2012-10-17 / Community

Winter Hill Opening Highlights Renovation

Tim Greco

It was a beautiful autumn day Sunday at the Winter Hill offices, located on 32 acres of pristine rolling lawns on Snake Hill Road in Garrison, as philanthropist Chris Buck hosted an open house and welcomed the community to his newly refurbished offices for area non-profit groups.

About a hundred guests joined the lawn party, along with a who’s who of local politicians, including former Governor George Pataki, County Legislator Vinny Tamagna and candidate Barbara Scuccimarra, as a quartet of musicians with string instruments played softly in the background.

Many life-long residents know Winter Hill as the former Nazareth House Life Center, a home for unwed mothers.

On the exterior, the beautiful mansion was wonderfully restored to its former glory. Meanwhile, the interior was transformed and repurposed into some very stylish office space by Buck, along with BKSK Architects, Badey and Watson engineering, builders Heitman and Heitman and Deborah Buck. Many residents were relieved to find that the magnificent stained glass windows were retained, along with the beautiful fireplaces, among other points.

It took 18 months to rehab the former mansion back into one of Garrison’s crown jewels. It now serves as offices for The Garden Conservancy, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust and the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Guests were invited to tour the indoor space at their leisure.

The style of the updated offices is in keeping with the traditional architecture with a few modern flairs to boot, including a great chandelier that resembled large icicles and a wonderful large grand staircase, with a colorful splash of red modern red wallpaper that gives the entryway some panache.

Some time ago, there was some negative talk among immediate neighbors an Avery Road, when Buck revealed his plans to put a large parking area to the left of the property and some were concerned. One neighbor recently has had a change of heart and said, “It is quite beautiful, looking at it now.”

The grounds were re-designed by Pouder Landscape Architecture and executed by Rita Jo Riele. Some improvements to the grounds included sacrificing some trees that were blocking the street view from Snake Hill Road. The step ultimately revealed the full beauty of this now quite impressive re-do.

The former grand residence, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Tudor revival mansion, for many years was hidden from view except during the winter months. Originally, the house was built for the Reverend Walter Thompson and his wife, Jessie Fuller Thompson. Thompson was ordained as an Episcopal priest who became rector of St. Philip’s Church at Garrison in 1883, which saw many prominent parishioners, including the Osborn family and Hamilton Fish, in attendance.

Then in 1979, Father Eugene Keane, with Sister Marita Paul and Sister Marie Virgil, of the Franciscan Sisters of Peace, established the Nazareth Life Center to provide an alternative to abortion for unwed mothers. Approved by the State of New York in 1980, the Nazareth Life Center housed and provided education, recreation, and medical and adoption services for as many as 10 young women at a time.

The sisters who served at the Nazareth house are credited with helping more than 500 mothers and their children; all were born at the Butterfield Hospital and adopted through the Nazareth Life Center during its 28 years in operation.

Today, the public is always to welcome walk the grounds and there is even a welcoming picnic table for any and all to use.

And remember when the snow hits; get your sleds and tubes ready. They don’t call it Winter Hill for nothing. 

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