Field Trip: Manitoga | The Russel Wright Design Center

Manitoga | The Russel Wright Design Center
Garrison, NY


  • By car: 1:14 from Tribeca by car, with parking on the site.
  • By train + taxi: There are a few options, but they all require a taxi for the final miles. Manitoga warns that taxis and ubers can be hard to come by. Metro-North to Garrison, NY, plus a 2.3-mile drive to Manitoga is your best bet. From GCT the ride is 1:18.
  • By train + trolley: This sounds like a crap shoot to me, but Putnam County runs a trolley on weekends only from June till Nov. 6 from the Cold Spring Metro-North Train Station. Call ahead (845-878-RIDE) to be sure it is operating and heading towards Manitoga.

Manitoga includes 75 acres of land on the site of a former quarry with 4 miles of marked trails, the former home and studio of American industrial designer Russel Wright, and a gallery displaying his work. Viewing of the house, studio and gallery is by guided tour only with advance reservations. Tours are open through Nov. 14. The grounds and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk unless otherwise posted. NB: no pets. We took the 90-minute tour of the house, which is a piece of genius. Reserve here.

I can’t recommend this more highly if you like historic homes, American mid-century design, the outdoors, or any of the above. It’s a fascinating place, just an hour a way, and off the usual tour radar — I would never have known about had a pal not mentioned it this summer.

This is the former home of American industrial designer Russel Wright and his wife and business partner Mary Small Einstein Wright. Their American Modern line of tableware sold 200 million pieces, and they were one of the first to establish an American home aesthetic — they called it the guide to easier living.

The couple bought the property in 1942 and went about diverting a stream to fill the dry quarry, building a seven-layer waterfall in the process. They also carved the trails and created a meadow by removing all the trees of one section save the Maples. The landscaping is absolutely remarkable, and includes “outdoor rooms” created along the way with floors of gravel or moss.

Mary died in 1952, and Russel completed the house in 1958, hiring architect David Leavitt to help him realize what they would eventually name Dragon Rock. Leavitt had worked in Japan with architect Antonin Raymond, and those influences are clear. Plus Wright embedded all sorts of special surprises into the interiors: door handles made from quarry relics; dividing walls made from translucent honeycomb insulation or real butterflies; plaster embedded with pine needles. It’s of course wonderful to be able to visit, but it must have been a thrill to live there.

Wright and his daughter Annie left the property to the Nature Conservancy, with Annie having life rights; when she could no longer maintain the house, a conservancy took over the estate. Manitoga is now a National Historic Landmark, an Affiliate Site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and one of the few 20th Century modern homes with original landscape open to the public, all run by a non-profit. The design gallery just opened in 2021, and there are plans to renovate the house.

His work is now being reproduced by Bauer Pottery and some of it is for sale on site.


  • Wear solid shoes, even if you are not planning to hike — the path to the house is short but rocky.
  • If you like melamine, there’s some great pieces for sale in the visitor center, and I don’t think they are available anywhere else.
  • The property connects in the back with the Appalachian Trail.

We were aiming to go to Hudson Hil’s Cafe and Market in Cold Spring, on the recommendation of a local, but ran out of time. Instead we grabbed sandwiches (they had outdoor seating) at Country Deli in Fort Montgomery, just across the Hudson and a few miles north on 9W. Check the hours on both.


1 Comment

  1. Wow Pam- this is really something. Thank you so much for this post- I had no idea this place existed. What a beauty. Sharing with my upstate friends and plan to visit myself- thank you!