Monday, July 9, 2012


 'Boscobel', the Horatio Seymour Shonnard estate enlarged by Donn Barber c. 1918 in Oyster Bay.  Click HERE for more on 'Boscobel'.

Photos from House & Garden, 1922.


archibuff said...

Wish more of the expansive gardens had survived and would love to see better photos of the elusive main residence, but the large stable/garage building has wonderful style, form and details. The surviving outbuildings and boathouse are also very handsome structures. The imposing brick and iron estate walls are extremely well maintained, periodically undergoing extensive repairs. Although subdivided, the property is very well cared for.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Always liked this place---the Lutyen-esque stable is a great favorite

Kellsboro Jack said...

The stable does invoke quite a bit of Lutyens with his Greywalls in Scotland. The art of curvature with architectural structures is sadly lost in the current era.

It's a tidy place that was probably very manageable in size - yet still fell prey. A pity.

The Ancient said...

Two pictures of the grounds, 1930:

If you rotate the Bing map (bird's eye view) to look at the south end of the pond, you can see that at least some of the original landscaping from Boscobel appears to remain (though it may be a restoration).

Here's a book with two pictures of the same location when the Shonnards still owned the property --

P.S. There are apparently other slides waiting to be posted on the Smithsonian website --!104039~!3100001~!3100002&aspect=Browse&menu=search&ri=4&source=~!siarchives&term=Shonnard%2C+H.+S.&index=NAMEP

Zach said...

Just a heads up that I will be unable to post tomorrow. I discovered that my dog Otto's suture material in his knee came untied and had to rush down to Maryland this morning so he could undergo his third (and what better be final) knee surgery which is happening right now.

I should be able to return to normal service on Wednesday morning and will provide an update on Otto's recovery (déjà vu all over again!).

This is somewhat related to his torn groin muscle which was discovered 6 weeks ago so he will be recovering from two issues over the next 8-12 weeks (likely longer).

Anonymous said...

"The art of curvature with architectural structures is sadly lost in the current era."

If we're talking about the same thing, I'm seeing some beautiful contemporary "curvature" work by Bobby McAlpine. He's a thoughtful architect, his book is so sensitively written I get a lump in my throat just leafing through the pages:


Anonymous said...

"I should be able to return to normal service on Wednesday morning and will provide an update on Otto's recovery"

If I was a praying person I'd fall on my knees. Pretty sure sending my best to you both will be sufficient.


Anonymous said...

Will be thinking of Otto Zach, hope everything turns out alright.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Zach---all good positive thoughts for you and Otto headed your way from Maine.

About Boscobel. This is not to continue the endless discussion about Winfield, truly, as guilty though I am myself, I am true and thoroughly sick of the subject.

That said, I can't help but reflect that Winfield, externally ugly, surrounded by landscaping that while undeniably elaborate is in no way among the best of its era, built for a man who was not one of the most admirable of his time, owned now by yet another, stronger, contender for that title; excites passion and argument. Yet, here is this garden, one of the most admired and published of its day, an arguable work of art, with perfect scale, details and proportions of the highest order, romantic composition beautifully realized,backed by a stable of high architectural quality, and it barely arouses a sigh.


The Down East Dilettante said...

PS, I have to second Flo's opinion (what else is new)---there are several architects today who understand the curve, the swoop, and the bravura gesture, McAlpine among them

But most of the world wants boxes with pasted on details (somehow, in our HGTV world, cheap applied molding equals quality), no?

archibuff said...

Hope the pooch is doing well and on the road to a speedy recovery

But......"This is not to continue the endless discussion about Winfield, truly, as guilty though I am myself, I am true and thoroughly sick of the subject"

Yep the Winfield tally must now be well over 90 comments and counting!!!

Though even on an unrelated post I guess some people can't get enough of good old CPH and bringing his good work back to the forefront of conversation.

But I won't focus on the fact that Winfield has some of the best intact interior spaces on Long Island from the era, elaborately decorated and executed, still functioning as a residence, nor will I mention the owner who revolutionized the way America shopped for generations and whose architectural legacy goes far beyond Winfield, from the first rate Woolworth tower to thousands of small town 5 and 10 cent stores, many styled brilliantly from colonial revival to art deco, most becoming landmarks themselves on countless Main Streets across America. Woolworth has a fairly secure legacy IMO.

I believe Winfield Hall gets the passionate attention it deserves due to the high visibility of the property, mansion still intact, crazy facts mixed with folklore, the noteworthy owner and the impact he had on this country, which I presume far surpasses the owner of Boscobel whose grounds are now subdivided, gardens mostly gone, mansion torn down, admired in old photos and images in architectural magazines. One gets more excited about something tangible infront of you than a place only experienced in photos.

