nonetheless added visual variety with the eight-sided hall and semi-octagonal room ends with different-sized, yet balanced, window projections. The hall is comprised of four segmental arched doorways: the entrance between the old and new sections, the exterior door to the verandah immediately opposite on the west wall, and the entrances to the north and south rooms. Flanking each of these doorways within the angled walls are rounded arch sculpture niches similar to those on the west elevation exterior. The doorway to the verandah is similar in treatment to that opposite it, with sidelights covered by iron grilles flanking a four-paneled wood door. The doorways entering the flanking rooms are finished with molded wood architraves, with original paneled wood doors remaining in their pockets. Walls in the hall are finished in plaster with molded wood baseboards below and plaster crown moldings above. The cable molding used on the interior and exterior of the original Plumb house is repeated on the door casings.

The northwest room is intimately scaled and highlighted by the projecting bay window. The walls and ceiling are finished in the same manner as the adjacent hall with wood baseboards and plaster cornice. Against the semi-octagonal north wall is a small projecting bay, also semi-octagonal in shape. It is divided from the main space by a segmental-arched opening with a molded wood architrave and a jamb with a handsome plaster bas-relief floral pattern; the small bay retains paneled skirts and most of its original window sash. Closets are set along the south wall, occupying the space formed by the angled walls of the hall; their wood architraves have been removed. The original marble mantelpiece of the projecting chimney breast has been destroyed, and the generous west-facing window enclosed. An opening provides access to the adjacent rear parlor of the original Plumb house.

The opposite southwest room is similar in layout and size, with a Picturesque white marble mantelpiece. The entrance to the adjacent room is against the east wall; there are closets situated along the north wall; and a larger semi-octagonal one-story bay projects from the south wall. The west-facing window retains period sash and original jalousies that are held in pockets in the walls. Radiating ribs traverse the ceiling of the octagonal bay, the windows of which are encased by thick architraves with paneled jambs and interior shutters. The plaster bas-relief jamb treatment is repeated between the parlor and the bay.

The second floor is accessed from the main stair, the railing of which continues around gracefully to form a landing overlooking the hall below. The hall leads east through an elliptical arch and is terminated by the tripartite window overlooking the east lawn. Flanking the hall are two bedrooms, situated on the northeast and southeast corners of the house; the door from the hall to the northeast bedroom has been enclosed. Both rooms are finished in plaster with molded architraves and baseboards. Each has a fireplace situated against the west wall framed by damaged Picturesque marble mantel pieces. The two rear rooms of the original Plumb house have been modified. The northwest room has been subdivided into two baths; a simple wood Federal-style mantel survives along the east wall opposite that in the adjacent northeast bedroom. The southwest room has been altered and is now composed of a smaller bedroom with two baths and a back stair against the west wall. The center hall leads west toward the tower of the 1849 Davis addition, with access on either side to the north and south bedrooms through six paneled doors. The bedrooms are finished in plaster with molded wood baseboards, architraves, paneled skirts, and projecting chimney breasts with damaged marble mantelpieces. The northwest bedroom retains its original plaster crown molding; the ceiling of the southwest bedroom has been redone. A segmental-arched opening with molded architrave, rectangular transom, and sidelights leads west into a square-shaped room between the bedrooms, subdivided into closet space and lit by the west-facing window. Second-floor ceilings average approximately ten feet in height.

The main stair terminates in the third-floor gabled block, which includes a bedroom on the extreme east elevation and a bath opposite the stair on the southwest corner. The corresponding space of the third floor of the tower is given over to a large room, measuring approximately nineteen feet by eighteen feet, finished in plaster with molded baseboards and architraves and period six-over-six window sash. There is a narrow hall with closets between the tower room and the stair access in the original dormer block. A six-over-three window lights the third floor landing on the south wall.

There is a full basement beneath most of the house that includes elements of the original 1812 layout. A stair behind the main stair leads down into a large open space beneath the south east parlor, which was the house's original kitchen and stock room. The corresponding north east side has been reconfigured with a bathroom, two stock rooms, and a bath, yet it does retain the original root cellar on the extreme north side below the projecting window bay. The remaining space in the basement is broken up into various utility areas, including the boiler room. There is an extensive crawl space underneath the 1849 addition and the addition on the south side of the building.

