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Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

Bennett Park
June 24, 2024

Small Village, Big Plans
By ML Ball

It’s often said that there are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. The hardworking visionaries behind the Millbrook Community Partnership (MCP), the nonprofit currently spearheading not one but two massive renovation projects in the village of Millbrook, are most definitely the former. Their mission: to give the residents of Millbrook and the surrounding area an extraordinary 35-acre public park and a vibrant, multi-use community center. Both promise to become local hubs where people of all ages gather, stroll, work, explore, and simply enjoy life.

“The aim for both projects is to create two very special places for the people who live in the area to come together and enjoy,” says Oakleigh Thorne, president of MCP and the tenth generation of his family to be involved in the Millbrook community. “We’re building for the present but also for generations to come.”

MCP’s plans are ambitious. The Bennett Park project involves the transformation of the abandoned 1907 Bennett College buildings and grounds into a series of walking trails, a Great Lawn with a bandshell for performances and events, the Bennett College Museum and Visitor’s Center, a stone tower with views of the Catskill Mountains, and a renovated outdoor Greek theater (original to the college). The eastern portion of the park is already open to the public; the remaining west side is on track to open at the end of this year.

Now to the second of MCP’s large-scale endeavors: the restoration and reinvention of the Thorne Building, which was gifted to the village by the Thorne family in 1895, and served as Millbrook’s first public high school. Like Bennett College, the Thorne Building fell into disrepair over the years and was rarely used. But thanks again to the vision and determination of the MCP,  the three-story Beaux Arts structure is set to rise like a modern-day phoenix as the Thorne Center, a community center in the truest sense of the term. Plans call for a state-of-the-art performance area for films, concerts, and theater productions; a digital arts lab; a co-work space; art galleries; art and dance studios; a culinary arts center with a community kitchen; and a music and podcast studio.

“To truly grasp the scope of all the things that will be going on there, you must go inside,” says MCP board member David R. Stack. “The building itself is stunning, with turn-of-the-century fixtures, moldings, and doorways, and a very impressive skylight at the top. It’s really quite incredible.”

MCP is in the midst of raising funds for the Thorne Center, with the goal of beginning construction in 2025 and becoming fully operational in 2027. When both projects are complete, MCP will have in essence created a green gateway to Millbrook for all to enjoy, with Bennett Park at the bottom and the Thorne Center at the top—something only true givers could