Family & Museum History
The Hyde Collection is an art museum with an extraordinary collection of more than 3,000 objects. The institution is a product of the golden age of the private art collector (ca. 1890-1940) and an example of a rare genre of museums created during the American Renaissance. One of the few organizations of its kind in upstate New York, The Hyde is the legacy of art collectors Louis and Charlotte Hyde, who acquired objects of artistic significance, amassed collections, and left them for the public to experience and enjoy within an environment created for their display.
The history of The Hyde began in 1888, when Charlotte Pruyn (1867-1963), daughter of Samuel Pruyn, co-founder of the Finch, Pruyn & Co. paper mill, met Louis Fiske Hyde (1866-1934), a Harvard law student in Boston. The two married in 1901, and six years later, they moved to Glens Falls, where Louis was appointed the vice president of the paper mill. From 1904 to 1912, Charlotte and her sisters, Nell Cunningham and Mary Eliza Hoopes, built adjoining revival-style homes on the bluffs overlooking the Hudson River and the family mill. Boston architect Henry Forbes Bigelow of Bigelow and Wadsworth designed the houses, creating a seven-acre family estate that later became The Hyde Collection.
Louis and Charlotte Hyde actively contributed to the cultural legacy of Glens Falls. Together, the couple sought to enrich the area by providing residents with places of beauty, respite, and learning. Louis was an active and well-liked community leader, and left his mark through his deep commitment and contributions to the building of both the Crandall Public Library and the First Presbyterian Church. An avid reader and book collector, he authored one of the city’s first published histories. Louis and Charlotte shared a passion for art and became serious art collectors soon after they moved to Glens Falls. Their collecting was influenced by summer sojourns to Europe, exposure to the cultural climates of Boston and New York, and advice from noted art connoisseurs. By 1930, William R. Valentiner became their chief art advisor and their private collection took on the hallmarks of The Hyde Collection, a combination of quality and elegance without excess.
After her husband’s death in 1934, Charlotte Hyde continued to collect, hiring curators such as Joseph Jeffers Dodge to help inform her decisions. Dodge offered art classes and tours of Hyde House. Charlotte viewed her home and art collection as a center of cultural and educational opportunities typically afforded only by urban areas. To this end, she established a trust in 1952 dedicating her estate to the community. Charlotte Hyde’s vision, “to promote and cultivate the study and improvement of the fine arts, for the education and benefit of the residents of Glens Falls and vicinity and the general public,” became the mission of The Hyde, which opened its doors to the public three months after her death on August 28, 1963.
Over the course of the last three decades, The Hyde Collection has become a vital community resource. Hyde House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, affirming its architectural significance, and the Museum’s educational role in the region has expanded considerably. This growth has been accommodated by a series of physical expansions, including: the acquisition of Cunningham House and Hoopes House, the homes of Charlotte Hyde’s sisters and the completion in 1989 of an Education Wing, which added three exhibition galleries, an auditorium, art storage, and classrooms. In 2004, the Museum constructed a 6,600 square-foot collections wing and restored the exterior and interior of Hyde House to its historic period.
Today, The Hyde Collection combines the intimacy of a historic house with the sophistication of a larger art museum complex. It welcomes visitors to experience an affordable and exciting schedule of special exhibitions, concerts, and lectures, as well as family and school programs. Interactive programming encourages children and adults alike to explore and discover through audio tours and docent-led tours. The Hyde Collection continually strives to develop innovative ways to make the collection accessible; to make learning about art exciting and relevant; and to provide a welcoming, engaging, and enriching cultural resource dedicated to the betterment of the community.