The property includes three outbuildings, each of which feature details designed by Davis in 1839, forming a tight U-shaped cluster south of the house near the property's southern boundary. The largest of these is the east-facing carriage house, composed of a gable-fronted block flanked by gable-ended wings in a symmetrical neo-Palladian scheme. The center block has a hewn timber English frame to which the smaller flankers were added. The main block is accessed by a monumental entrance shielded by a concave-shaped hood, carried by scroll-sawn brackets which rest on classical piers which frame the doorway. The paired wood doors, hung with their original strap hinges, are composed of diagonally oriented boards that form a chevron pattern when closed. Above the entrance is a louvered Palladian-inspired vent; square-shaped louvered vents flank the entrance. The projecting eaves of the entire structure are embellished with brackets, with those on the corners of the main block pierced by a trefoil-shaped pattern; a similar trefoil-pierced bracket was illustrated in Figure 44 of Downing's Cottage Residences. A drop pendant adorns the crest of the gable although its corresponding finial has been lost. Each of the smaller wings is entered on the long side, facing east, with a door treatment echoing that of the main block. Horizontal pine clapboard sheaths the exterior.

Northwest of the large carriage barn is a smaller gable-roofed barn with a hewn timber frame clad in pine clapboard. Immediately to the west is a second gable-roofed barn, also with a hewn timber frame, with vertical board and batten sheathing. It is abutted on the south side by a twentieth-century frame shed addition. Both barns are covered by raised seam metal roofs like the carriage house and embellished by eaves brackets. It is likely that one if not both of the smaller barns date to the pre-Bronson occupation of the property.

There are also four other buildings on the property. By far the most interesting of these is a circa 1870 Gothic Revival style cottage that is situated on the northern boundary of the property. The cottage details are clearly derived from Design 8 in George Woodward's Country Homes, although the floor plan is not consistent with that offered in Woodward's book. The first story of the small cottage is sheathed in horizontal board accented by chamfered vertical trim; the gables are clad with board-and-batten. The bracketed eaves, window hoods, Gothic windows with lozenges and battered architraves, and exterior sheathing are all taken from the Woodward plate. Situated opposite a steep gully that was at one time linked to the south side of the estate by a bridge, no longer extant, it is unlikely that it served as the gatehouse, considering the current gatehouse was erected at about the same time. The cottage is nonetheless a distinctive example of pattern book Picturesque architecture and is currently in jeopardy of being lost.

The circa 1870 Second Empire style gatehouse and an adjacent frame shed are situated on the south side of the estate entrance. The gatehouse's original wood board-and-batten siding was lost in favor of vinyl siding in imitation of vertical board. The concrete block garage is situated north east of the main house. The property also includes four structures that include a picnic shelter, the shooting range, a fence spanning the Worth Avenue boundary and the concrete footings of a bridge on the north side of the estate.

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Landscape view looking southwest toward Appletree house (2001)
Landscape view looking southwest toward Appletree house (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York View looking west toward east elevation of Bronson house (2001)
View looking west toward east elevation of Bronson house (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York East and south elevations (2001)
East and south elevations (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Close-up of center bay of east elevation (2001)
Close-up of center bay of east elevation (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Close-up of eaves, showing brackets, egg-and-dart apron on attic story (2001)
Close-up of eaves, showing brackets, egg-and-dart apron on attic story (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Ceiling of east verandah (2001)
Ceiling of east verandah (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Front door, east elevation (2001)
Front door, east elevation (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Detail of arched panel treatment of six-paneled front door (2001)
Detail of arched panel treatment of six-paneled front door (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York West and south elevation, with enclosed west verandah and tower, looking north (2001)
West and south elevation, with enclosed west verandah and tower, looking north (2001)

Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Estate, Hudson New York Tower and enclosed verandah, view looking south (2001)
Tower and enclosed verandah, view looking south (2001)