Tag: Gilded Age Homes in the Hudson River Valley

The Vanderbilt Mansion & Estate National Historic Site                                                        4097 Albany Post Road                                                          Hyde Park, NY 12538

The Vanderbilt Mansion & Estate National Historic Site 4097 Albany Post Road Hyde Park, NY 12538

The Vanderbilt Mansion & Estate

National Historic Site

4097 Albany Post Road

Hyde Park, NY  12538

(845) 229-7770

http://www.nps.gov/vama

https://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/vanderbilt-mansion-national-historic-site

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60801-d105845-Reviews-Vanderbilt_Mansion_National_Historic_Site-Hyde_Park_New_York.html?m=19905

I have visited the Vanderbilt Estate many times over the years and every time I visit I learn something new about the family and about the property. It takes many visits to truly see the beauty of the house and grounds.

The Vanderbilt Mansion foyer on the first floor decorated for the holidays

I found the best time to visit is in the late Spring as the buds are coming in and Christmas time when the house is decorated for the holidays. It is quite spectacular. The holiday tour is amazing and after Thanksgiving, make a special trip to the Hudson River Valley and go mansion hopping as all the houses are decorated for the holidays.

The Christmas tree in the library of the Vanderbilt Mansion

The tour will take you to three floors of the house: the first floor with the living room, dining room, parlors, and studies. Then there is the second floor with Fredrick, Louise and the guest family and single women rooms. The last floor you will visit is the basement workrooms, servant quarters and kitchen.

On the first floor is the formal dining room and the library, the offices of both Fredrick and Louise for their social and business obligations and the formal receiving foyer of the home. Things were decorated for the Christmas holiday season and it gave a very festive appearance.

The Library was set up for the Christmas holidays

The other side of the Library for the Christmas holidays

The house was only used about four months out of the year, being used in the Spring and then again in the Fall from the end of September to right after Thanksgiving and then the family would go to New York City for the social season. After Louise’s death, Fredrick sold his other houses and moved here permanently. The house was used full time and Fredrick must have enjoyed his time here.

When she was alive, they used to have a very active social life and were active in local affairs. The formal dining room was used for parties and get togethers. For the holiday season, the room was decorated for a formal Christmas dinner.

The Dining Room set for holiday dinner

The beautiful fireplaces and paneling of the Dining Room

The Dining Room table set for the Christmas holidays

The formal staircase takes you up the to the bedrooms and the formal baths. The house was one of the first in the community to have electricity and hot and cold running water with all modern plumbing.

The stairs were wide and long due to the ladies dresses of the time

The artwork on the walls and landings was just breathtaking

The artwork on the landings and hallways is magnificent

The bedrooms on the second floor are as elaborate as the rest of the house. While Fredrick’s bedroom was very plain in comparison to Louise’s who designed her bedroom after Marie Antoinette’s that she saw at Versailles. The room has a railing around it.

Louise’s Bedroom was based on what she saw in Europe.

Fredrick’s bedroom is less formal

The Bathroom with its modern plumbing and lighting

The elaborate rooms of the Vanderbilt Mansion

The household had a staff of over thirty people to attend to the household and grounds with their formal gardens. The kitchen staff had a well attended kitchen to work with and according to the tour guide, the staff was well treated at the Vanderbilt mansion. Fredrick was a good boss and provided well for his loyal staff.

The basement kitchen of the Vanderbilt Mansion

Touring the Vanderbilt Mansion at the Christmas holidays is always a treat but if you miss it, you can go during the year and still the elaborate rooms and beautiful grounds during the summer months. Take time to walk around the extensive lawns and gardens.

History of the Vanderbilt Mansion:

The Gilded Age, the period following the Civil War to the turn of the century, was a time of unparalleled growth in industry, technology and immigration. Captains of industry, men like Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and others who amassed unimaginable wealth, while the average annual income in the US was around $380, well below the poverty line.

The term “Gilded Age” was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their 1873 book, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. The term refers to the process of gilding an object with a superficial layer of gold to improve its appearance. Established millionaires viewed nouveau riche families like the Vanderbilt’s, who flaunted their wealth by building ostentatious  homes, throwing extravagant balls and using their money to buy social prominence, as gilded-all show, no substance.

Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt (1794-1877) rose from poverty to become a shipping and railroad tycoon. He turned a 100 dollar loan from his parents into a multi-million dollar fortune and left the bulk of his money to his eldest son William.

