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Manitoga: A Short History

I wish this shelter to blend with the landscape… I will make it of the rock to be found there, of the lumber to be found there, and I will cover it with the vines that are native.

– Russel Wright

Originally the location of an abandoned quarry and logging site, the property at Manitoga in Garrison, NY was purchased by American modernist and industrial designer Russel Wright and his wife, Mary, in 1942 with the aim of transforming the place not only into a home, but into a revelatory experience intergrating modern design with nature.

Russel Wright

Wright is best known for his work in the 1930’s through 1950’s as a designer of artistically innovative yet practical housewares and furnishings that revolutionized the way Americans lived at home. Believing that “good design is for everyone,” his signature American Modern dinnerware and other houseware designs helped usher in the modern American lifestyle.

This success as a designer allowed Wright the opportunity to take on what he felt was his greatest project, the creation of Manitoga. It would take 30 years to revive the property from its ravaged industrial status while simultaneously imbuing it with his famed modern aesthetic.

His home and surrounding woodland pathways were all designed to reveal nature to visitors in ways that would make the viewer feel integrated with the environment. Wright would pass away in 1976 and deeded the property to the Nature Conservancy. Manitoga would eventually form its own nonprofit organization in 1984 and in 2006 was granted National Historic Landmark status.

Outside the house, the site provides visitors with three miles of woodland paths designed by Wright through a 75-acre landscape. This year, the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew has partnered with Manitoga/ The Russel Wright Design Center through our Stewards of Stonework program to revive the Killalemy Trail, a pathway which takes visitors up the remains of the quarry pit. Significant amounts of stonework were installed during Wright's lifetime. They have since begun to shift and pathways have eroded as visitors to the site have increased. Our job is to restore this path to Wright's original vision.

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