You are here
Michael M. Van Bueren House (Gray Craig)
Once the farm of one of the earliest families in Middletown, this is surely the town's most spectacular site. Gray Craig, once its grandest estate, was built with a fortune from Standard Oil after the property, originally owned by O. H. P. Belmont, was purchased by the Van Buren family. The approach road winds through a park before reaching a gatehouse with the superbly crafted stone walls and tiled roof which characterize the château-inspired buildings of the estate. Beyond the gate the road rises and winds a bit more before the garden front of the mass of the main house looms into view. It is partially screened by a tall hedge as the road slides by this initial view of the house, between piers topped by peacocks, and up to an arched portecochere off one side of the house. Passengers discharged, cars continue to a garage and kitchen court to the rear with its own family entrance. This approach is made more dramatic by a wall of natural stone that parallels the house beyond its other side—the “gray craig” from which this appropriately severe house (like the farmhouse before it) takes its name.
The house depends for architectural effect first of all on shape rather than ornament. The steep hipped roof of reddish tiles is devoid of dormers; only four chimneys poke through to stake out a claim for the house in its dramatic setting. On either side, stubby blocks, topped with urns, lock with the roof and create transitional elements to the low, gabled wings. Ornament, where it occurs in such austerity, creates maximum effect—especially the enframement of the center door of the garden elevation with its English Baroque segmental pediment on scroll brackets, the scrolls of the brackets echoed in the scrolls of the keystones of the principal windows. Other ornament is limited to wrought iron ornamentation of second-story balconies in the stubby blocks and the urns on top. For the rest, the house depends on craft and proportions. Grass terracing opens to a cut through the woods below to a view of the
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.