14 April 2017


A book  I discovered in the fall set off a behind the scenes conversation with its author David Byars. Our Time at Foxhollow Farm–A Hudson Valley Family Remembered by Byars is the Dows family story and that of their illustrious neighbors and friends during the early decades of the twentieth century.

The Dows family life in the Hudson Valley is chronicled in photographs taken by patriarch Tracy Dows. The home and outbuildings on the estate were designed by architect Harrie Lindeberg, and the grounds planned by the Olmsted Brothers– all set in Rhinebeck New York on the Hudson.

Beyond taking the photographs, Tracy Dows was involved in the day to day running of the 800 acre Foxhollow Farm estate. When Dows married Alice Olin in 1903, two great New York families were joined. When the couple and their young family finally settled on Rhinebeck— it became their permanent place of residence & Tracy began planning the house of their dreams. It just happened to be a "Mount Vernon on the Hudson."

Prior to the completion of their home, the couple lived in a handsome fieldstone cottage on the estate.

Very early in the Dows' marriage the couple rented the rambling Woodland Cottage in Irvington. Alice Dows was photographed lounging in the cottage parlor with framed etchings by Paul César Helleu .

Of the book, famed photographer Annie Leibovitz writes, David Byars has opened up a view into the world of a family that seems almost like a dream now. It is what I tried to imagine when I began Living in the Hudson Valley over twenty years ago, among the remnants and the ruins of buildings designed by Harrie T. Lindberg."

Seven years in the making Our Time at Foxhollow Farm, David spent the first years in researching the family and property. He also designed the book and culled over 26 photo albums and a few boxes of loose photographs—13,000 in all.

When asked about the process, David said, the photographs are "in excellent condition, some being over a hundred years old. A few here and there have faded, but most are in their original state. When Hudson River Heritage got possession of them in 1994, they were put in storage. Years later, the organization took each album apart and scanned every page for archive purposes. I took those low-resolution scans and assembled each album as PDFs. That is what I used to design the book, and when the layouts were final, I rescanned each chosen original image at a higher resolution and neutralized the colors to match overall. The originals are in tones of black and white, and many shades of sepia. For my book, I thought it would be too jarring to see them that way, so I decided they should all be harmonious in the same color tone."

Architect Harrie Lindberg striding down the steps of Foxhollow Farm's 'Stone Cottage' in 1907

The Dows Family Abroad
Margaret, Olin, Deb, Alice & Tracy strolling along the promenade in Menton, 1922

With the overwhelming number of photographs to consider, Byars narrowed down the book's photographs to 400. His resulting choices tell the narrative of a family, an idyllic era, the life of neighbors and their estates, and the architecture of Foxhollow Farm. It is beautifully edited, managing to leave viewer and reader lingering over certain images & fortunately David graciously shared several of my most memorable.

Architect Lindeberg standing in the loggia fireplace of the main house with Olin Dows in 1912.

1914, Margaret Dows posing in the family's favorite room, the Loggia, with floors of green tile, the furniture was a comfortable mix of rattan, traditional dark wood tables & chairs, books, large topiaries and many plants.

As the children of the Dows family grew up & the financial shift in the states occurred, the family scattered. The Dows marriage faltered in the mid-1920s, and Alice Dows decided to move into a house on O Street in Washington and began spending most of her time in the nation's capital.

"Mrs. Tracy Dows is one of the most distinguished of the New Your visitors of the national capital where she is always cordially greeted by a host of friends." -Vogue, July 24,1924

In Washington Alice began writing poetry and published two books in the thirties. Olin Dows, a noted artist, painted murals in the O Street library and they are still intact today. Tracy Dows left Foxhollow Farm in 1930, and the house becoming a girls' school for a time. Later in the thirties and forties the house was maintained as it was once— a country estate

Around the time that Alice started living in Washington, she had an affair with Nicholas Longworth, the Speaker of the House. His wife, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, was also a friend of Alice Dows’s and she didn’t seem to care! Alice and Tracy never got divorced and he died in 1937.

Olin Dows photographed while traveling in Mexico, 1931.

In 1925, Margaret Dows married Swedish diplomat Knut Thyberg at Foxhollow. The pair were living in Copenhagen when this photograph was taken in 1932. The couple, along with their bullmastiff Antoinette, are seated in front of an exceptional 8 panel screen with zebras in the Art Deco style painted by Olin.

After Tracy Dows died, Alice, Olin and Deb returned to Rhinebeck living in her family home Glenburn. Deb built a house on the estate, and when Olin married in 1950, Alice move out of the house and into a cottage next door, painted it pink and christened it Garden House, where she lived until her death.

Our Time At Foxhollow Farm will linger, it conjures countless quotations from a fellow traveller of an era long gone–and longed for, Scott Fitzgerald:
"in a sort of breathless hush, 
as if they feared that any minute the spell would break and drop them out of this paradise of rose and flame." 
-Scott Fitzgerald , This Side of Paradise

A Louisiana native, David Byars is the Deputy Managing Editor of Vogue, now living in the historic Bronx neighborhood of Spuyten Duyvil set on the Hudson River.


  1. Great review, wonderful book. I have enjoyed it also.

  2. Do you know where on O Street? is the house still standing? Our house is on O street in Georgetown!! Would love to know more....



Related Posts with Thumbnails