BRIGADOON IS A BELOVED MUSICAL ABOUT AN IMAGINARY VILLAGE TIME HAS FORGOTTEN. Or so everyone assumes. In fact, Brigadoon is a real place, an artists' colony near the Hudson River where Alan Jay Lerner composed Brigadoon's lyrics and libretto. Miraculously, a fragment of that hamlet has survived completely intact. Less than an hour north of Manhattan, in a serene woodland setting, Crow House is the home and studio of Henry Varnum Poor (1887-1970), whom The New Yorker magazine, in 1931, lauded as one of America's finest painters. A ceramist, muralist, craftsman, architect and polemicist as well, Poor went on to co-found the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and today his pottery and paintings can be found in the collections of major American art museums. But in a story all too familiar, Poor's descendants were recently forced to sell the home and studio to a local businessman, potentially endangering its survival.
Both medieval and modernist in style, Crow House embodies the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, which sought to recapture the lost unities of living, working, and creating sundered by the industrial age. It was at Crow House that Poor developed his unique brand of handcrafted modernism, and it is where over decades he refined it in his designs for furniture and pottery and the homes of his neighbors. Crow House sits on a 6.5 acre parcel also featuring distinctive outbuildings, which the artist, along with Crow House proper, designed and constructed with his own hands. The Friends of Crow House, a group of artists, scholars, preservationists, and and present and former neighbors, wish to alert the public first to the house's survival, second to its worth, and third to its endangerment, in the hope that some sympathetic institution, individual, or group will soon step forward and help us purchase the property from its present owner, who has generously agreed not to alter or demolish Crow House, but only until the end of 2007. Failing that, the present owner will either resort to his original plan and build a large new house on the site of the present structure, or he will sell to whatever party can meet his price, with no restrictions on its right to demolish or disfigure it.
In the two years since Crow House was put on the market, feature articles and news articles about Crow House have appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg News, World of Interiors, The Rockland Journal News and other publications. Officers of the World Monuments Fund, the Museum of Modern Art, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Preservation, among many others, have visited the property and attested to its cultural importance and artistic worth. The Supervisor of the Town of Clarkstown, where Crow House is located, is on record as supporting its preservation. Most recently, the Preservation League of New York designated Crow House one of its Seven to Save for 2007. But this outpouring of moral support has not yet produced the means by which to save this irreplaceable treasure.
Because almost the entire contents of the house are intact, we believe that the highest, best use to which it could be put would be as a museum with a somewhat restrictive visitation policy. The property could at the same time serve as an artist's residence and retreat as well as a place for scholars and students to study the artistic movements it embodies. With not only its stones and mortar but its original purpose preserved, Crow House will be able to inspire and delight the public as it did the privileged circle of artists, writers, actors and musicians who once knew it intimately.
In addition to Lerner, that circle included the composer Kurt Weill and his wife, Lotte Lenya; Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Maxwell Anderson; actor and director John Houseman, a founder with Orson Welles of the Mercury Theater; actor Burgess Meredith; Poor's wife, the novelist and playwright Bessie Breuer; the cartoonists Bill Mauldin and Milton Caniff, and several others. They comprised truly an American counterpart of Bloomsbury, to which Poor himself had a personal connection.
Crow House was hand-built starting in 1920 in the style of a French farmhouse, to which he had been exposed during his World War I military service, but it also possesses many idiosyncratic features, including spiral staircases of masonry and wood, perhaps inspired by Poor's lifelong friend, sculptor Wharton Esherick, whose own studio, in Paoli, Pa., is now a museum. The Poor homestead also includes a mill house where Poor ground materials for his pottery-making, a pottery studio and kiln yard, a workshop and garage in half-timbered Swiss style, and another home and studio in modernist style.
Fortunately, none of the house's elements has been impaired in any way. This is true of the surrounding landscape as well, which is perhaps only a bit more overgrown than it was when Poor was alive. While wiring, roofing, and masonry require some attention, the Poor family showed great care in preserving its original condition, knowing that any modernizing would risk denaturing it. Their care extended to preserving in situ most of the ceramics, paintings, furniture and other moveable works present at the end of Poor's life. But if a plan for preserving Crow House itself, and the means to do so, are not forthcoming by the end of 2007, those contents, which remain the property of the Poor family, will be dispersed.
Aside from being of exceptional artistic merit in its own right, Crow House ushers the visitor into the world Poor made for himself and his family and puts on display the ideals informing it. Its mood has been as perfectly preserved as its artisanship. Won't you please help us keep this miraculous survivor alive? If you would like to join in this effort, please send a note to email@example.com today, or find us on FaceBook Click Here