Category: Bush-Holley House

While the history of the Cos Cob art colony has become well known to scholars of American Impressionism, its role in the development of American Modernism is less familiar. In December 1911 Elmer MacRae was among the group who founded the Association of American Painters and Sculptors in New York.
In the summer of 1896, Elmer MacRae arrived at the Holley Inn. He was a student from the Art Students League who was there for a class in outdoor painting, but he also found Constant Holley. They fell in love. From the beginning Constant encouraged Elmer to draw and paint flowers.
Constant attributed her love for arranging flowers to a Japanese gentleman staying at her home, probably Genjiro Yeto. She recalled when he placed a single red rose in an old decanter: "From this time on…flower arranging has always been my foremost interest."
Elmer Livingstone MacRae was living in New York City when he started taking classes from John Twachtman at the Holley House. MacRae may have had a studio in the Holley House as early as 1899, the year he moved into the house, one year before his marriage to Constant Holley.
Visitors entered through the front hall, whose colonial-era wainscoting “Dutch” door, wide plank flooring, circa 1850 staircase, and eclectic mix of Victorian and colonial furnishings were both charming and, in the case of artist Childe Hassam, ultimately became subject matter. The front hall appears much as it did in 1912 when Childe Hassam painted Clarissa MacRae sitting in front of the bookcase.
The parlor, the most fashionable and public room in the Bush house is furnished to reflect the transitional period between Justus Luke Bush’s marriage to Sally St. John in 1821, and the death of his mother, Sarah Bush, in 1824. Older, eighteenth-century furnishings, representing the styles popular during David and Sarah’s time, are mixed with new furnishings, many bearing neoclassical motifs prevalent during the period of Justus Luke and Sally Bush’s marriage.