William expanded the railroad operations doubling the Vanderbilt fortune in just eight years but his eight children lived lives of excess, extravagance and self-indulgence. They built 40 opulent mansions and country estates and entertained lavishly, largely depleting the family money.

Fredrick William Vanderbilt later in life

In 1895, William’s son, Fredrick (1856-1938) and his wife, Louise (1854-1926) bought Hyde Park to use its their spring and fall country estate. McKim, Mead & White, America’s top architecture firm, designated the mansion in the neoclassical style with Beaux-Arts ornamentation and incorporated the latest innovations: electricity, central heating and indoor plumbing. They added the Pavilion, a coach house, power station, gate houses, two new bridges over Crum Elbow Creek, boat docks, a railroad station and extensive landscaping. Many¬†of the mansion’s contents were bought in Europe from wealthy families who had fallen on hard times. Furnishings and construction coast totaled around $2,250,000.

Louise Vanderbilt

Hyde Park was in many ways self-sustaining, providing food and flowers for the family’s needs here and at their other homes. When the Vanderbilt’s were in residence, as many as 60 staff worked here. Staff lived on or near the property and attended to the grounds and extensive farm. Personal staff traveled with the Vanderbilt’s and lived in the mansion with the family. Seasonal laborers were hired from the community and lived in the servants’ quarters.

Vanderbilt Estate

The Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, NY

Fredrick, a quiet man, preferred to avoid social occasions but Louise loved to entertain, throwing lavish weekend parties with horseback riding, golf , tennis and swimming followed by formal dinners and dancing. When Louise died in 1926, Fredrick sold his other houses and returned to this estate for the last 12 years of his life. He was active in business, directing 22 railroads until his death in 1938. His estate totaled $76 million, over 1.2 billion today.

Gilded Age estates like this flourished in the 1890’s until the income tax (1913), World War I (1914) and Great Depression (1930’s) made their upkeep all but impossible.

The couple had no children and left the Hyde Park mansion to Louise’s niece, Margaret Louise Van Alen, who tried to sell the estate but there were no buyers. Her neighbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, suggested she donate the estate to the National Park Service as a monument to the Gilded Age. She agreed and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site opened to the public in 1940. The farmlands were not part of the donation and remain in private hands. The lavish mansion and its contents remain virtually unchanged from the time the Vanderbilt’s lived here.

(The National Park Foundation pamphlet)

The Vanderbilt Family History:

1650: Jan Aertsen Van Der Bilt is the first Vanderbilt ancestor known to reside in American.

1794: Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt born on Staten Island, New York City, to Cornelius and Phoebe Hand Vanderbilt.

1810: Cornelius borrows $100 from parents and buys first two-masted sailing barge to start a ferry service from Staten Island to Manhattan.

1817: Cornelius captains a steamship for Thomas Gibbons and assists in legal battle against steamship monopolies, opening the way for his own shipping business.

1821: William Henry Vanderbilt, one of 13 children and first son, born Cornelius and first wife Sophia.

1830’s-1840’s: Cornelius expands shipping empire, begins railroad management.

1841: William marries Maria Kissam. They have eight children.

1851: Cornelius’ Accessory Transit Company provides shorter, cheaper transportation from New York to San Francisco. He gains national prominence.

1856: Fredrick, sixth child, is born to William and Maria

1861-65: During the Civil War, Cornelius donates steamship to the Union Navy. Receives Congressional Gold Medal. Acquires and consolidates rail lines in the Northeast and Midwest.

1870’s: Cornelius consolidates two core companies, creating New York Central & Hudson Railroad. William slashes cost, increases efficiency, turning it into one of the most profitable large enterprises in America.

1871: Cornelius opens Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street, New York City, the largest train station in North America

1877: Cornelius dies. William inherits most of his father’s fortune, nearly $100 million, to great displeasure of his siblings.

1878: Fredrick graduates from Sheffield Scientific School (Yale). Marries Louise Anthony.

1885: William dies, leaving an estate of $195 million to his eight children.

1895: Fredrick and Louise purchase the Hyde Park estate.

1899: Grand Central Depot is enlarged and becomes Grand Central Station.

1904-13: The new Grand  Central Terminal (GCT) is built in sections on Depot site.  Design insures trains are not delayed.

1926: Louise dies.

1938: Fredrick dies, leave the Hyde Park estate to niece Margaret Louise Van Alen.

1940: Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site established.

1949: 65 million passengers pass through GCT, equivalent 40% of the American population.

