The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild will host its sixth annual Woodstock House Tour on Saturday, June 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an optional benefit cocktail party following from 5 to 7 p.m. The tour will bring visitors into seven unique houses that represent the range of the Woodstock character, from century-old homes of historic significance to 21st-century structures containing an abundance of “green” features.
“We make sure it’s a combination of historic homes built by local artists long ago with other homes that are more contemporary,” says Nathalie Andrews, operations manager for the Guild. Each of the homes on the tour will have a knowledgeable docent available along with the property-owners to answer questions.
“I think a lot of people just love seeing other people’s homes,” says Andrews. “And in Woodstock, there are some really beautiful homes that you would probably never know are there, otherwise, because they’re on these long lanes, kind of tucked away. Woodstock is fairly built-up now, and real estate comes at a premium here, so people are pleasantly surprised when they see that these homes have quite a lot of land, with beautiful views of the Catskills.”
The newest house on the tour is eclectic, designed to be ultramodern with Arts and Crafts details. The 5,000-plus-square-foot house has been made to be as “green” and maintenance-free as possible, with a stone-and-cement-fiber-siding exterior and metal roofing. The space includes a weaving studio, wine cellar, screening room, office, woodworking shop and heated garage. It also features a geothermal heating and cooling system, roof rainwater collection system for the NOAA-satellite controlled irrigation system, permeable paving, energy-recovery ventilators, steam humidifiers, a southeast orientation for solar heating and large roof overhangs for solar mitigation in the summer.
At the other end of the spectrum are the historic houses. “Since Woodstock does have such a history of artists having lived in these very special houses they built,” Andrews says, “it’s interesting for people to see what the residents now have done with them. Some of them have completely embraced the history and kept the house the same, and others have added to it or changed it in some way.”
The seven houses on the tour are not far apart from each other, making the tour “all very manageable to do in three to four hours,” says Andrews. Tourgoers are free to move at their own pace, staying for as little or as long as they’d like at each home.
White Pines, the 1902 home of Byrdcliffe Art Colony co-founders Ralph and Jane Whitehead, is on the tour every year. Built to harmonize with its landscape, the house is considered a quintessential example of the Arts and Crafts aesthetic that valued handmade and individually crafted decorative furniture and architecture in a direct rebuttal to industrialization. The streamlined interiors of White Pines consist of exclusively horizontal and vertical forms in its built-in furniture, staircase and dark wood surfaces. The house is normally open to the public just a few times a year, Andrews says, with one of them being the house tour.
For the first time, however, White Pines is hosting an art exhibition on its walls that tourgoers can take in. The lushly colored oil landscapes of longtime Woodstock painter Katharine L. McKenna will be on view after the tour as well, through July 27, to be followed by a new summer series of exhibitions at the house. Gallery hours at White Pines, located at 454 Upper Byrdcliffe Road in Woodstock, are Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 5 p.m.
And as a bonus of sorts, the new Hotel Dylan on Route 28 will welcome tour participants who’d like to come in and see what they’ve been up to in building the Woodstock-themed boutique hotel. It will not officially open to the public until that evening, but tourgoers can get a preview. The hotel is capitalizing on its location with the slogan of “Peace, Love and Stay” and Flower Power decoration, and will be offering tours of Woodstock in an old VW bus.
Proceeds from the tour and the cocktail reception will benefit the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, whose new executive director Jeremy Adams took the helm in January. He weathered the harsh winter just fine; but with life in the colony really only having started in early May, he says, he’s still getting a sense of how things operate. “As an organization, our focus right now is very much on maintaining our buildings – doing some needed repairs and renovations – because without those, we won’t have places to run the programming. We walk a fine line between rustic and run-down, and we need to make sure we stay on the right side of that line.”
In terms of programs, Adams says that he doesn’t plan to make any major changes this year, but rather look at everything that the organization does as a whole and determine how best to tie all of the things that it does together. “We’re looking at how we can create a greater synergy; to connect what we do down in the town with what happens up here and vice versa.” The goal is to “really realize the mission of the organization, which is to create this place of creative excellence, creative endeavor – a place with cross-pollination of ideas, where different individuals come together to meet and talk and discuss art. And it should be a site of experimentation, a place where people aren’t afraid to come here and fail gloriously; that’s how artists should operate and how they tend to operate.”
Adams says that he sees an interesting parallel in the way that the Byrdcliffe Art Colony was founded on the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, in direct opposition to the Industrial Revolution, and how people now seem to be reacting to the 21st-century technological revolution in a similar way, called back to the experience of making things by hand and having a greater appreciation for craftsmanship. “And it’s not just with artists, but within society,” he adds. “You see it even with the whole farm-to-table concept, or local organic farming. And look at Etsy, the craft website, and how that’s exploded. I think this is a great time for the colony to have a look at itself and say, ‘How do we expand on that?’”
Woodstock House Tour tickets may be purchased online at www.woodstockguild.org or in person at the Byrdcliffe shop on the day of the tour for $50 general admission, $40 for Byrdcliffe members. New members may join the Guild for $75, which includes a tour ticket along with a year’s membership. Tickets for the benefit cocktail reception post-tour cost $100; but as a special bonus that day only, says Andrews, new members can pay $100 for the cocktail party and receive a year’s membership and a tour ticket along with admittance to the cocktail party. The self-guided tour begins at the Byrdcliffe shop at 36 Tinker Street in Woodstock, where maps and programs are picked up on the day of the tour, regardless of how payment is made.
Woodstock House Tour, Saturday, June 28, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., $50/$40, benefit cocktail party, 5-7 p.m.,$100, Byrdcliffe Shop, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock; (845) 679-2079, www.woodstockguild.org.