The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York, is gearing up to break ground on a significant expansion and improvement project that will bring, among other things, 12,000 square feet of additional public and behind-the-scenes space to the venerable Westchester County cultural institution.
Founded in 1919 as the Yonkers Museum before becoming the Hudson River Museum in 1948, the museum, the largest in Westchester, is pointedly diverse in scope and as such, tricky to classify as it contains exhibits dedicated to art (its collection of paintings from Hudson River School artists is expansive), science (extensively renovated in 2014, the state-of-the-art Planetarium has long been a top draw), and local heritage and history. A socially-distant groundbreaking ceremony will be held on November 18 to mark the beginning of a new era for the evolving, eclectic museum.
Most notably, the expansion project, which comes as part of a larger multi-phase master plan that kicked off all the way back in 2002, will see the creation of a West Wing building that includes dedicated special exhibition space (a first for the museum) complete with sweeping river views; a 100-seat tiered auditorium for lectures, performances, screenings, and more; an interior sculpture garden, and a climate-controlled art storage space. Designed by New York City-based Archimuse, the new wing increases the total footprint of the museum from 40,000 to 52,000 square feet while “seamlessly integrating the enhancements with the existing Museum campus, including its center Courtyard and the view of the Hudson River and Palisades” according to a museum press release. “The project will also allow the Museum to display and interpret far more of its permanent collection while ensuring proper storage and safekeeping of the Museum’s repository of cultural heritage.”
Made possible by previously-allocated funding from Westchester County, the City of Yonkers, and New York State, the latest and most dramatic overhaul of the 23-acre museum complex in decades follows the completion of a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater and educational center along with upgrades to high-traffic areas including the main lobby. Besides recent additions completed during earlier master plan phases, the present-day campus on the northern end of Trevor Park consists of the Brutalist main building designed by Richard Kaeyer (completed in 1969, it also includes the planetarium) and the landmark 19th-century Glenview Mansion, a Gilded Age stone pile that was home to the museum in its entirety from 1929 up until the late 1960s expansion project.
“These exciting capital enhancements will allow the Hudson River Museum to welcome our community, embrace new ideas, and protect the collections that we can all learn from together,” said Masha Turchinsky, director and CEO of the Hudson River Museum, in a statement. “More than just additional space, this expansion project will allow the HRM to rethink how we present and share art and offer something new and inspiring every time you visit.”
As for what visitors can expect once the West Wing expansion is complete, the Special Exhibitions Galleries will encompass 3,350 square feet of space anchored by a cantilevered glass overlook that provides visitors with panoramic views of the Hudson River and New Jersey Palisades. In addition to enabling the museum to display more of its permanent collection, the versatile new gallery areas will also free up dedicated space to showcase revolving works by local and emerging artists, artists-in-residence, community art groups, and others. Adjacent to the galleries is an interior Sculpture Court where the museum will display both new works and permanently held sculptures that have seldom been seen due to space constraints.
The auditorium, another major component of the new West Wing, will be located adjacent to an existing public patio that will be revamped as the glass parapet-flanked River Terrace. In addition to the auditorium, this revitalized alfresco gathering area will adjoin the Hudson Room, the main special events venue on the museum’s campus. The wing’s third major area, the 3,000-square-foot art storage room will “meet stringent requirements imposed by lender organizations and the American Alliance of Museums to ensure safe housing and display of artwork and conform with current professional standards for collections management and storage” according to the museum.
Future planned phases of the Hudson River Museum master plan entail the careful restoration of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Glenview Mansion’s exterior and a new roof for the main museum building. The museum was shuttered for nearly four months in the spring and early summer due to the coronavirus pandemic and reopened in early July with reduced capacity, timed-entry ticketing, and various health and safety precautions in place. Some areas of the museum, including the Planetarium and Hudson Riverama, remain closed until further notice.