1950: Glory days of rail travel end.

1967: GCT designated New York City landmark, saving it from demolition.

1968: New York Central merges with Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central.

1970: Penn Central files for bankruptcy and is dissolved by the courts.

1994: Metro-North takes over the GCT operation and restores it to 1913 splendor.

(The National Park Foundation pamphlet)

A legacy of landscape design:

The estate’s landscape was first developed by Dr. Samuel Bard, who died here in 1821. In the European picturesque style, he planted exotic plants and probably the gingko tree, one of the continent’s oldest dating back to 1799. Bard’s son, William sold the to his father’s medical partner, Dr. David Hosack, who built the first formal gardens and greenhouses. After his death, the estate was broken up. Later Walter Langdon Jr. reunited the estate, laid out the formal garden’s and hired Boston architects to design a gardener’s cottage, tool houses and garden walls. These structures, the only ones to pre-date Vanderbilt ownership, still exists. Vanderbilt redesigned the formal gardens and planted hundreds of trees and shrubs. On weekends, Fredrick and Louise liked to walk through the gardens twice a day. Today the landscape, restored to its 1930’s appearance, encompassing five acres of tiered gardens, gravel paths, shady arbors, ornate statues and bubbling fountains.

(The National Park Foundation pamphlet)

Disclaimer: This information comes directly from the National Park Service pamphlet of the Vanderbilt Estate and I give the author full credit on the information. Please refer to the National Park System website for any further information on the site as the hours vary during the different times of the year.

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Staatsburgh State Historic Site                                              (The Mills Mansion)                                                                      75 Mills Mansion Drive                                              Staatsburg, NY 12580

Staatsburgh State Historic Site (The Mills Mansion) 75 Mills Mansion Drive Staatsburg, NY 12580

Staatsburgh State Historic Site(The Mills Mansion)

75 Mills Mansion Drive

Staatsburgh, NY  12580

http://www.facebook.com/staatsburghSHS

Open: Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48676-d107418-Reviews-Staatsburgh_State_Historic_Site_Mills_Mansion-Staatsburg_New_York.html?m=19905

Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.

Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.

I have been a Friend of the Mills Mansion for about five years and have attended many special events at the mansion including their Afternoon Tea & Lectures, the Annual Meeting and Talk, The Holiday Party and the Isadora Duncan Dance and Reception. Their events are a lot of fun and are very engaging. It also includes a tour of the mansion which is very interesting. Try to get on one of their theme tours.

The Friends of Mills Mansion Meeting on April 2019

Their Special Events:

I recently attended their Summer fundraiser “Sunset on the Terrace”, an evening of cocktails, appetizers and music. On a beautiful sunny evening, there is nothing like it. We were entertained by the Perry Beekman Trio with an assortment of jazz music while passed hot and cold appetizers were passed around the room. It is a relaxing night of light food and cocktails and wine while chatting with members as the sun sets on the mansion’s terrace. Now I know why the Mills loved this house so much.

Another event I have attended over the past few years has been their “Christmas Cocktail Party” that is held in the formal dining room which is decorated for a Victorian Christmas.

Mills Mansion Dining Room

Mill’s Mansion at the holidays is spectacular

What is nice is that everyone is dressed in suits or tuxes for the evening and like its Summer counterpart, it is a evening of light appetizers both passed and on the tables, light desserts and an assortment of wines from a local vineyard.

mills-mansion-holiday-party.jpg

The Mills Mansion Holiday Party in 2018

The “Winter Lectures & Teas” have gotten more interesting over the years. The tables are laden with tea sandwiches, scones and small cakes and the Staatsburg blend of tea. They are always refilling everything for you and I have seen some big eaters at the table. The lectures this year were on various subjects taking place during the Victorian era that included “Bicycling and the Women’s Movement”, “Masquerade Balls during the Season” and “Etiquette & Calling Cards during a Social Visit” by visiting lecturers from colleges or local historians.

afternoon-tea-e1574118129143.jpg

Afternoon tea here is wonderful

I recently went to the Victorian Halloween Lecture which was very interesting. These are a nice afternoon of good food and interesting discussion.

Mills Mansion Halloween.jpg

Mill’s Mansion Halloween Tea

The last lecture I went to before things shut down in February 2020 was on “Masquerade Balls of the Gilded Age” which was very interesting. The enormous amount of money that was spent on a one night affair is almost mind boggling. The Vanderbilt Ball alone cost almost three million dollars in today’s money.