Plus it's missing an architect whose work only gets raked over the coals on this blog, not in the many publications, articles, online commentary, architectural critiques, NYC architectural guides, architectural blogs, etc, etc, that feature his portfolio of work. Probably sums up the many more reasons that get folks excited and passionate?

magnus said...

Zach- I hope that Otto's surgery went well. Our fingers are crossed.

In Zach's absence, direct your attention to this morning's Go to "House"- you can't miss it- there's a large portrait of the Maestro himself, CPH Gilbert. It's a wonderful article about the Gilbert designed Isaac Fletcher house on East 79th street in New York with some great photos. At the very least, you have to admire the man's exuberance.

Would someone please call the medics to administer CPR to Downeast Dilettante.

archibuff said...

Thank you Magnus for a nice diversion today while Zack is away and THANK YOU New York Social Diary. Obviously a very nice piece written by an unbiased writer who appreciates a great looking townhouse whether or not it was designed by CPH Gilbert or another architect. That is called objective criticism and not a witch hunt which seems to happen on OLI everytime CPH is mentioned.

I do read phrses like "Inventive is too tame for Gilbert's Fletcher House" and "As intriguing to the eye today and enriching to the neighborhood in which it stands as it was the day it was built"!!! I concur. Funny but I don't read designed by a second rate architect who mistook ornamentation for design? Maybe that's because this piece as the many other articles I have ever seen regarding CPH Gilbert's work is much more even handed and a more accurate assessment of his work, not a stone throwing party where his work is endlessly criticized. But that is just me.

Nice article on what seems to be a fine restoration of a noteworthy home, which does enrich the architectural landscape of NYC. One of Gilbert's finest.

Anonymous said...

Forman's been doing good work on NYSD for some time, I always look forward to his exhaustive visuals and great attention to detail. He puts out a great blog for those who love "big old houses."

I'd seen a few, but had not known the term "annunciator" before his column today.


The Down East Dilettante said...

Archibuff---the serious architectural press---as opposed to the popular press, which are two different things, don't take Gilbert seriously as a first string designer---he has his place in architectural history, he designed some interesting buildings, but as I keep reminding you, elaborate and grand is not the same thing as art---Thomas Kinkade was not Rembrandt. Gilbert was a popular architect, he was a successful architect, he was an interesting architect, he absolutely has a firm place in the narrative of the era----but he wasn't in the first string with MM&W, Peabody & Stearns, etc., as an innovator and form giver. No one considered him so then, and I suspect you'd have a hard time finding one of the serious critics who would say otherwise. (Incidentally, in his own time, although published in many of the current magazines, he didn't make many of the books. For example, Augusta Owen Patterson's 'American Country Houses of Today' features work by 63 of the best architects of their time. He's not there.

I'm happy to let CPH have his due for his accomplishments, but it's ludicrous to try to elevate him to the pantheon.

As for the Sam Walton of his day, however much he may have impacted America for better or worse, undeniably, that did not make him a personally admirable guy. And he wasn't.

l'il gay boy said...

Godspeed to you & Otto, Zach...

Now kids, don't shoot the messenger, but...

I Have always had mixed feelings about Winfield Hall; Never liked the lopsided feel of it, from the west facade's offset fenestration to the uninspired gardens to the garden room's bustle-like appearance -- it just never gelled for me.

But (and it's a big "but"), I have always loved the idea of it -- from its questionable beginning apres fire to the lore that surrounds it to the undeniably unique interiors -- it is an American icon of the best & worst the period could offer.

But it does embody the spirit of the insult, "...the twilight of a less-than-mediocre career."

The Down East Dilettante said...

What LGB said.

And contrary to what our other friend says, my assessments of Gilbert's work are not a witch hunt, they are even handed, and based on aesthetic judgment and training, and are subjectively motivated without any ax to grind about Gilbert. He has his place, there are things to admire, , but not in the pantheon. Gilbert's work was not considered the past in his lifetime, and it isn't now. That doesn't mean it's all ugly and uninteresting---far from it---but it doesn't make him Stanford White or Thomas Hastings either.

And for the record I loved the piece about the Fletcher house.

The Ancient said...

What Dilettante said (10:56 and 2:09).

l'il gay boy said...

Perhaps it would be useful to think of CPH much in the way of Marion Mahoney & Walter Burley -- FLLW's assistants prior to his running off with a client's wife.

Largely responsible for Canberra, their work wasn't shoddy, but rather imitative -- especially Marion's renderings.

