Caramoor is the legacy of Walter and Lucie Rosen, who established the estate and built a great house as its centerpiece, filling it with treasures collected on their travels. Walter Rosen was the master planner, bringing to reality his dream of creating a place to entertain friends from around the world. Their legendary musical evenings were the seeds of today’s Summer Music Festival, held annually on the estate.
Walter Rosen’s friend Charles Hoyt first introduced the Rosens to the property. Hoyt’s mother had an estate in Katonah, a village in the town of Bedford, New York that she was looking to sell. It was named after her – “Caramoor” for Caroline Moore Hoyt. Charles Hoyt, a collector like Walter, certainly knew of his love for all things Italian. The Hoyt estate, which was more than 100 acres, had a beautifully laid-out Italianate garden, with rows of tall cedars mimicking the ubiquitous cypresses of Italy. The Rosens fell in love with this garden, still found at Caramoor today, and bought the property. From 1929 to 1939, Mr. Rosen designed and built the rambling stucco villa now known as the Rosen House.
In 1945, the Rosens bequeathed the Caramoor estate as a center for music and art in memory of their son who had died the previous year. In 1946, the Music Room was opened to the public for three summer concerts. The Summer Music Festival grew from those intimate concerts the Rosens shared with their friends at their home. After Walter Rosen died in 1951, Lucie Rosen continued to expand the Festival. During the 1950s, outdoor concerts were presented in the Spanish Courtyard. Caramoor’s fame continued to grow and seats became impossible to obtain. Prompted by The New York Times critic Howard Taubman, Lucie Rosen decided to make Caramoor more available to the public, and she had a larger space – the Venetian Theater – constructed. The theater opened in 1958.
Caramoor’s historic house opened to the public in 1971, three years after Lucie Rosen’s death. The Rosens’ daughter, Anne Stern, and many professionals continued the task of cataloguing, conserving and interpreting its collection for several years afterward. In 1974 a new wing was added to include rooms and objects d’art from the Rosens’ New York City residence.
What is now known as Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts was originally created by a foundation established by the Rosens to operate the estate in perpetuity. Lucie Rosen once said that people feel they have gone to another country and another time when they visit Caramoor. Because the Rosens were touched by this, by the obvious pleasure their friends took in Caramoor’s beauty, they decided to leave their home as a legacy for all to enjoy after they had gone. It is to the vision and energy of this inspirational couple that thousands owe their enjoyment of Caramoor each year.
Since January 2010, consultants have been hired and a thorough examination of the house and its contents, including the Rosens’ correspondences, has begun. Already many long-forgotten or unknown facts about the Rosens and their lives have been revealed. Through these discoveries, large and small, the role of the Rosen House continues to evolve.