Vanderbilt Ball III

These were not just social occasions but a change to show off your wealth and creativity. It was what money could buy back then before the coming of personal and income tax and the Great Depression. The speaker discussed the food and the music and the fact the home was filled with flowers out of season.

Vanderbilt Ball

The Famous Vanderbilt Ball

She discussed how the balls were created during Roman times in Venice for the start of Carnival (Mardi Gras was the next week) and how they developed during the Renaissance. She then discussed how they played a role in High Society during the Gilded Age and they were considered a little risque at the time. It was a very interesting discussion. As usual, the tea and cakes were delicious and they did a nice job decorating the room.

Vanderbilt Ball II

Hostess Alva Vanderbilt at her famous Ball

The Masked Cocktail Party for Christmas 2022 fundraiser:

The mansion ready for a Christmas party

The Mills Mansion, Staatsburgh, was decked out for the holidays on the night of December 9th, 2022 for a private fundraiser to raise money to replace the curtains in the library on top of other repairs at the mansion. This sold out event was packed the whole evening and was attending by over a 100 people who spilled over into the library and foyer.

Entering the party through the decorated foyer lead to the festivities as it would have during the Gilded Age

The Christmas Tree in the foyer was amazing

There was an open bar with wines and spirits plus water and non-alcoholic choices, passed appetizers with items like gourmet cheese spreads, chicken on a skewer and Christmas cookies. The band was wonderful and played all sorts of contemporary hits as well as Christmas music.

Everyone dressed for the Mills Mansion Ball-The Masquerade Cocktail Party Fundraiser December 9th, 2022

The three main rooms on the top floor were decorated to the hilt for the party

The main dining room was decorated with the theme of masks

People were in a festive mood

The Dining Room table was the focal point of the room

People gathered all over the Dining Room for the event

There was an air of mystery in the Dining Room with everyone wearing masks

The lead singer of the band had the most beautiful 1920’s star outfit

People enjoying themselves in the Dining Room

The Dining Room was packed at the height of the evening

The Band was excellent

The mask decorations were amazing

The party continued in the Library which was also decorated for the holidays

The Library Christmas tree was ablaze the evening of the party

I was only at the party for about an hour but I had a really nice time and I needed it. I had to get my mind off school and with the few drinks and lively conversation mixed with wonderful food, it was an enchanting evening. It was so nice to see people all dressed up again and very age appropriate to the time period. I felt like I had been carried back to the mid-1920’s.

I was also nice to tour the mansion in such a lively time of the day. People were having such a good time.

Visiting the Mansion at the Christmas Holidays:

Don’t miss visiting the Mills Mansion during the Christmas holidays. The house is decked out for a Victorian Christmas even though the Mills did not spend much time at the mansion during the holiday season preferring to live in their New York mansion during the holiday social season.

The holidays are a sumptuous display of the beauty of the Christmas season and a way of showcasing all the nooks and crannies of the house. It showed how Victorians may have enjoyed the holiday season.

The Mills Mansion foyer Christmas tree in December 2022

The foyer was adorned with flowers and garland as you entered the home

The Mills daughter and grandson

The family portrait gallery

The Reception Room between the Foyer and the Dining Room

The Dining Room:

Masks were the theme in December 2022

Masks adorned the Dining Room for Christmas

Still the house is decked out every year with different decorations and the formal dining room has just had the ceiling repaired and new velvet curtains put on the windows. The foyer steps of the older part of the mansion have been repaired with new curtains and rugs as well. Don’t miss seeing the tree in the foyer.

The volunteers are all on staff to answer any questions so feel free to ask about how the Mills entertained and lived in this era. The mansion is so beautifully decorated for the holidays.

The Mills Mansion dining room at Christmas in December 2022

The Dining Room was designed for a Masquerade Ball theme in December 2022

The Butler’s Pantry off the Dining Room for the holidays in December 2022

Still the house is decked out every year with different decorations and the formal dining room has just had the ceiling repaired and new velvet curtains put on the windows. The foyer steps of the older part of the mansion have been repaired with new curtains and rugs as well.

The Library:

The Mills Mansion Library at Christmas in December 2022

The Christmas tree in the library is very elegant

Family portraits in the Library

Down the hall from the Dining Room and the Library are the bedrooms of the hosts of the house, Ruth and Ogden Mills. These elegant bedrooms shared a modern day bathroom.