But there was always something off about the scale & composition when held up for comparison against a comparable FLLW work.

archibuff said...

Who is comparing anyone to Stanford White? Although I would prefer dying at 92 quietly in my home in Pelham Manor than having my brains blown out in my own design and forever ruining my reputation. However, I will let others say a few words...

From 1996 Re: 13 and 15 Stone Street: The new facades designed by CPH Gilbert in the historically evocative Neo-Dutch Renaissance style, are EXCELLENT and RARE examples of American eclecticism modeled on Dutch sources. The stylistic choice was appropriate given the Dutch colonial history of lower Manhattan. His designs on Stone Street, in their stylistic choice, SUCCESSFUL compositions and attention to detail are typical of Gilberts OUTSTANDING works, characterized by SCHOLARLY, REFINED and in many cases the eminently picturesque.

From 1981 Re: Felix Warburg mansion: It is among the very finest mansions left to us, an EXCEPTIONALLY HANDSOME example of the chateausque Francois I style. Designed by CPH Gilbert who at the turn of the century was one of New York's BEST KNOWN and MOST PRESTIGIOUS ARCHITECTS. The Francois style, intoduced by Richard Morris Hunt in the early 1880's, was taken up by a number of 19th century architects. Gilbert's version of the style was NOT merely imitative of Hunt's, Gilbert preferring gothic detail and bolder scaling. The Warburg mansion is a more sparingly ornamented design, although the elaborate architectural detail is MASTERFULLY contrasted with large smooth expanses of limestone. The mansion is one of the FINEST representatives of its style and its era, a testimony to the architectural elegance of an entire era as well as to the TALENTS of an individual architect, CPH Gilbert.

From 1975 RE: Delamars mansion: One of the most attractive features of the design is Gilberts subtle use of asymmetry within symmetry. Unique. The mansion has a special character, historical and aesthetic interest and is one of the most imposing residences in the French Beaux-Arts style in the city and that it is the work of a notable architect in the great scale and elegance of the limestone mansions that once lined Fifth Avenue.

From 1991 Re: Kleeberg residence: Is an elegant French Renaissance style townhouse. its STRIKING DESIGN and appearance give a grand presence to the gateway to Riverside Drive. Gilbert designed many townhouses in the style however, Gilbert's use of the style is DISTINCTIVE in that it uses classical massing and reduced scale, appropriate to an urban setting. It is interesting to note that developer Clarence True's 1899 prospectus for homes he was building on Riverside Drive, included the Kleeberg house as an example of the quality of homes constructed there. Its inclusion is VERY UNUSUAL in the prospectus because it is the only structure not designed by True's office, suggesting Gilbert's peers ADMIRED his work for the Kleeberg's.

Re: the Flethcher house: The project brought considerable attention to Gilbert's ability to design IMAGINATIVE and FANCIFUL compositions, his COMMAND of historical details and provision of generous and elegant interiors. The Francois style was GILBERT's HALLMARK. Gilbert's stylistically DIVERSIFIED DESIGNS, united by Beaux-Arts approach to composition and planning and a concern for finely worked stone are well represented in NY's historic districts.

Yea and the poor guy only had a multiple page spread in the October 1899 edition of Architectural Record "Designs of CPH Gilbert, page 165-173.

Oh almost forgot, those ramblings, whittled down from many I uncovered, are the deranged rants of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, you know that talentless, uneducated, unprofessional group over the course of the last 35 years justifying Gilberts quality of work in NYC. Really? Such praise for a second rate architect? But, hey I guess they are all wrong about him just as I am.

Anonymous said...

touché Archibuff...

The Ancient said...

Archibuff --

Isn't all this florid language, in fact, written by a minor civil servant in the Research Department of the Landmarks Commission? And wasn't it written after the designation decision was made, in order to explain and justify the decision?

So this isn't dispassionate analysis at all, is it? And it wasn't written by any sort of scholar, was it?

P.S. And who's on that commission?

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is composed of 11 Commissioners, and by law must include a minimum of three architects, a historian, a city planner or landscape architect, a realtor and at least one resident of each of the five boroughs. The Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor, who also designates the Chair and Vice Chair. Ten of the Commissioners receive no salary.

archibuff said... are we now discrediting the long standing research of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission too??? Hell let's just abolish the group, send them all home for not having an ounce of credibility and let the developers have their way.

The florid language is part of their designation process, the reports were presented at public hearings soliciting comments, feedback, objections, etc., although they do cite numerous footnotes from your beloved source the NY Times, various books, press releases, scholarly works, but unfortunately no architectural blogs were referenced. Shucks.

