Dragon Rock: Russel Wright's Upstate New York Home

Designer Russel Wright's visionary home in upstate New York balances natural and domestic environments.

| May/June 2003

  • Residential dinner plate and fork designed by Russel Wright
    Photo Courtesy Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
  • Russel Wright’s Dragon Rock home balances natural and domestic environments.
    Photo Courtesy Lennox Industries

Trend-setting modernist designer Russel Wright created a unique American aesthetic in architecture and home design during the mid-twentieth century. Now his visionary home in upstate New York—which balances natural and domestic environments—is being renovated in an environmentally respectful way that would have made its creator happy.

A master of modernism, Wright (1904–1976) was an influential creator of objects for the home, most famously his American Modern dinnerware. He also designed furniture, appliances, textiles, interiors, buildings, and landscapes. His creations embraced American traditions of practicality, simplicity, and a love of natural, organic shapes.

Wright’s seventy-five-acre estate and his home, Dragon Rock, were the consummate achievements in his pursuit of a natural aesthetic. He restored and replanted the land he bought in 1942, which had been damaged by quarrying and logging, and named it Manitoga, the Algonquin word for “place of the Great Spirit.” He spent the next thirty years creating a home that blends with the surrounding landscape. Built on eleven levels into the side of a granite cliff, Dragon Rock features a view of a thirty-foot waterfall cascading into a rock pool, a hundred-year-old cedar tree that is the living area centerpiece, and a network of gardens and paths.

Stage one of Dragon Rock’s refurbishment was to replace the forty-year old furnace and install new equipment, including an air purification system and an environmentally friendlier air conditioning system to protect the Wright collection. Lennox Industries, a heating and air conditioning company, joined the renovation process as a corporate sponsor and created the museum-quality environment throughout the home while preserving its serenity. Other renovations continue over the next two years.

Open to the public by special appointment, Manitoga in Garrison, New York, offers children’s and adult programs that emphasize ecology, science, art, and design.

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