Ruth’s Private Office:

Ruth conducted her business from her private office. Her portrait sits proudly in the room.

The Bedrooms and Personal Family Space:

Ogden Mills bedroom on the first floor

The modern bathroom at the Mills Mansion

Ruth Mills grand bedroom

The staircase was fully decorated for the holidays as well with garlands and trees

The landing of the staircase to the first floor

The decorated staircase

The mansion’s beautiful gift shop is located at the bottom of the stairs.

In 2020 and 2021: (During COVID)

Recently with the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak affecting cultural sites all over the United States, New York State has enacted Phase 4 of reopening with the exception of opening museums, restaurants and bars for business so they all have to take it “outside”. That Staatsburg site is no different as the inside of the mansion has remained closed.

That leads to new creativity and ideas of how to show off the mansion and it’s grounds true beauty. The State Park site has now created two different programs for the Summer months, the ‘Landscape Tour’ of the mansion’s former ice house, greenhouse, boat house and walking paths and the ‘Programs on the Portico’, lectures of the mansion’s past starting with a lecture of “Staatsburgh’s Servants”.

The Landscape tour of the property was very interesting as our group strolled through the grounds first to the site of the old ‘ice house’ by the river, where ice was cut in the winter time and used for the ‘ice boxes’ in the home which was those days ‘modern refrigeration’.  We also visited the site of the ‘boat house’ where water sports by the river started the day and the yachts that used to flow up and down the Hudson River.

The Landscape Tour starts in the backyard

Our next stop on the tour were the sites of the old greenhouses that used to supply flowers for the mansion and fruits and vegetables for the kitchen. They disappeared over fifty years ago. The site of the stables is now an overgrown woods but once lead to bridle paths around the estate. The tour is about 90 minutes.

The ‘Programs on the Portico’ lectures started with the theme “Staatsburg’s Servants” later in the afternoon. These 3:00pm lectures on the ‘front porch’ of the mansion are socially distanced and under cool  shade.

The Mills Mansion Portico where the lectures take place.

The lecture was on items that the servants would use when the family was ‘in residence’ in the warmer months and how they would be used day to day. Items like a hand-cranked ice cream maker and a scoop for desserts, a bottle closer for beverages, a rug cleaner and a meat press for meals were just some of the items displayed and discussed. It was explained how the house would go through a deep cleaning when the family was away and when they were ‘at home’ how the house would be cleaned around them.

On a recent “Lecture on the Portico”, the topic of the “Titanic” was discussed. It seems that Mr. And Mrs. Mills had tickets on the return voyage to Europe from New York. They lost many friends and family members like J.J. Astor on the sinking of the ship. Our lecturer talked about what you would wear, you would eat and how you would dine on the ship and all the protocols of behavior. Between the sinking of the ship and WWI this ended the “Gilded Age” and ushered in the “Jazz Age” after the war was over. All of the these lectures and tours are free.

Another tour I was on recently was the “Exploring the Village of Staatsburgh” tour where a small group of us toured the Village of Staatsburgh where the mansion was located and learn about the history of the town. It was taken from the perspective of how the mansion was dependent on it and the town benefited from the Mills family and the people that worked there.

We met at the Staatsburgh Library which was a old church at one time.

Home

We visit the homes of the people who lived there like the Head Housekeeper, the Estate Manager and Butler and the footman. It was interesting to see how these people lived when they were not working.

The homes in Staatsburgh were beautifully decorated for the holidays

We learned how the town was created, how the businesses like the railroad and the ice manufacturing businesses were developed and how they grew. We learned a how the town was much more developed before WWII and the effects of the development of Route 9 bypassing the town changed it.

St. Margaret’s Church was where we started the tour which is an amazing church. The stained glass windows are beautiful.

https://www.stmargaretsepiscopalchurch.org/

St, Margaret’s at Christmas time in 2022

When we were on the tour, we saw how the town progressed from being dependent on the mansions and estates to how businesses like ice harvesting became prominent in the area up until the 1950’s. Our last stop was the old Hughes Department store in the old downtown area which is now a sail store for boating.

As a member, we also had a recent concert on the portico to hear the duo “Acute Inflections” perform on the lawn. We all stayed socially distanced on the lawn but still the concert was nice and this is what being a member of the Friends group is all about. These small events make a big difference.

