Charlotte Pruyn Hyde (1867-1963) was born in Glens Falls, NY, into one of the leading industrialist families of the Adirondack region. Her father, Samuel Pruyn, founded Finch, Pruyn & Company, Inc. – a paper manufacturing business – with Jeremiah Finch in 1865. Eventually, Pruyn became the sole owner, thus establishing the foundation of the Pruyn family’s wealth.
Charlotte Pruyn married Louis Fiske Hyde (1866-1934) in 1901, and in 1906 Charlotte’s father asked his son-in-law to leave his law practice in Massachusetts and join the family business in Glens Falls. As a result, the couple returned to Charlotte’s hometown in 1907 and Louis became vice president of the family mill.
Between 1904 and 1912 Charlotte and her sisters built three homes on the bluffs overlooking the Hudson River and the family mill. The Boston architect Henry Forbes Bigelow of the architectural firm Bigelow and Wadsworth was commissioned to design all three residences. Each followed the American Renaissance tradition of adapting European architectural traditions to American taste.
Hyde House was completed in 1912. Influenced by contemporary movements regarding interior design, they purchased furnishings and decorative arts that best suited the scale and environment of their home. The Hydes continued to acquire pieces during subsequent summer sojourns to Europe and, more often, from their favorite New York City dealers during their winter stays in New York.
By 1930 their collection had garnered its hallmark – a combination of quality, intimacy, and elegance without excess. When Louis passed away in 1934, approximately one-third of the core collection was assembled. In 1952, eighteen years after her husband’s death, Charlotte established the Trust Agreement that would establish the future museum. Mrs. Hyde died on August 28, 1963. Three months later, The Hyde Collection opened to the general public.
In the spring of 1964, the new museum held its first special exhibition, a significant selection of drawings and sculpture by David Smith. In 1984, Hyde House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One year later, The Hyde Collection was first accredited by the American Association of Museums.
As the Museum’s role in the region grew, the trustees began to consider the issues of managing the art collection and its increasing educational responsibilities solely within the confines of a historic house. In 1985, the Museum acquired nearby Cunningham House for its administrative offices and proposed a major expansion to connect it with Hyde House. Designated the Education Wing, this addition was considered the optimum solution for preserving the Hydes' legacy, enabling the expansion of the collection, and fulfilling the educational objectives of the Trust Agreement.
The Education Wing was designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and opened in celebration of the Museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 1989. With this addition of four exhibition galleries, an auditorium, art storage, classrooms, and a museum shop, The Hyde consciously broadened its scope of purpose. From an active special exhibition schedule, to concerts, lectures, and family and school programs, the new wing greatly enhanced the Museum’s involvement within its community and region.
By 1999, significant growth had combined with compelling preservation needs to necessitate the creation of a new strategic plan. Following three years of planning and preparation, the Museum publicly outlined their objectives by unveiling Preserving the Legacy: a Comprehensive Plan for the Future. Eighteen months of expansion, restoration, and renovation followed and the plan was successfully completed in May 2004.
In 2013 The Hyde celebrated fifty years as a museum and is now a dynamic institution with an active education department, on-going temporary exhibitions by major world-renowned artists, concerts, and lectures, much of which is supported by an enthusiastic membership base.
By preserving our founders’ legacy and addressing our most pressing logistical needs, we have effectively and proactively prepared the Museum for future service to the entire region.