By Alison Rooney
When industrial designer Russel Wright sited and designed his home, he didn’t stop at just the architecture of the main house and studio- ‚ the surrounding 75-plus acres were equally important to him. Melding and unifying life indoors – inside the structure and outside of the many floor to ceiling windows -was crucial to the philosophy, not so common when he conceived of it, of eliminating the barriers between interior and exterior living.
Wright, designer that he was, created the many trails that weave throughout the wooded property. The trails became wilder and less tamed the further out into the upper reaches of the landscape. But the paths from the quarry pond, near to what is now the pubic parking area, encircle the perimeter of the pond, and provide (relatively) easy access to the home, as well as some of the most spectacular views on the property. New arrivals can, just steps from the parking area, gaze at the home, built into the craggy edges of the quarry, and a waterfall, designed by Wright along with everything else, with boulders removed from other areas of the property, strategically placed to divert a stream. In summers, such as this one, the waterfall often dries to a trickle or less, the relentless heat taking a toll.
Wright, who spent a lot of time working in a solitary fashion, was also a man who enjoyed entertaining, and the company of friends, many of whom he enlisted to help him work in his woodland garden. As a reward, at the end of hard day’s work, food and drink awaited the guests. As Wright envisioned it, guests could easily relax and stroll along the shortest trail, around the pond, on what he dubbed a “cocktail walk.”
Today Manitoga continues this convivial tradition, hosting a number of “cocktail walk” events each season, as a benefit to those who choose to join as members. When weather permits, as it did at the cocktail walk held at the end of July, the huge sliding door window panels are opened up, and those arriving can enter the living room and look down at the kitchen and dining room below. This incarnation of the cocktail walks began about a decade ago.
July’s event took place on a day when the heat dropped (a notch) below the sweltering levels of the previous week, and the tiger lilies were still hanging on to their bloom in the crevices of the rocks lining the quarry path. Guests were treated to an array of fruit salads, other cocktail food accompaniments and the libation of their choice. Manitoga’s Program Director, Vivian Linares, and Assistant Director of Operations, Lori Moss, both Philipstown residents were hosts for the evening along with Museum Education and Camp Director Linda Richards. Linares and Moss have been
mainstays at Manitoga, Linares having worked there over 10 years, and Moss for over five. The cocktail walks are a favorite of Moss’ “they’re a great way for us to introduce people to Manitoga in an informal setting The best way to experience Russel Wright’s philosophy of living in harmony with nature is to visit Dragon Rock [Wrigh’s home, named so by his daughter, Ann, when she was a child, after what looked to be just that across the quarry pond]. Cocktail Walk guests can meander along the tour path, up around the quarry pond, the house and studio, and then enjoy some light refreshments. It’s great that we can continue Russel Wright’s tradition of inviting friends and colleagues over.”
Most of the cocktail walks are designed to end with the setting sun casting its rays across the quarry pond waters. July’s was a late afternoon affair. The next cocktail walk takes place on Oct. 22, a little earlier in the day, to coincide with the shorter daylight hours.
Coming up next for Manitoga, on Saturday, Sept. 17, is Volunteer Landscape Day, one of several each year in which the public is invited to “Roll up your sleeves and meet other arborists, horticulturists, garden designers and landscape enthusiasts. Volunteers of all skill levels are welcomed.” Landscape day takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. rain or shine, and lunch is served. To register for this event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, Sept. 18 Manitoga will take participate in the Hudson River Ramble, offering a hike to Lost Pond, which is located near the top of the property and offers many views along the way. The Ramble is a regional program linking many outdoors events throughout the Hudson Valley over a two-day period. For more information visit hudsonrivervalley.com/ramble. A $10 admission helps support trail maintenance reservations required. Register online at brownpapertickets.com. For more information on Manitoga/The Russel Wright Design Center, and membership, visit http://www.visitmanitoga.org/ or phone 845-424-3812.
Photos by A. Rooney