Greenwich Historical Society’s big reveal

Back in our garden-themed May issue, we shared how the Bush-Holley Historic Site in Cos Cob — the Strickland Road headquarters of the Greenwich Historical Society — was in the midst of a massive campaign to reinvent its campus.

Now, the site synonymous with the Cos Cob art colony and the birth of American Impressionism is ready for its big reveal.

As Debra Mecky, the society’s executive director and CEO told us in the spring, “It’s just going to change our game.”

This month, visitors will see just how, as the society, founded in 1931, unveils the campus that ties together both the town and its own storied history with ambitious plans for the future.

The site, with roots dating from the 18th century, is perhaps best known for the time when it served as a boarding house for artists and writers. The Cos Cob Art Colony that flourished there from 1890 to 1920 helped nurture American Impressionism, a later, bolder form of Impressionism than its French counterpart, led by such artists as Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman and J. Alden Weir.

The project, which features a new $12 million building created by the award-winning historic preservation architectural firm David Scott Parker Architects as its centerpiece, was designed to allow the society to welcome more visitors, exhibit more of its collections, expand its programs and further share the stories — and establish the place in history — of both the Cos Cob art colony and Greenwich.

In announcing the completion of the project, Mecky said, “The historical society’s grand opening will usher in an exciting new phase in our 87-year history and the proud 378-year history of Greenwich. Our larger, more accessible campus enables us to showcase a much broader collection of art, archival materials and digital collections to give visitors a better understanding of how Greenwich was, and continues to be, intertwined with the nation’s larger narrative.”

Added Peter Malkin, chairman of the Reimagine the Campus Capital Campaign, in the announcement, “Our dramatically reimagined and expanded campus is a dream come true. The unwavering generosity of the community throughout our three-year capital campaign has made it possible for the historical society to enter the national stage and take its place as one of America’s great historical institutions.”

Among the highlights:

Exhibition galleries: The onetime railroad hotel, which would become Toby’s Tavern, has been meticulously restored to its early 20th-century appearance to complement its new use housing state-of-the-art museum galleries. The inaugural exhibition in the new museum will be “History Is…,” while other exhibits will include “The Cos Cob Art Colony,” “Highlights of Greenwich History,” “Treasures from the Collections” and a film, “Our Place in History.”

Store and café: The museum building features a Museum Store, as well as an Artists’ Café in which exhibitions will feature Greenwich artists.

Library: There is an accessible library and archives for researchers, journalists, homeowners, genealogists and others to discover more than 40,000 items that document Greenwich’s cultural heritage.

Gardens: Impressionist-era flower and fruit and vegetable gardens are being restored according to historical documentation. The new campus provides more green space for outdoor events and children’s programming.

Programming: New offerings have been designed to make Greenwich’s history even more engaging, relevant and participatory and will continue to include tours, lectures, educational programs and events for all ages.

Access: Improved access includes double the parking, an elevator and a leveling of the terrain for accessibility and maximum efficiency.

The Greenwich Historical Society will officially celebrate the opening of its new campus from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 6, with free museum admission plus a family friendly Opening Day Party featuring scarecrow making, children’s crafts and games, live music and campus tours. Refreshments will be available for sale. Online registration is requested. The festivities will continue from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 7 with free museum admission and tours. The campus is at 47 Strickland Road. For more, or to register, visit greenwichhistory.org.

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