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!
I never knew about this Glenn. Fantastic, thanks . I’m definately taking this trip……
It is a great day trip!
Neither did I!!!! This is a must see!
Carl – After you go let me know what you think!
Great post Glenn!
Thank you Melinda!
Thank you for this special post. Your photos and writing, plus the video you included, have me ready for a visit to this important home and design lab/studio. I am eager to learn more about Russell Wright’s industrial design work, especially after having recently seen the exhibition on Wright’s more showman-like colleague, Norman Bel Geddes, at the Museum of the City of New York. It is interesting that they shared a common passion for set design. I noticed that the video emphasized Wright’s focus on set design in relationship to his re-working, refinement and “framing” of the landscape setting for his home.
I am glad that you looked at the video – it is fantastic! It is wonderful experience to visit Manitoga – I hope you find it inspiring.
Thanks for sharing. I grew up with his dinnerware and still use it ti this day. After reading your post, I have to visit his home. What an outstanding site for a home.
I am so glad to know about this–just a hop, skip and a jump away. I will definitely plan a visit. Thanks for the great post!
Road trip is definitely in order. Thank you for posting. I never knew this existed!!!!
I have a large collection of American Modern Russel Wright Dinnerware that is much loved and appreciated. Many of the pieces belonged to my grandmother and make holidays even more special. I think that the RW Design Center has an annual fundraiser which, to me, sounds like a very good reason to get out of town.
Thank you for the informative post, photos and video!
Among other random pieces collected over the year — I have a set of the plates shown here, with that teal blue glaze, garage sale, $3. I was married in Garrison 20 years ago, beautiful area. I think I am destined to take this trip. Thanks!
Please do all visit Manitoga this year, beginning May 2. Every season offers new discoveries. Thank you Glenn for this terrific post and for helping spread the word of this most inspiring of places where the poetry of daily living continues to be celebrated through tours, programs and events.
Allison Cross, Executive Director