The Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance will host a fundraising barbecue on Saturday, July 9 at 2 p.m. on the front lawn of the 1855 Calvert Vaux-designed Hoyt House in Staatsburg. Tickets cost $30 for adults and include the barbecue. Admission is free for kids under age 12. Proceeds will benefit the property’s ongoing restoration. Also known as “The Point” for the finger-shaped piece of land that it occupies along the Hudson River, but more commonly known by the name of the only family that ever lived there, the Hoyt House is considered Vaux’s most important application of the Picturesque concept in its integration of landscape and architectural design.
The afternoon by the river will feature live music by Hudson Valley-based folk/rockers the Julie Corbalis Band, and barbecue prepared by CIA-trained chef Michael Lemieux. Demos will be offered by preservation craft specialists: local experts in the types of artisanship necessary to restore a property like Hoyt House. For example, Jeff Ashton, construction manager for the National Park Service’s current historic preservation phase at the Vanderbilt Mansion, will discuss stonework and the stone masonry that his crew is in the process of rebuilding for the porticos of the mansion. Other demos will focus on areas such as woodworking and metalwork.
“These are extremely knowledgeable people who will do these demos,” says Alan Strauber, president of the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance, which acts as the official “Friends” group for the site, which is owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “It’s going to be a really good afternoon. And we’re offering a lot for the money,” he adds, noting that similar events charge far more than the $30 all-inclusive ticket price for this event. “Some of the high-ticket fundraisers are only going to get the real devotees, but we’re trying to reach out to people in the community, and even people who are just in the area on vacation. We really want to get as much exposure as we can for the Hoyt House.”
The price of admission also includes tours of Hoyt House, with continuous screenings inside of a silent film from 1926, Camille. The cast includes Julia Hoyt, whose third husband was Lydig Monson Hoyt. (Along with his first wife, Blanche Geraldine Livingston Hoyt, Lydig hired Vaux to design the Hoyt House, or what they called “The Point,” in the 1850s.)
Julia Hoyt enjoyed a brief career on the Broadway stage during the ’20s, divorcing Lydig in 1924. She made three movies, including Camille, which also features appearances by Charlie Chaplin, Dorothy Gish, Ethel Barrymore, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, Paul Robeson, Anita Loos and even the Sultan of Morocco playing himself. The film was made by Ralph Barton, an American artist best-known for his cartoons and caricatures of celebrities. Barton shared studio space at one point with the artist Thomas Hart Benton, who became the subject of Barton’s first caricature.
The first restoration phase of Hoyt House was completed in early 2015. The envelope of the house was stabilized from further decay, protecting the interior. The entire roof was reconstructed in the original style, as were the chimneys and gutters. The 20th-century kitchen addition that had been dangling from the house was removed and replaced by a restoration of the original masonry.
In its original condition, the Hoyt House in Staatsburg was a prime example of mid-19th-century American Picturesque Gothic Revival style. But after its acquisition by the state in the early 1960s, Hoyt House was left to the ravages of time, vandalism and indifference. The nonprofit Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance (CVPA), formed to preserve Vaux’s architectural and landscape design legacy in the Hudson Valley, considers the Hoyt House the most important of Vaux-designed structures to preserve.
Proceeds from the July 9 fundraiser will go toward continuing the restoration. “We have come a long way in our quest to restore the Hoyt House,” says Strauber, “but there is still much more to do. The rapidly deteriorating front porch needs full restoration, and the interior of the house needs tending to. Site utilities, such as septic, running water and drainage systems, must also be addressed.” The cost to reconstruct the porch may run as high as $750,000.
When Strauber last spoke with Almanac Weekly in March, the CVPA was putting together a plan to offer fully accredited university courses in preservation arts at the Hoyt House site. The project has now been finalized, Strauber says, with the Calvert Vaux Institute, a preservation arts training school, set to open in the summer of 2017. The CVPA will partner with Boston Architectural College, Dutchess Community College and the New York State Office of Parks to offer college-accredited preservation training courses. The Calvert Vaux Institute will begin its inaugural semester with two courses, and plans are to expand from there, says Strauber, with classes in relevant areas of preservation arts, cultural landscape management, woodworking and metal restoration. Students will learn through doing restorative work on the main house.
The fundraiser on July 9 is sponsored by Darmstadt Overhead Doors, Cornell Street Studios, Hackett Farm Supply and Fox Run Vineyards. Tickets are available at the event or online at www.calvertvaux.org.
Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance Hoyt House fundraiser, Saturday, July 9, 2 p.m., $30, front lawn of Hoyt House, Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park, Old Post Road off Route 9, Staatsburg; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.calvertvaux.org.