Monday, January 28, 2008

Richard Morris Hunt, Part 2


Grey Towers through the mist as seen from the side
This past fall I visited Milford, PA to see some fall leaves, the national forests there and also visit R.M.H.'s 'Grey Towers'. Of course it was rainy and misty my entire trip nearly, but that did add to the charm somewhat -so ignore the greyness of the photos! Milford is a charming little town surrounded by forests and amazing waterfalls. However, it wasn't always this way.

James Pinchot built 'Grey Towers' as his families summer estate to escape from NYC to his hometown of Milford. He had a flourishing wallpaper business and was friends with many influential designers of the day such as R.M.H. and Frederick Law Olmstead. He actually was on the committee to select the base for the statue of liberty and lobbied for his friend, R.M.H. to get the commission which of course he did.

Former Yale school of forestry, now cool design shops!

Pinchot was an early proponent of the American Forestry Association and endowed the Yale School of Forestry in Milford. The purpose of this association was to encourage reforestation of 'denuded' lands -which Milford and much of industrial America were! The school was housed in a beautiful building that now contains a few interesting antique and design shops seen above ( check them out if you visit). The building is in amazing condition and really fascinating!

Grey Towers from below
James's son, Gifford Pinchot (1865 - 1946) carried on his father's passion and was the first National forestor (he worked on the forests in Asheville, NC near the Biltmore estate at the request of the Vanderbilts from Frederick Law Olmstead's recommendation - I'll be talking about Biltmore later this week). He was one of the environmentalists at the turn of the 20th cenutry; So you might say he was an early 'GREEN' hippy!
one of the towers -check out the detailing in the lower right hand corner
Grey Towers was designed by R.M.H. for James Pinchot from 1884-1886 after his retiring from the wallpaper business. All the stone was mined from the site, so you can imagine how 'denuded' it became. Later on, his son Gifford would work on restoring the forests we see there now.
view from the house
The L shaped house is anchored by 3 large towers that give it its name and originally cost $19,000 to build ( furnishings were an additional $24,000 -hey, there were 43 rooms!).
on the front porch - cute shutters, love the moons and blue color!

Chinoiserie styled cabinet inside the grand hall that I LOVED!

Later, after Gifford was married, Grey Towers became his summer residence and a large redecoration took place under the care of his wife which is how the house currently exists. She modernized the first floor plan ( and tackified the interiors ) by combining 4 small public rooms into 2 much larger, comfortable rooms. You can see them here...the wall treatment in question ( you know what I mean ) is's SUPPOSED to look like that. It really is quite magnificent if a little tacky by todays standards.

Two photos from the living room
The exterior 'patio' was also redone with beautiful flagstones with an unusual 'pool' as a dining table as there was no indoor dining room in this summer residence. You simply put food in wood baskets and shoved them on the water between guests -really clever and fun. Guests ate on the edges of the pool shown here. These are obviously not the original chairs. A large swimming pool was added just above this.
Dining pool in foreground, swimming pool in background

Many pavilions for numerous uses exist on the site too - and the views are spectacular!
the gatehouse through fall foliage

In 1963 the home was donated to the Forest Service by his son, Gifford II and they now use it for Forest Service seminars and tours ( of course! ). The first floor is done as it was in the 1920s, but the upper floors are set up for use as a conference center and classrooms. JFK actually came here to christen the building in 1963, shortly before his death!
JFK was here!

As a side note, while there I stayed at a really charming and luxurious B&B style hotel called 'Hotel Fauchere'. (
Hotel Fauchere in the evening!

R.M.H. himself ate here at the hotel ( as did I, yummy!!). The rooms are all done up with the best of everything for a VERY comfortable stay. I plan on going again this year! Go visit Grey Towers and the surrounding forests and stay at the Hotel Fauchere! It makes for a great long weekend! About one block from the hotel is a GREAT little diner.....and I'm a diner expert!
cute small town diner - yummy food! RMH did not eat here!

You can find more information about Grey Tower's at it's official website at:


Scott Fazzini said...

What a beautiful home! The views are stunning.... I wish that the views from my vacation home (aka 10th Street N.W.) were as pleasant...

Be the change..... said...

Ya, even through the mist and rain it was still magical!

Hog Hunting Texas said...

Awesome snaps and what a place i am sure you are having a great time there.