While I do not think that we just experienced “the worst Winter ever!”, or the “longest Winter ever!” – I likely share this sentiment with others – ENOUGH ALREADY!
And while I deeply love the infinite possibilities of interiors, I am very ready to get outside, and more importantly get out-of-town!
There is a very special place only 50 miles from New York City – yet is worlds away – a rewarding destination at the home and studio of Russel Wright, one of the most influential and successful designers of the 20th century.
As with life itself, enjoying the journey is as important as the destination itself…
Many people are aware of the great American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but many less know of his very influential contemporary named Russell Wright.
Hardly just ‘the other Wright’, Russel Wright was a prolific industrial designer who had an enormous cultural impact through the success of his designs for the home. His simple, practical style was influential in persuading ordinary Americans to embrace ‘Modern’ ideas for the home.
His house, called ‘Dragon Rock’, was an intense client-architect collaboration between Russel Wright and architect David Leavitt to build a remarkably organic home. The house sits high on a rock outcropping integrated with the landscape, overlooking a quarry pond which is surrounded by extensive woodland gardens.
Set on a remarkable 75 acre property, visiting the house and studio is a wonderful experience unlike any other. Russel Wright rescued this cruelly damaged landscape, once the former location of stone quarries; he spent thirty years re-imagining and creating a theatrical landscape that looks entirely natural, a act of eco-reclamation.
Wright also had distinctive ideas for modern living. He utilized his home in Garrison as a highly personal incubator for his ideas. For others he envisioned a distinctly practical and modern way of life that brought ease and beauty to everyday life espoused in his ‘how-to’ book : ‘Guide to Easier Living‘, an eminently realistic strategy for Modern living.
Wright was the first designer to actually ‘sign’ his products. His ‘signature’ dinnerware, stamped “Russel Wright -American Modern”, became the most popular dinnerware of it’s day – selling more than 250,000,000 pieces between 1939-59. Ebay is a good place to find vintage pieces of American Modern.
Looks and sounds compelling?
Now for the journey…
Follow the Henry Hudson Parkway to the George Washington Bridge; take the Upper Level and stay in the Right lane.
Take Exit 1 for the Palisades Parkway North.
As highways go, the Palisades Parkway is quite beautiful: no commercial vehicles, almost no visible development, and lots and lots of trees!
Continue on the Palisades Parkway to signs for the Bear Mountain Bridge.
Follow the signs for the Bear Mountain Bridge, pay a modest toll before entering onto the bridge and then take your time crossing the bridge – the view looking north and south, up and down the Hudson River is spectacular!
At the far end of the bridge follow Route 9D North towards Garrison; a lovely two lane road that follows the river.
Manitoga is 2-1/2 miles North of the bridge on the right side. There is adequate parking, and a small visitors center where tours of the home and studio begin. Maps are also available for the extensive walking paths on the property.
Russel Wright’s home studio and woodland garden were designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. The property is open to the public, operated by the non-profit Russel Wright Design Center, with tours and hiking trails.
The Russel Wright Design Center created a wonderful VIDEO (narrated by Garrison Keillor) that gives a great background about the property and the history of this influential American designer.
For further information, check out the center’s website, and enjoy the trip!