Winter in the Hudson Valley is a magical experience. As the mercury dips lower in the thermometer, the festive aura in the region heats up with celebrations galore. From tree lightings with the family and caroling around the neighborhood to sledding with the little ones and cozying up by the fire, there are a never-ending number of ways to embrace the warmth of the season.
At Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, the holiday glow shines in full force. From the outside, the riverside estate exudes felicity, thanks to its cheerful yellow exterior. A stroll through the entranceway, however, will make you feel as though you have stepped into the midst of a 19th century winter fête.
“The mansion is really alive,” enthuses Lauren Daisley, communications manager at Boscobel. In honor of the frigid festivities, she and the estate staff have worked to amplify Boscobel’s historic charm for visitors this December.
During the year, Boscobel, which means “beautiful forest” in Italian, serves as a home to expansive gardens outside and a collection of Federal period home decor within the mansion. The estate, which underwent initial construction from 1804 to 1808, is the result of hard fought preservation efforts. The house itself originally existed in Montrose, fifteen miles away from its current location in Garrison. When the threat of demolition loomed during the 1950s, it was carefully transferred upstream to where it sits today.
It was States Morris Dyckman, a supporter of the British Crown during the Revolutionary War, who began construction on Boscobel. He drew inspiration for it from the Boscobel estate in Shropshire, England. When he died in 1806, his wife, Elizabeth Corne Dyckman, completed the project. She and her children resided there for the remainder of their lives.
Although the house fell into a state of disrepair in the early 1900s, a dedicated effort began in the 1950s with help from Boscobel Restoration, Inc., founded in 1955. The foundation received support, in the form of a $50,000 donation, from Lila Acheson Wallace, the co-founder of Reader’s Digest. When the reconstruction efforts commenced in 1957, Wallace served on the board of directors and played a strong role in the estate’s landscaping design. Four years later, in May 1961, Boscobel opened its doors to the public. Since then, it has become a landmark destination for community-wide events like the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.
In winter, the estate exudes a particular charm. In an ode to its history, the interior is decorated according to 19th century tradition. The scent of clove floats through the air while festive garlands and seasonal fruit brighten the space.
“It’s really one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen,” Daisley says. “It feels like you’re walking back into that world.”
To celebrate the holidays, Boscobel offers a variety of tours for locals who want to learn about and experience the vintage traditions. From November 24 to December 10, those who reserved in advance were able to take advantage of the Twilight Tours. The magical walks transported attendees through a candlelit mansion complete with live string music in the Carriage House and an expanded gift shop. Unsurprisingly, the events were so popular that they sold out for the season.
Fortunately, Boscobel’s Daytime Holiday Tours, which run from November 24 to December 31, are another option for festive fun at the historic estate. During these hour-long tours, participants can explore the many rooms decorated with early 19th century decor.
“The docents go into really lovely detail about the traditions as well,” Daisley explains. Although this is the first year she and her team organized the thematic tours, their success with them so far suggests that the events may become an annual occurrence.
On December 26 and 28, Boscobel will host two family-friendly tours to help children make the most of their winter vacation. “Winter Wonders” on the 26th will introduce little ones to candle making and crafting, while “Get Ready for the New Year” on the 28th will help them ring in 2018 with noisemakers and party hats. Both events include a tour through the house and last approximately two hours.
Boscobel is open April through December during the year, making it an ideal spot for school tours, day trips, or impromptu visits. The estate’s hours are 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. in November and December, with the first tour departing at 10:00 a.m. and the last at 3:00 p.m. The site is closed on Tuesdays, with the exception of December 26 for the “Winter Wonders” event. Ticket prices vary by age, although children under six are always free. Boscobel offers membership packages and discounts for families of four.
“Anybody who wants to experience beauty” should visit Boscobel, Daisley recommends. Whether you pop by for a burst of 19th century merrymaking in winter or visit in spring for a stroll through the gardens, expect to be awestruck by the timeless grandeur that the grounds evoke. Boscobel is a true example of beauty in all seasons.
Visit Boscobel at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison.
Learn more at Boscobel.org, or call (845) 265-3638.
Hours are 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. in November and December; closed Tuesdays.