Our Time at Foxhollow Farm

A Hudson Valley Family Remembered

By David Byars

Subjects: New York/regional, American History, Architectural History/architecture, Archives And Collections
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Hardcover : 9781438462813, 312 pages, September 2016

Table of contents


David Byars

1. The Early Years 1903–1906

2. Mr. Dows Builds His Dream House

3. Social Life Family and Friends

4. The Astors and Ferncliff

5. Town and Country In and around Rhinebeck

6. The Beekman Arms

7. Motor Trips and American Travel

8. Jekyll Island and Seal Harbor

9. A Year in Europe 1921–1922

10. The Artist

11. A Sense of Change The 1920s

12. The End of an Era The 1930s

My American Family by Olin Knut Thyberg

Chronicles the life of an upper-class, mid–Hudson Valley family during the first three decades of the twentieth century.


Our Time at Foxhollow Farm is a remarkable pictorial history of an eminent Hudson Valley family in the early decades of the twentieth century. Illustrated with the family's extensive collection of personal albums compiled during the nascent years of photography, it provides a fascinating insight into the regional, social, and architectural history of the era. In 1903 Tracy Dows, the son of a successful grain merchant from Manhattan, married Alice Townsend Olin, whose Livingston forebears had settled in the Rhinebeck, New York, area in the late 1600s. Dows purchased and combined several existing farms to establish his estate, Foxhollow Farm, next to Alice's ancestral home. He commissioned Harrie T. Lindeberg, a sought-after architect trained under Stanford White, to design the family home and other buildings on the property, and the Olmsted Brothers to landscape its rolling hills. The Dowses raised their three children on the estate, and led a busy social life of tennis tournaments, weddings, dinners, and dances with such friends and neighbors as the Roosevelts and the Astors. Tracy Dows devoted himself largely to the pursuit of agricultural and civic affairs at home and in the Rhinebeck community. Olin Dows, Tracy and Alice's son, became a notable painter active in President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. Our Time at Foxhollow Farm follows the Dows family from 1903 through the 1930s, documenting their life at home, social activities, and travels in America and Europe. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Tracy Dows took many of this book's photographs himself, offering a vivid and warmly intimate perspective on privileged early twentieth-century American life.

David Byars is the Deputy Managing Editor of Vogue and has worked in magazine production for thirty-four years, with a strong emphasis on visual imagery. He was raised in Louisiana, where the antebellum plantation houses along the Mississippi River first sparked his interest in history and architecture. A graduate of Louisiana State University, he moved to New York City in 1982 and currently lives in the historic Bronx neighborhood of Spuyten Duyvil overlooking the Hudson River. He is a board member of Hudson River Heritage, a nonprofit organization in Rhinebeck, New York.


"…a wonderful new book." — Quest

"From its classical black-and-white cover photo to its nostalgic typefaces, this handsome book conjures a vanished elegance." — Upstate House

"...[a] handsome book … on country living." — New York Times

"...stunning … the perfect gift for anyone who can't get enough of local high society history." — Chronogram

"...a beautiful book." — New York Social Diary

"...provides a fascinating insight into the regional, social, and architectural history of the era." — New York History Blog

"Downton Abbey admirers going through withdrawal can turn to another exploration of early 20th-century privilege: Our Time at Foxhollow Farm … Everybody in the book seems to be enjoying themselves immensely, whether marrying off a daughter swathed in tulle, attending a country fair, taking art lessons (the Dowses' muralist son, Olin, became a star of the 1930s WPA program), or participating in a curling competition on a frozen pond … Dogs romp, silver pheasants preen, and everybody is dressed to the nines, cavorting in plus fours, co-respondents, riding boots, yachting caps, and hats with sultry veils." — Architectural Digest

"The images depict life at the 800-acre estate, at the center of which was the stately, yet comfortable, columned main house that Dows, a Harvard-educated businessman, commissioned from architect Harrie T. Lindeberg (who trained at McKim, Mead, and White) in 1910. Many years later, purchased by Samaritan Daytop Village in 1986, the house and property remain, but the way of life that it supported is long gone. But now, thanks to snap-happy Tracy Dows (an early camera enthusiast) and Byars, it is not forgotten." — Vogue

"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. Lindeberg. At once social history, architectural history, and a moving family history, Byars's book is a lucid account of the dream. It made me think of the French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue's photographs of his family, which were taken during the same period Tracy Dows was recording life at Foxhollow Farm. These are original and unusual pictures, rescued and brought to the light of day with care and love." — Annie Leibovitz

"The fine hand of David Byars, graphic designer extraordinaire, is evident in this handsome and richly illustrated chronicle, which documents in stunning detail the rarefied life of one of the Hudson Valley's 'elite' families, from the Gilded Age to the Jazz Age. Through photographs, we are introduced to Tracy Dows, a New Yorker, Harvard graduate, and second-generation merchant, who in 1910 built the palatial Colonial Revival mansion, Foxhollow Farm, in bucolic Rhinebeck, New York. The passage from four-in-hand carriages to motor trips, the family's travels abroad, and their frolics at home are lavishly recorded, as are their exquisite clothes, hats, and hairstyles. Byars fills in the details with brief but evocative phrases that capture this little-known but fascinating part of Hudson Valley history. This volume provides a behind-the-scenes look at New York's 'best families': how they lived and played during these tumultuous years." — Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, author of The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated, Comprehensive Record of New York City's Historic Buildings, Sixth Edition

"David Byars has plumbed a photographic archive of extraordinary depth and quality to bring to life the Dows family and their beloved Foxhollow Farm. This vivid and compelling book draws us into the Dows's world where their estate on the mighty Hudson is a dazzling, natural backdrop to the story of their worldly successes in the circles of great Americans, including Edith Wharton, Stanford White, Charles Dana Gibson, the Astors, and the Roosevelts. Byars brings the reader a palpable sense of intimacy with the family that makes this a piece of history worth seeing and reading." — Peter Pennoyer, architect and coauthor of New York Transformed: The Architecture of Cross & Cross

"I am captivated by the great photos of one of my favorite areas of America at the height of its opulence. I could not be more mesmerized by this book's portrayal of the Hudson Valley's peak periods and great people." — Hunt Slonem, American painter, sculptor, and printmaker

"A trip into a forgotten past and a way of life through an amazing collection of photographs. Captured is the extraordinary architecture of Harrie T. Lindeberg, who created some of America's great country houses. With this book, one gets a sense of how buildings, gardens, and scenic places affect the lives of entire families." — Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor and Chair, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia