Caramoor

Article and photos by Caroll Bancel
(Reprinted from the Fall 2008 Newsletter)

In the Spotlight: Caramoor Article and photos by Caroll Bancel (reprinted from the Fall 2008 Newsletter) In each issue of our BRLA newsletter, we try to “spotlight” an area on our trail system, such as one of the beautiful horse farms or nature sanctuaries. But did you know the BRLA trails also cross the grounds of a Mediterranean-style palazzo on 80 acres, complete with a Spanish Courtyard and formal gardens?

Courtyard at Caramoor
Courtyard at Caramoor

Spanish Courtyard at Caramoor.  It is Caramoor, the home of our area’s largest and most renowned summer music festival, The Caramoor International Music Festival.

Riding the BRLA trail at Caramoor will give you only a small glimpse at the splendor that lies within the gates. Our intrepid group of three rider/reporters entered the trail on one side of this large estate via Girdle Ridge Drive.

This is a back driveway on the outskirts of the main portion of the grounds, where you will see some outbuildings and storage areas. We crossed a grassy area, because we could see the yellow and black BRLA trail sign beckoning to us, and then rode into a woodland trail fringing the property. Soon it was densely forested and sunlight filtered through the trees, dappling the ferns and wildflowers on either side of the trail. Stand very still for a moment and you may hear a distant strain of classical music wafting through the warm summer air; possibly a violinist, cellist or oboist who readies for his performance that evening? If you continue through the Caramoor trail you will cross the main drive and then enter another wooded trail which leads to Barry Court and the Hook Road area. Nicki Esdorn and Camille Branca enjoy the beautiful Caramoor trail with Icelandic horses Haukur and Topas.

Nicki Eisdorn & Camille Branca enjoy the beautiful Caramoor Trail  with Icelandic Horses, Haukur & Topas

This small taste of Caramoor will no doubt pique your curiosity to view what lies within the gates of this fairy-tale palazzo. You won’t be disappointed! Caramoor was the summer home of Lucy Bigelow and Walter Tower Rosen, patrons of the arts and philanthropists, and this property is a living monument to their vision and dream. Following their extensive European travels, they decided to re-create a slice of the culture they had seen and fallen in love with abroad by bringing art, music, architecture and magnificent formal gardens to this property in Katonah. Designed by Walter Rosen himself, with help from architect Christian Rosborg, the villa was constructed between 1929 and 1939, but appears much older. Entire rooms were transported piece by piece from palaces and country homes in Europe. It is now a House Museum, with twenty rooms open to the public, showcasing the Rosen’s amazing collections. Every year, the museum introduces a new exhibition; this year it is “A Journey in Maiolica: Italian Renaissance to American Contemporary”. “I would like our blood and our lives to be the seed of a beautiful thing that many people would be happier for.” Lucie Bigelow Rosen

Caramoor’s gardens are intended to provide a “jewel-like setting for the musical events” held there, and they certainly do. You can stroll and picnic among them, taking in the Renaissance sensibility and amazing diversity. The original gardens have been restored and expanded. The Butterfly Garden, based on a design by Brunelleschi, encourages the stages of butterfly development, and butterflies abound there. A Lion’s Head fountain splashes merrily, reminding one of the music that flows through the air at night. The delicate colors of the flowers chosen there complement the antique tile floor of the Italian Pavilion, the splashing water and numerous butterflies adding a “sense of motion” to the garden. There is also a cutting garden that supplies flowers for Caramoors’s events, an iris and peony garden, and Renaissance Gardens which welcome visitors with espaliered pear trees, geometrical plantings, a grape arbor, fountain and benches which provide the perfect vantage point to drink this all in.

Caramoor CEO Michael Barrett graciously welcomed the BRLA landowners to Caramoor last September for our annual Landowners’ Party, which was held in the Italian Pavilion. Barrett’s innovative presence at Caramoor has increased audiences by 15% in the last five years. Thirty-eight concerts will be held this summer, including classical music, opera, jazz, Latin and pop. There is something for everyone, including a children’s program called “Tango for Tots”, Afternoon Tea, and special events such as “Walter and Lucie Rosen: Their Life Was An Opera”. Imagine how pleased this romantic couple, who started all this magic, would be to see how their dream and music play on at their beloved home today.

BRLA is proud and honored to include Caramoor as a neighbor and landowner, and encourages all of our members to visit and re-visit often to appreciate this local treasure and to support them, knowing that they support us too.

(September 1, 2008)