For us, it's absolutely true that your setting can inspire you.. Our home in the Hudson Valley has been the inspiration for much of Home Ec, because we've learned that you can't live in an old house and not have some of it's history rub off on you..
The cottage was built by Myron Teller for Caroline Speare Rohland, and it's a fine example of a Myron Teller stone house. He was an architect in the late 1800's and early 1900's, building his reputation on the restoration of 16th and 17th century stone houses in Ulster County, and building second homes for residents of NYC. After historical study of stone houses, he was charged with restoring the Bevier House, and also designed new woodwork and created restoration hardware using the same style, tools and materials as houses built in the 1700's.
“From what we can gather, our home was built around 1910-1915, as it was featured in the Architectural Digest of the day (the Architectural Record), under the section, "The Charm of the Small House" in 1918.
We found it one spontaneous trip upstate - it had been for sale for years, abandoned for over a decade, and left to the elements and forgotten about. It was derelict and overgrown, squirrels were living in the oven, windows were broken, leaves were blowing through the kitchen, and wisteria had grown through the soffits into the living room (let's be real - that was the only reason we were able to afford it). BUT, it was the perfect project, and we knew we could breathe life back into it. It was our dream home, and based on its character, history, and the fact that it was in Woodstock, just screamed "BE ARTISTIC HERE!"
It was nationally published in the Architectural Record of 1918 under "The Charm of the Country House." Kind of amazing to see a picture of the original owner's husband sitting on the covered porch (now dining room) - the beginning of its history. I dug a little further and found that Caroline Speare was a bohemian founding member of the Woodstock Arts Colony, and her home became a communal home of artists before and during the depression. We've been fortunate enough to find a few of her original paintings, and so happy they're back on the walls in the house where they were painted.
She abhorred slavery, and many of her paintings depicted black Americans strong and proud, and our favorite is titled "Escape." It's of a slave escaping to freedom - and now hangs in our sitting room. She has paintings in the permanent collection at the Whitney, had many mural commissions during the WPA, and her husbands paintings are in the Smithsonian. Caroline had the house until she passed away in the 60's.
The 60's and 70' - Peace, Love, and Rock-n-Roll!
When we first bought the house, we were talking to one of the locals and when we said where we lived, he replied, "Oh, you bought the old Robertson Estate!" our response? "Who were the Robertsons?" He chuckled and said, "You bought Robbie Robertsons house" and we replied again, "Who is Robbie Robertson?"
We were soon schooled on just how iconic our house was back in the day, as by then it had become part of the Albert Grossman Estate - THE music manager during that era. He represented Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Todd Rundgren, Gordon Lightfoot, The Band, Janis Joplin, and many others. He also built Bearsville Studios next door - where everyone who was anyone recorded in the early 70's. Our elderly neighbor Ruth remembers seeing the Rolling Stones walking down our driveway - the house was a crash pad for anyone recording in the studios, and we've heard from numerous locals, things like, "Oh, the parties we used to go to at that house - I don't remember much of them, but they were amazing"...and... "The MUSIC that came from that house! Oh, the MUSIC!"
It eventually became the full time home of Robbie Robertson from the Band, and we were told the piano in the living room was the center point for some wonderful parties in the 70's. We have pictures from Rolling Stone when the Band was here, and even one of Robbie in front of the fireplace in the sitting room. Needless to say, it's been fun uncovering the history.
The 90's - Hollywood to disrepair...
After Albert died, Sally Grossman sold the house to one of his lawyers, who was here with his wife for a time. He then lent the house to his Goddaughter, Liv Tyler, as she had memories here due to her association with Todd Rundgren. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us), that owner let the house fall into disrepair, put it for sale, and basically abandoned it for years.
That's how we found it - abandoned. Squirrels living in the stove, windows broken, the pool a broken and murky swamp, vines growing through the soffits, patios and pathways hidden under years of wisteria overgrowth, and we had the joy of uncovering it all. Shortly after we bought it, we got a call from the Woodstock Historical Society, "Did you buy Caroline Speare's stone house?" 'Yes, why?' "Someone made a replica of it at one time, and donated it to us - it's in a back shed, do you want it?" 'Wait, what? Of course! How big is it?' "Big enough you'll need some help!" 'Okay, I'll be right there!'
It's taken years to bring it back to life, but we've enjoyed every single minute of it, and in our opinion, it's the most beautiful cottage on the planet.
What a gift this house has been - a beautiful project that's both inspiring and comforting, and now the base and inspiration for all things Home Ec!