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BAC Students Study Historic Preservation in New York’s Scenic Hudson River Region

Seven students in the School of Design Studies' Heritage Documentation course traveled to Upstate New York's Hudson River Region to study and document the Hoyt House, a gorgeous Victorian Gothic mansion designed by architect Calvert Vaux. The BAC partnered with the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance (CVPA), and the experience was funded in part through a grant from the Historic Preservation Education Foundation.

For students, the experience was immeasurable. As Emily Lenhausen, student, Master of Design Studies Historic Preservation, stated: "The trip to Hoyt House was an amazing experience. Having the opportunity to put into practice what we had read about documenting historic structures greatly improved my understanding of the concepts and prompted me to learn to adapt those concepts and methods to ever changing field conditions. I was also introduced to new technological concepts that I had never encountered before and I am so excited to continue learning about them."

Abandoned since the 1960s, the Hoyt House is one of the last remaining intact Vaux estates in the region.

The week began with students putting into practice what they had learned about techniques in documentation of historic structures, including recording a building's existing conditions for future renovation and/or reconstruction.

The students attended an architectural photography workshop led by Christopher Brazee, a former photographer for the Landmark Preservations Commission in New York City. Students learned about HABS (Historic American Building Survey) photography standards and were able to take documentation quality photos, as well as learning how to use a large format film camera.

Students then worked with Dave Hansen, the BAC's manager of Education Applications & Support, learning about and experimenting with photogrammetry, the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects or measure cracks or other structural changes over time in a building. The idea was to use this method to measure the settlement of Hoyt House through successive visits to the site in the future.

At the end of the week, the students presented their work and findings to the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS PRHP); members of the CVPA; and members of the general public. For the CVPA, the students' research will help them start a historic structures report that will help them purse grant funding. For NYS PRHP, the students' work and photography helps the organization's efforts to document Hoyt House and monitor the condition of the estate. Their work will be added to archival records for Hoyt House with the NYS PRHP headquarters in Albany.

With such great success on the trip, Eleni Glekas, the BAC's Director of Historic Preservation, hopes to do another trip to Hoyt House next summer. "I could not be more pleased with the outcome and quantity of the work that the students produced during our week at Hoyt House. Their success emphasizes the need to continue this program in future years, to allow more students the opportunity to get this level of hands-on learning, and to build on the work done at Hoyt House by this year's students."

The BAC is grateful to our partners, the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance; the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation office; and the Historic Preservation Education Foundation.

Photogrammetry Lesson with Dave Hansen

Students get a lesson in photogrammetry from the BAC's Dave Hansen

Students work with photographer Chris Brazee

Students learn HABS photography standards with Christopher Brazee

BAC student Rahul Kerur uses a handheld laser scanner

BAC student Rahul Kerur uses the BAC's new handheld laser scanner

Students give a final presentation to the CVPA and NYS PRHP

BAC students deliver a final presentation to the CVPA and NYS PRHP

Olana New York State Historic Site

The Historic Preservation course and trip included visits to other mansions in the region, including Olana

Bronson House Spiral Staircase

The class toured the Bronson House, an abandoned mansion located on a prison complex's property and famous for its spiral staircase

Class photo with members of the CVPA

Class photo with members of the CVPA

Central Park tour with the Central Park Conservancy

The class went on a special tour of Central Park in New York City, led by the Central Park Conservancy