Letter: A Focus on Its Strengths (Fall 2008 Trust Magazine)

Source Organization: Historic Hudson Valley

Author: Raymond Armater

10/01/2008 - All of us at Historic Hudson Valley appreciate your mention of Montgomery Place Historic Estate in the article “Houses, Histories and the Future” (spring Trust), which deals with the financial and administrative challenges confronting many historic houses. The article is valuable in highlighting the need for historic sites to identify and test new ideas that both serve 21st-century visitors and make economic sense. The passage, however, contained some inaccuracies and gave a misleading impression of how Montgomery Place is finding creative solutions proper to its own roots.

We are not considering transforming the site into a bed-and-breakfast, community center or wedding venue, as the article indicated. This may be an appropriate direction for other historic houses, but we have chosen to focus the visitor experience at Montgomery Place on the site’s real strengths, which are landscape history and architecture.

Accordingly, the mansion on the estate is indeed closed, but not “indefinitely,” as the article stated. It will be closed only until Historic Hudson Valley, the parent operating institution, can implement a five-year strategic plan that is midway through development. This plan calls for research and design of new interpretive materials for the estate’s orchard and working farm; a program of self-guided landscape and garden tours; improvement of the gardens; new water and sewage systems for historic residential buildings in Annandale-on-Hudson, where the estate is located; and extensive repairs to the mansion. In 2010, we will unveil the results under the title “American Arcadia: People, Landscape and Nature at Montgomery Place.”

Some parts of this ambitious goal are already completed, such as our landscape audio tour, which is the first in the Hudson Valley. The historic gardens are all tended, and the orchard, farm and popular farm stand are all enjoying success. Indeed, Judith H. Dobrzynski, writing in The New York Times last year, noted, “Not only are the gardens beautiful, but the . . . view is one of the best panoramic vistas of the Hudson I have ever seen.”

The Trust article is right in suggesting that historic houses should be a force in their communities. What that means in individual cases must be determined by the caretakers. We at Historic Hudson Valley feel that we have defined what is unique at Montgomery Place—the totality of the estate: house, gardens, arboretum, woodlands, orchards, hamlet and natural features—and we are excited to see our plan advancing that vision.

Trust’s readers should come, see and enjoy this important, and relevant, country estate. I assure you: You won’t be disappointed.

Raymond Armater
Site Director, Montgomery Place
Historic Hudson Valley
Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

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