So let's not stop there, let's just toss aside everything written about everything and rely solely on the blog posts here on OLI to get our information from.

I will again note, whether it be the NY LPC or a blog or a book or a newspaper clipping, I have never, let me repeat, NEVER seen the phrase "second rate architect" linked with the name CPH Gilbert, except here of course. I therefore will stick with the numerous sources out there and concur with them in their opinions, as todays NY Social Diary post so eloquently summed up.

The goal is to level the playing field on OLI, noting that there are countless other opinions as to the quality of an architect's body of work, not just the one or two opinions that get posted here over and over again. I read fair and unbiased critiques all the time elsewhere, but note it is completely missing here on OLI.

Anonymous said...

"THANK YOU New York Social Diary. Obviously a very nice piece written by an unbiased writer...That is called objective criticism."

Yes to "a very nice piece"! But no, Forman did not write "objective criticism" today. He conducted a house tour. A wonderful house tour, I love his tours. Here's this, there's that, oh look over there, wow, ah and here I am standing on the stairs.

But formal criticism is something else altogether, a discipline one learns in the upper reaches of scholarship, while Forman's review was the equivalent of a blog post. No comparison.

The mistake is to take formal critical evaluations personally. Yes, they can be mistaken as voices of superiority, judgemental, yes to seeming dismissive and haughty, biased, harsh, but that's the format for formal criticism -- take a position, support it, provide historical examples, offer comparisons within the framework of the era, make a case and support it.

DED is a scholar, he and his colleagues are used to the formal prototype of comparing this to that, with this being better than that because of a b c and d.

If the "goal is to level the playing field on OLI," then there will be disappointment. Subjects and fields of scholarship and research are not level.


archibuff said...

Flo points well taken.

But...and you know there was going to be a "but", I have not come across anywhere, whether in books, articles, newsprint, published works or through the research done by a college intern for the Landmarks Commission, where architects and historians do contribute to a buildings evaluation and merits, any mention of CPH Gilbert being a second rate architect. It is not printed anywhere by anyone at any level of architectural criticism in any forum or venue, that is except only here on OLI.

Because one person says it is so, no matter their background, doesnt necessarily make it so. I want more credible concurrence with that statement and there is none out there. I cant find it. I dont find any formal criticism out there to support that rather blunt assessment.

That's my only argument. Why does one contemporary voice have more weight than over a century of historical documents, a multitude of critiques and evaluations and written text on the matter? I respect the knowledge, background and education of a scholar, but that alone shouldnt gut a person's body of work just because one person says it is so.

I do think the CPH thread has exhausted itself.

The Ancient said...

I wouldn't want what I said above about the Landmarks Commission to be misconstrued.

They do The Lord's Work -- every damn day -- for very little money, and against all odds.

So, God Bless -- more or less.

(It's just that I don't mistake what the staff writes to justify this or that decision as anything more than it is. Which is not bupkis -- but not quite Scripture either.)

P.S. Flo -- Have I mentioned recently how wonderful you are?

P.P.S. archibuff -- An elegant closure.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Re Flo: What Ancient said.

Anonymous said...

"The intellectually gifted are like sheep and one capable man follows another. Have you noticed how often quasi­scholars quote one another? If one fashionable person comes up with a stunned notion, it is not long until many smart people are sucking at the delusion and are equally dazed or senseless."

Anonymous said...

"Why does one contemporary voice have more weight than over a century of historical documents, a multitude of critiques and evaluations and written text on the matter?"

It doesn't. If one contemporary architectural historian says CPHG is 2nd rate, then the sum is still only one. Rejoice; that's a level field with one anthill.

I'm a decorator, I don't get Bunny Williams, I don't like her work, her rooms are a cacophonous mess, but my eye is handicapped by years of fine arts training and art history so my eye [MY eye] is hungry and demanding and I think that same impulse drives [informs?] some, but not many, other critics as well.


Anonymous said...

"P.S. Flo -- Have I mentioned recently how wonderful you are?"

What a lovely thing to say.


Wait. Is anyone else paranoid at the robot proofing? Does Zach intentionally increase impossibility from behind scenes for those who've become a tiresome yakking bore? Here goes...

NY arch said...

A few days late to the discussion but if nothing else it has brought a long overlooked architect and his designs to the forefront of late. While the name today is not as recognizable as it was a hundred years ago I submit that the quality of his city commissions far surpasses his country home commissions and I heartily agree with the Landmark Commissions rulings on those remaining structures. Conversely I will contradict myself and express a wild fascination with Pembroke, another lost LI mansion.