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Lawn Party To Raise Awareness Of Historic Briarcliff Building

Dow Hall on Pace University's Briarcliff campus will be the site of an old-fashioned lawn party this month sponsored by local historians worried about the building's fate. Photo Credit: Carol Reif
Dow Hall as its looked in the early 1900s. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- Dow Hall dominates Pace University’s satellite campus in Briarcliff.

Built by wealthy and prominent local citizen Walter W. Law at the turn of the century, the stately, red-brick building is all that’s left of a fancy finishing school operated by Mary Elizabeth Dow.

Dow, a close friend of Law’s, was wooed away from the famed (and still extant) Mrs. Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn., which boosts of an alumni list that includes Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and Gloria Vanderbilt.

According to local historian Karen Smith, the school morphed into a junior college in the 1930s and then a four-year college in the 1950s, but eventually “wilted on the vine” because of its refusal to go co-ed.

In the late 1970s, Pace bought the 35-acre campus on the village’s Elm Road and turned it into student residences and staff offices.

Now, Dow Hall and the rest of the buildings are about to be sold, perhaps as soon as December, Pace spokeswoman Cara Cea confirmed this week. Cea would not reveal, however, who the potential buyers are or what they may do with the site.

Pace has been slowly moving students to residences on its Pleasantville campus and there are only a handful of staff offices left in Briarcliff, Cea said.

While remaining officially neutral on the subject, the Briarcliff Manor-Scarborough Historical Society is, nonetheless, concerned about Dow Hall’s fate. The organization is having an old-fashioned lawn party this month with the intent of raising awareness about the 82,000-square-foot building’s historical and architectural value.

“Basically, we’re trying to get as many people up there as possible,” Smith said.

“To want to save it, you have to have seen it.”

The honorary chairman of the event will be Michael Molnelli, a village resident and architect.

The society has been posting flyers and sending out invites for the Saturday, Oct. 15 bash. The party will be from 2-4 p.m. in Dow Hall’s reception salon. It will feature wine, hors d’oeuvres, canapes, desserts, music, “merriment” and raffle baskets.

The society says its mission is multi-fold. Not only are local historians caretakers of a community’s heritage, it says, they tell its stories, archive its treasures, promote “lasting interest” in history in general, and, in this case, encourage preservation.

For information about the festivities, e-mail the historical society at, or call (914) 941-4393.

The Pace University campus is at 235 Elm Road, Briarcliff Manor.

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