The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is moving from its longtime site at Boscobel House and Gardens to a new location in Philipstown gifted by philanthropist Christopher Davis as a permanent home for the company. This new home will offer HVSF the long-term stability of a secure foundation and will serve as a vibrant hub for our local community, a year-round cultural anchor for the Hudson Highlands, and a model for environmental sustainability in the performing arts. Chris Davis’s gift to HVSF will also achieve permanent protection of the land from residential or commercial subdivision and development through (i) legally enforceable deed restrictions and (ii) establishing a financially and ecologically sustainable use for the land that will also be an asset to the local community.
After over three decades of short-term rental agreements, HVSF was in discussions with Boscobel regarding a long-term lease. Amid these conversations, HVSF was presented with the opportunity of a gift of land from philanthropist Chris Davis. HVSF and our partners at Boscobel agree that this represents a huge opportunity for both organizations and the community. In addition to ensuring HVSF’s long-term future with our first-ever permanent home, it will allow both organizations to focus on their own distinct missions and programming priorities. We could not be more grateful to our generous donor for making this possible.
The property was purchased by Mr. Davis in 1999 to protect it from unwelcome commercial development. Since then, he has been running the golf course at a loss as he searched for an adaptive reuse that would align with his environmental values and the greater needs of our community.
The new site is located within a larger 200+ acre property that is currently The Garrison Golf Course at 2015 U.S. 9, Garrison, NY — less than four miles from HVSF’s current performance site at Boscobel. The property will be divided into four parcels including a 53-acre gift to HVSF. A 9-hole golf course will continue to be owned and operated by Chris Davis on a separate portion of the site with its own dedicated entrance.
We plan to open our first season in our new home in the summer of 2022. For this first season, we plan to move our existing seasonal structures from Boscobel to our new home. In addition, we will create a new environmentally sensitive parking lot, safe and accessible pedestrian pathways and vehicular access, and establish the early growth of meadows and gardens.
In subsequent years, we plan to install a new, permanent tent theater, adjacent back of house facility, and a welcome center, all to improve the theater-going experience for artists and audiences.
For the summer of 2021, Boscobel has invited HVSF back for a farewell season at that location to celebrate our 34-year collaboration and the audiences who supported it. We are grateful to our friends and partners at Boscobel for continuing to host us during this period of transition.
The site is currently a 200+ acre, 18-hole golf course. 53 of those acres are being gifted to HVSF to become an environmentally sustainable theater campus with accessible parkland for all of our community. This campus will include a permanent open-air theater tent, new environmentally sensitive parking, accessible pathways, native meadows, and wildflower gardens. Our long-term vision for the site allows for: a second, smaller indoor theater; a barn for rehearsals and a costume shop; lodging for our visiting artists; and an outdoor community pavilion. Golf will continue to be owned and managed by Chris Davis on a separate 92-acre parcel of the site as a modified, 9-hole course. Nearly 19 acres of the existing golf course will become passive recreation open space with lawns, native meadows, and a network of paths for strolling. The native plant materials planned for the passive recreation area will allow for maintenance practices that utilize organic products and support a dramatic reduction in the use of irrigation.
The plan that HVSF and Chris have proposed contemplates restoration and conservation of 76 acres (95% of the site plan) into open meadows, wildflower gardens, pedestrian pathways, and open lawn space. Use by HVSF will be an ecological benefit to the site as compared to golf, which uses a great deal of water, results in nitrogen-rich runoff to our waterways, and where a grass monoculture flattens biodiversity. Our restoration plans will be implemented in partnership with local conservation groups. The built structures on the site will take up 1.39 acres of the total site plan.
Currently, this property is only protected by the existing zoning regulations applicable to the site – which allow for a 40-room hotel & spa (that were never realized) as well as events spaces, a restaurant, and golf course. Chris Davis purchased the site in 1999 to prevent it from unwelcome commercial development, and he has maintained it as a golf course for over two decades while searching for a long-term land conservation solution that would be financially self-sustaining and also be an asset to the local community. By making this extraordinary gift to HVSF, Mr. Davis ensures its permanent protection from subdivision and development through deeded restrictions as part of the gift. In our new role as stewards of this property, HVSF will extend Chris Davis’s legacy of conservation, and we have hired a world-class team to design the campus with a sustainable, landscape-first approach.
Central to these plans is the conversion of almost 19 acres of existing golf fairways to native meadow. Maintaining a golf course requires a great deal of water and pesticides that result in nitrogen-rich runoff and a grass monoculture flattens all biodiversity. The conversion to native meadows will restore crucial habitat for ground-nesting birds and pollinators, and dramatically reduce the amount of water required to maintain the site, eliminate the need for pesticides, promote a rich and thriving ecology. As the new caretakers of the property, we are committed to maintaining and restoring the existing wetlands on the site. We are conducting a tree survey of any areas of the site affected by the plan, and should any tree removal be required, our landscape-led plan will focus on preserving the ecology already on-site, as is possible, while supplementing with new plantings.
HVSF is working with the Philipstown Town Board and Planning Board to approve an overall site plan for the property on a thirty-year time horizon, at their recommendation. Below you can see our proposal. The items below will be phased in over time. Some may take several years, or decades to realize. In fact, we may ultimately choose not to move forward with some aspects of the Site Plan. This is not a plan for construction. Instead, the purpose of a comprehensive, long-term plan is to envision and evaluate wholistically all of what HVSF may need in the decades to come.
We imagine a phased approach to the transformation of the site.
I. In 2022, our plan is to use our existing facilities to re-create the familiar HVSF experience in our new home. With those temporary facilities, we will have a new environmentally sensitive parking lot, pedestrian pathways and access, and the early growth of meadows and gardens.
II. In subsequent years (2023/24), we plan to install a new, permanent theater tent, back of house facility, and box office/welcome center, to improve the theater experience for both artists and audiences.
III. The other structures envisioned in the long-term Site Plan (a second smaller indoor theater, on-site lodging for our seasonal artists, a community pavilion, and a rehearsal barn) are not currently planned for construction, and could be many years or decades away.
Since HVSF’s earliest beginnings we have been welcoming visiting artists into this community. They first stayed in local homes generously hosted by our Board Members and friends of HVSF. Over the years, they have stayed at the Graymoor Monastery, at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Newburgh, and most recently at hotels in Fishkill at the intersection of Route 9 and 84. In the non-profit regional theater, it is both customary and a union requirement to provide housing for visiting artists. We are eager to be able to welcome these artists back to Philipstown with a plan for on-site lodging that can accommodate artists during the season and other guests to our community at other times during the year. The zoning for the site currently allows for guest accommodations of up to 40 rooms (including the 8 that are currently available at the inn) and we are requesting an increase of 24 rooms to allow our artists to stay on site. We will be collaborating with the Planning Board and Town Board to ensure that this lodging follows all required local codes. Having comfortable lodging on the campus will reduce carbon emissions and commutes for artists traveling between different locations. Tucked discreetly into the landscape and away from the central core of the campus, these lodging facilities (when not in use by HVSF artists) could also fill an established need in Putnam County, where overnight accommodation for visitors is hard to come by.
Golf will continue on a separate 92-acre parcel of the site but as a modified, 9-hole format. The course will continue under its current ownership and management, adjacent to but distinct from the property which HVSF will own and operate. The golf course will have a separate entrance with new parking and a pro shop, off of the lower part of Snake Hill Road, where the Golf maintenance buildings are currently located.
The Valley Restaurant and Events business at the Garrison will continue to be run by the current leadership and management. The property is large enough that both weddings and performances can happen concurrently without disturbance or interruption.
Visit the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's web page for more information and graphics regarding the move