Historic Structures

Bush-Holley House, Cos Cob Connecticut

Date added: February 22, 2011 Categories: Connecticut House

The house was used as a military recruiting center during the French and Indian War.

During the Revolutionary War, the house was used as headquarters for Gen. Israel Putnam and it was from this house that he took Miss Sally Bush to the dance the night before his famous ride. The house was also used for two manufacturing operations, salt-works and flour milling, because of its proximity to the water. These operations were closely guarded from the British. (The flour mill burned down in 1889).

During the building of the New Haven roadbed the engineers boarded in the house.

When George Jackson Smith owned the house he was a town clerk. During the debate over the plans for the new Town Hall, he took the plans and papered one of the rooms in the house with them.

In its later years the house was called the "Holley Inn," a summer place for aspiring artists, writers and editors. It later became famous as the Cos Cob School. William Glackens, Childe Hassam, Alden Twachtman, Walt Kuhn and Elmer Livingston MacRae were among the artists who resided in the house. MacRae was married to Constant Holley, who sold the house to the present owner in 1957. MacRae and Kuhn are also very important for their role in the founding of the famous art show, the International Exhibition of Modern Art, best known as the "Amory Show of 1913", held in New York City. Willa Catha, one of the house's residents, wrote some of her most exquisite writing in the original north bedroom.

The house is made up of three sections. The main section is the original house, a saltbox. The others are the side and rear wings, added before 1790. The main section has a square layout which includes a space in the lean-to. The two-story front porches of the main section and the side wing are not original; they were added in 1850. Many important architectural elements still remain in the main section, and these include the following: beaded clapboards (nailed over vertical planks), a handhewn frame, wide oak floors, a beehive oven, pine paneling and an unusual yellow brick chimney with a vaulted arch, which is a rarity found in only a handful of houses.

The rear wing was originally a separate building which was moved from across the road to the back of the house. It contains a rare example of rusticated siding - large wooden planks cut to look like stone. The side wing, adjoined to the house's south wall, was originally a counting house. In 1810 the chimney breast in the northeast chamber in the first floor was replaced with an Adam style mantlepiece. The 1790 main stair was replaced in 1850 by a heavy stair. At the same time the two-story porches and a kitchen were added. A bay window and a dormer were added in 1901. The entire complex was restored in 1958, and it was decided that the evolutionary changes be left intact because it was painted by many of the country's greatest artists from 1890 to 1953. (The paintings are now in the leading museums).

Overall dimensions: Main section is 36' -8" (five bay front) x 29' -8" two-and-a-half stories. The side wing is two stories high and its front elevation is two bays wide. The rear wing is a two-story structure.