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A Tale of Two Houses

rear view MCH

rear parlor

The private residence that became Millbrook Country House in August 2002 will soon be two hundred years old. A simpler structure (today's kitchen section) pre-dates by several decades the main house, built for Catherine Hart and her husband, Dr. Alfred Tredway, who operated a store and medical practice in the present parlors. (Harts Village, the oldest part of Millbrook, was named for Catherine's father, Philip, 1749 - 1837, a prominent landowner and entrepreneur whose landmark Federal house is still next door.) Eventually the Tredways' daughter occupied the house with her husband, a merchant made prosperous as the sole American agent for the importation of Russian ermine, a staple of nineteenth-century fashion. In 1838 the house was remodeled to reflect that era's increasing fondness for Greek Revival architecture. Only a few families have resided here since Hart descendants sold the property in 1929, and this may account for its excellent condition, with early floors, mouldings, and windows still in place.

What changed drastically in 2002, when Millbrook Country House opened, was less the house itself, despite a major renovation, than its interior decoration and ambiance. Suddenly fine 18th-century Italian furnishings, from Venetian mirrors to tables and chests with delicate intarsia, replaced traditional Anglo-American style.

front facade, Villa Benassi

ballroom, Villa Benassi

Most of the newly arrived furniture and paintings had previously graced a very different house, Villa Benassi, a Late Renaissance villa near Modena, in northern Italy. Originally built for the noble Melloni family, this grand house, with agricultural holdings, was purchased in 1850 by Tommaso Benassi, a great-great-grandfather of MCH proprietor Giancarlo Grisi, and remained in the family until 1980.

Traveling from the vast spaces of a monumental stone villa to the more intimate proportions of a Colonial house, the furnishings have weathered well their 21st-century culture shock.The contrast they bring to their new, entirely hospitable environment has created remarkable interiors of unusual historic interest and refinement.

Venetian console (foreground) and portrait of Anna Benassi Grisi

gilded porcelain vase