History at Home
Westchester: the American Suburb Defined
at the Hudson River Museum
Yonkers, NY . September 28, 2005 - Westchester: The American Suburb explores the suburb from its dawning as a city bedroom community to its place today, in America , as an enormously popular geographic entity in its own right. Westchester County , the world-famous suburb that borders New York City ’s Manhattan and Bronx boroughs, is one of this country’s earliest suburbs. Organized by the Hudson River Museum , the exhibition, 3 years in planning, will open January 28 and run through May 28, 2006 .
More than half of all Americans live in suburbs as revealed in the 2000 U.S. Census. Films and books say the same. American Beauty, Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, The Swimmer and Poltergeist are modern stories that show the suburban town as an icon of the contemporary home environment. Westchester: The American Suburb defines the links between the family and their home’s architecture and landscape, and asks: What forces brought these homes to us? What will happen to the American Dream in the years ahead?
The exhibition’s photography, paintings, memorabilia and model kitchen give a detailed look at Westchester County’s social culture, and organizes the story of Westchester’s growth around themes relevant to all American suburbs — house styles; portraits families living in their houses, families as consumers shopping for their houses; the suburban house hubs — the kitchen, the porch and the patio; the first transportation grids that made Westchester a home destination for those working in the cities.
The Dick Van Dyke Show , which debuted in 1961, opens the exhibition. Based on the real experiences of comic Carl Reiner and his wife in New Rochelle , New York , the TV series highlights the golden age of the American suburb with its myths and stereotypes. An episode about the leads, Rob and Laura Petrie, who buy a Westchester house, includes a video, artifacts from the show, and a display of photos and ephemera from their New Rochelle neighborhood.
The migration from city to suburb did not, however, wait for TV sitcom reality. Westchester is similar to other communities near America’s cities where growth blossomed in the 1890s following newly laid railroad track, and then boomed in the 1940s as World War II soldiers returned home. But suburbanization pre-dates the Civil War, Washington Irving was an early migrant, building Sunnyside, his Tarrytown house, in the 1830s that was a prototype for later suburban homes. Westchester: An American Suburb also shows the history of Glenview , the Hudson River Yonkers home that is part of the museum’s cultural complex. Financier John Bond Trevor, who built the house in 1877, is another New York City resident whose wealth allowed him to find a more relaxed and spacious lifestyle than the city could offer.
Complimenting the Exhibition — A Book About Westchester
Concurrent with the exhibition, the Hudson River Museum will publish a 400-page illustrated book of essays — Westchester : The American Suburb. The publication of Westchester: The American Suburb was made possible by a grant from The New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
The book, produced and distributed by Fordham University Press, was edited by Roger Panetta, Professor of History at Marymount College of Fordham.University, with the Introduction provided by Kenneth Jackson, the Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences at Columbia University . Essayists include Bartholomew Bland, Hudson River Museum Curator of Exhibitions; Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism and American Studies, Yale University; Lisa Keller, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Journalism Program at Purchase College, SUNY; Kenneth Maddox, Art Historian for the Newington Cropsey Foundation; Priscilla Murolo, Professor of History, Sarah Lawrence College; Eileen Panetta, Associate Professor of English, Iona College; Fank E. Sanchis III, Vice President of the Municipal Art Society of New York; Stanley Soloman, film studies teacher at Iona College; Barbara Troetel, adjunct professor, Queens College, the City of New York; Gary Williams, Town Historian of New Castle, and Laura L. Vookles, Curator of Collections, Hudson River Museum.
Westchester Culturals Collaborate
From mid-January through May 2006, the history and art of the American suburb will be seen through several lenses in Westchester County . Four Westchester cultural organizations — the Hudson River Museum, the Katonah Museum of Art, the Westchester Arts Council and the Jacob Burns Film Center will show how and why suburbs were established; how contemporary artists address the American suburb; show films that reveal the subtext of suburban life; and, unfold issues brought about by suburban sprawl. The exhibitions include: The Hudson River Museum: Westchester: The American Suburb, 1875-2000 ( www.hrm.org ) the Katonah Museum of Art: I ♥ the ‘Burbs ( www.katonahmuseum.org ); the Westchester Arts Council: Suburban Sprawl (www.westarts.com), and, a film series at the Jacob Burns Film Center ( www.burnsfilmcenter.org ). Visitors will be offered a pass for free admission or a member discount at each locations.
Westchester: An American Suburb was co-curated by Hudson River Museum Curator of Exhibitions Bartholomew Bland; Curator of Collections Laura L. Vookles; and Roger Panetta, Professor of History at Marymount College of Fordham University and Adjunct Curator of History at the Hudson River Museum . This exhibition was made possible, in part, through the support of the Office of the Westchester County Executive, the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
The Hudson River Museum is located at 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers NY. minutes from the Saw Mill River Parkway, exit 9, north or southbound.
Information and directions: 914.963.4550 and www.hrm.org.
Museum admission: Adults $5; Seniors 62 & older and children 5-16 $3. Fridays 5 to 8 pm to galleries and the planetarium free