Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Levy Economics Institute

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Institution Name: Bard College
Original/Historic Place Name: Blithewood manor house and Garden
Location on Campus: E or W of Cnty.103
Date(s) of Construction:
1899original construction Hoppin, Francis Downing, Andrew J.
ca. 1987renovation James Polshek & Partners
Designer: Francis Hoppin; Andrew J. Downing; James Polshek & Partners
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick, stucco
Roof: metal
 
Function:
1899-1951private residence (of Zabriskie family)
1951-1987residence hall
1987-present (2006)library
1987-present (2006)classrooms
1987-present (2006)academic department building (Levy Economics Institute; contains offices for scholars and staff, several lecture and meeting rooms)
 

Narrative:
The land on which the Levy Economic Institute now stands dates back to a vast track bought from local Native American tribes in 1660 by Colonel Peter Schuyler. The grounds began their metamorphosis from untamed woods into a carefully landscaped estate in the 1830s, when Robert Donaldson of North Carolina acquired the property and gave it the name Blithewood. He commissioned Andrew Jackson Downing, one of the foremost landscape artists of the day, to design the grounds. In 1853 Blithewood was purchased by John Bard of Hyde Park and renamed "Annandale". In 1860 he gave a corner of the estate for the founding of St. Stephen's College, which became Bard College in 1934. In 1899 Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie, a cattle breeder, numismatist, and antiquarian, purchased the estate and retained Francis Hoppin, an alumnus of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, to design a manor house and garden. Hoppin produced a manor house in an eclectic grand style, blending architectural and decorative elements from centuries of English mansion design with the latest turn-of-the-century technology. Captain Zabriskie's son donated the estate to Bard College in 1951. Finally, the College transferred Blithewood to The Levy Economics Institute in 1987.

A 1987 restoration of the building was directed by the architectural firm of James Polshek and Partners, noted for its restoration of Carnegie Hall. Marvin D. Schwartz of the Metropolitan Museum of Art supervised the furnishing of rooms in period style. The formal Italian garden was also restored. The renovated Blithewood now contains offices for scholars and staff, a library, and several lecture and meeting rooms. It is equipped with advanced computer and communications systems to provide extensive research resources.

The formal gardens are located west of the main house. The gardens are entered centrally from the west by sets of descending steps. Brick walls and a terra cotta balustrade enclose the garden, and there are paths which surround a small fountain. The western end of the garden has a classically styled free-standing pavilion with Tuscan columns with flanking trellises.
 

References:

Hudson River Historic District [including Bard College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1990.

Kline, Reamer. Education for the Common Good: A History of Bard College--the First 100 Years (1860--1960). Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Bard College, 1982.

 

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Last update: November 2006