As their family grew, the Bowens wanted to establish a summer country retreat so that the family could escape the stifling heat and congestion of New York. Woodstock, Connecticut, with its rural rolling hills, cool ponds, and deep family history, was an ideal location. In 1845 Bowen commissioned Joseph C. Wells, the English-born architect who designed Bowen’s Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, to design a summer home for the family. Joseph C. Wells designed a fantastic five-bedroom, 6,000-square-foot Gothic Revival cottage. The architectural style and plans of the house, as well as the grounds depicted in Wells’ original drawings, were in line with the theories and writings of Andrew Jackson Downing, a popular nineteenth-century American landscape architect. The Gothic Revival summer house, called Roseland Cottage by the family, was completed in the fall of 1846. At the time of construction, an adjacent carriage barn, complete with a private indoor bowling alley, and a detached woodshed were also built in the Gothic Revival style.
In 1850, shortly after the family started summering in Woodstock, the Bowens planted a colorful and nearly 3,000-square-foot boxwood parterre garden. The garden, as depicted in Joseph C. Wells’ drawings, sits prominently in front of the cottage and can be appreciated from the parlors, dining room, and second-floor bedrooms. According to Henry Bowen’s detailed orders the garden comprised 600 yards of boxwood hedge which surrounded twenty-one beds of more than thirty-five varieties of perennials and thousands of annuals. Roseland Cottage’s formal parterre has been an important feature of the house and landscape ever since.
The growing Bowen family returned to Woodstock and Roseland Cottage every summer in the mid-nineteenth century. In line with the Bowens’ Congregationalist values, their time at Roseland Cottage offered fresh air, wide open spaces, and the opportunity for clean and moral activities. The Bowen boys were deeply interested in sports and other energetic activities that reinforced ideas of masculinity and class in the late nineteenth century. They participated in newly popular sports such as polo, croquet, bowling, golf, and badminton, as well as more conventional outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing.
While the Bowen boys were generally ambitious and progressive, the Bowen girls were determined to be as “ladylike” as their beloved mother, and their activities at Roseland Cottage reflected that difference. Lucy Bowen and her three daughters engaged in quieter outdoor activities and other domestic and social pastimes. In a letter sent to a friend in June 1854, Lucy Bowen recounts her summers at Roseland Cottage: “Just one week since we arrived here and found every thing looking beautifully indeed – Now, we are all settled for the summer, and how rapidly it will pass…After breakfast, each day, sisters & myself read French for an hour & then in the afternoon, read History or something of that nature…The remainder of the day is spent in riding, eating, sleeping, sewing & thinking.”
In 1863 Lucy Bowen died due to complications related to the birth of her tenth child, Winthrop Earl Bowen.