Saturday, January 1, 2011
Not really a House (1 of 3)
In 1890, a millionaire pioneer of the Millbrook Colony named Henry J. Davison, dropped dead boarding a steamship in Liverpool, England. His eldest son, Harry, inherited not only his father's Millbrook estate, but also the funds necessary to indulge in our community's biggest boondoggle to date - to wit, the construction of a 200-room luxury hotel in the middle of nowhere. "If an English country home could entertain several hundred guests on a weekend," Harry explained to the Poughkeepsie Journal, "then a replica could be made for American enjoyment." It's doubtful Harry Davison ever did a business plan, or he would have realized so big and expensive an investment would never yield a decent return. Indeed it didn't. The Halcyon Hall, designed by James E. Ware, was a nothing-but-the-best construction project brimful of plush, gilt, mahogany, potted palms and "art." It opened in September of 1893 with what the New York Times called "a brilliant ball," and closed in 1903, after bankrupting its owner. The building stood empty - and lightly vandalized - until 1907, when Miss May Bennett bought it and moved her school for young ladies here from Dobbs Ferry. Until the 1950s, Bennett College was essentially a finishing school for upper crust women. An attempt in the 1970s to broaden the curriculum failed, and the college closed. The campus has since been developed into a condominium complex, but the best building on the site - namely the Halcyon Hall - has eluded preservation or redevelopment. Everybody in town feels badly about it, but nobody can figure out what to do. And it looks like it's too late now.
Image 1 - Here's what it used to look like.
Image 2 - Here's what it is today
Image 3 - It's becoming slightly Dali-esque.
Image 4 - The other side of the building, as it was
Image 5 - The other side, today.