WLIW Arts Beat


Greenwich Historical Society

The town of Greenwich Connecticut has something new to celebrate! An art colony that gave rise to the American Impressionist school has been preserved and is part of a new museum complex.

AIRED: January 03, 2019 | 0:05:48

>> At 377 years old,

Greenwich is

one of the oldest communities

in the tri-state area.

It has something new

to celebrate.

[ Applause ]

The campus of the Greenwich

Historical Society

has just opened,

featuring the historic site

of the beginning

of American Impressionist art.

Debra Mecky is

executive director.

>> Bocelli House is a National

Historic Landmark.

It's opened as a museum,

but what's really unique

about it is,

it does not only showcase

its old 18th-century history

but also an era when it became

a boarding house

and became the seat

of the Cos Cob Art Colony.

The Cos Cob Art Colony

is the first art colony

in Connecticut.

It was founded 10 years

before there ever was

an art colony in Old Lyme.

So we call this the cradle

of American Impressionism.

The train comes to Greenwich

in 1848 and transforms

this little sleepy,

rural town into a commuter town

and resort for New Yorkers.

It also was what brought

the artists here to Cos Cob.

It was a 45-minute express ride

from Grand Central Station.

The artists could walk 3 minutes

to the Holley House, where they

could board in the community

and set up their easels

en plein air and paint some

of the beautiful landscapes,

colonial architecture

and coastal area.

>> Today, we're also sharing

our joy and excitement

at completing

both the reimagined campus

and the Reimagine the Campus

Capital Campaign.

>> The reimagining

of the Greenwich

Historical Society campus

is the result of planning

that started about 6 years ago,

and what made this all possible

was that anonymous donors

stepped in

and said that they would match,

dollar for dollar, every dollar

that was raised by the campaign

up to the goal of $13.5 million,

and so the anonymous donor

has matched $6,750,000,

and the campaign committee,

of which I am chair,

raised the other $6,750,000.

The construction

was not supposed to start

until a very substantial portion

of the money had been raised.

I urged, and the board agreed

to let the construction

start a year earlier

while we were raising the money,

and in fact, the project

has been completed approximately

a year ahead of schedule

and slightly under budget.

>> One of the great ladies

of Greenwich, Claire Vanderbilt,

without her, we wouldn't be here

because I-95

was originally to go right

through the Bush-Holley House.

Claire Vanderbilt was the force

behind the Greenwich

Historical Society.

She was a very good friend

of John Davis Lodge,

who happened

to be governor of Connecticut.

The official title of I-95

is the John Davis Lodge Highway,

and I-95 has a gentle curve

so that it goes around this site

instead of right over it.


>> The building in which

we are now sitting,

Toby's Tavern,

in the 1850s and '60s

became the Railroad Hotel,

and then David Scott Parker,

the architect

for the reimagined campus,

he found a Childe Hassam

painting of Toby's Tavern

with an organ grinder

and a monkey outside and the

artists sitting around drinking,

and he found paintings

and photographs of the exterior

of what had been

the Railroad Hotel,

and based on that,

we realized that this building

could be stripped down,

restored and re-created.

>> With the acquisition

of Toby's Tavern,

the Greenwich Historical Society

now has an impressive row

of two 18th-century buildings

and one from the early

19th century.

>> On a street that is

an historic street

with all of the properties

on it historic buildings.

>> The jury is out.

This new Historical Society

is an absolute home run.

>> This is a dream come true.

On the major new building

here on the ground level,

you have the entrance atrium.

On your left are the archive

and the reading room.

Directly above them

are two art galleries.

The first one has an exhibition

about the history of Greenwich.

The second is called

the permanent gallery,

and in that is a major part

of the Impressionist

painting collection,

paintings that were painted

here, paintings

of the Bush-Holley house,

paintings of the Holley family,

paintings that's done in the

interior and on the exterior.

>> Please feel free to come

on in and enjoy the galleries

on the second floor, the library

and archives on the first floor,

the museum store, the cafe,

and the wonderful gardens.

>> We believe that this facility

now is perhaps the finest house

museum facility not only

of the town of Greenwich

but of the state of Connecticut

and even the nation.


>> In today's digital age,

computer screens and devices

are reducing our interaction

with physical surroundings

and fast becoming the landscape

we're most accustomed to,

often at the expense

of how we view ourselves

and our place in history.

Through its newly

reimagined campus,

the Greenwich Historical Society

is making sure its illustrious

past as home of

one of America's earliest

Impressionist art colonies

is preserved for generations

of Americans to come.


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