The duo “Acute Reflections” performed that day

“Acute Reflections” performing

Another recent tour I took at the Mills Mansion was the “Estates of Staatsburgh” tour where we visited the abandoned estates of the Lee and the Hoyt families. The Hoyt’s were distant relatives of Ruth Livingston and their mansion still stands up on a buff in the woods overlooking the Hudson River. The family lived there until the 1960’s when the land and home were sold to the State of New York to create the park.

Hoyt Estate

The abandoned Hoyt Estate will soon be a Visitors Center for the Park

http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/rinaldi/PAGES/thepoint.htm

The Lee Mansion burned down in the late 1950’s and all that is left of their estate if the old ice house, which is the size of a regular home. Most of these old estates we came to find out were self sufficient with agriculture and light manufacturing.

The Hoyt Mansion in its Heyday

The Hoyt Mansion in its heyday

We got to see all the back trails to these old estates and the old driveways that once led to them. They have been abandoned since the 1960’s and have almost a spooky appearance of being lost in time. With the foliage in the background, it gave them a Halloween appearance. The tour was very interesting how the Gilded Age didn’t last too long when modern times came into play with income tax.

To ring in 2021, the park had their “First Day Hike tour, ‘Staatsburgh in Winter”. There were two walking tours around the estate. One entitled “Staatsburgh in Winter” which discussed the winter time fun at the turn of the century and the activities the Mills family enjoyed when they were at the estate in winter months. It seems that Ruth Mills was quite an accomplished figure skater. The family also owned an ice yacht, “The Beatrice” that they rode on the frozen river.

Mills Mansion New Years Walking Tour

The Mills Mansion New Year’s Day Walking Tours-Me with the dark jacket and white mask

The second tour we took later that afternoon was “When Ice came from the river: Ice Harvesting in the Gilded Age”. We toured the river and the cove areas of the estate and discussed the ice block harvesting business that Mr. Mill’s had on the river. The family ice house could hold 500 tons of ice that was sold down in New York City. It was interesting to see how the process of clearing the snow and cutting the ice into blocks served as refrigeration for thousands of residents before refrigerators came into use.

Both tours our groups walked the back of the estate and the river front along the Hudson River. The tour guide had a long conversation on how the river was used during the Winter and that life continued in a productive way even after the holidays were over. It was a great way to spend the first day of the New Year.

The park continues to amaze me in their adaption on running events during the COVID era.

In 2021, the mansion had been opened for the Christmas tours, but I was not able to attend. There was not that much time to run back and forth to the Hudson River Valley but in February 2022 the mansion finally resumed inside tours of the first floor of the mansion to the public.

The mansion looked like it had gone through a deep cleaning as everything looked shiny and new. It would have made Mrs. Mills proud. I was lucky to come up to Staatsburgh during the ‘Spring Thaw’ and it was 56 degrees out so I could enjoy the grounds as well. I learned some new things about how the Butler’s Pantry worked, and we were able to see the ice chests and china and silver that the family used for service. I swear I learn new things on each tour I take here.

All of these can be seen on the organization’s website.

History:

In 1792, Morgan Lewis, the third Governor of New York, purchased an estate covering of about 334 acres and commissioned the construction of a colonial-style house on the site of the present mansion. In 1832, the first house was destroyed by fire, said to be the act of arson committed by disgruntled tenant farmers.

The current home, originally built in 1832 and greatly expanded in the 1890’s, the Mills Mansion (also known as Staatsburgh) is emblematic of the great country estates built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to house America’s wealthiest families.

Mills Mansion.jpg

The Mill’s Mansion in the Summer months

https://parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/staatsburgh/details.aspx

Staatsburgh is a New York State Historic Site located within the boutonnieres of Mills-Norrie State Park. It is an elegant example of the great estates built by America’s financial and industrial leaders during the Gilded Age.

A 25 room Greek Revival structure was built on the site in 1832 by Morgan Lewis and his wife, Gertrude Livingston, replacing an earlier house that had burned down. This second house was inherited by Ruth Livingston Mills, wife of noted financier and philanthropist Ogden Mills.

Ruth Livingston Mills

Ruth Livingston Mills

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/18151451/ruth-mills

In 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Mills commissioned the prestigious New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White to remodel and enlarge their Staatsburgh home. After the completion in 1896, the house was transformed into a Beaux-Arts mansion of 65 rooms and 14 bathrooms. Its exterior was embellished with balustrades, pilasters, floral swags and a massive portico. The rooms were furnished with elaborately carved and gilded furniture, fine oriental rugs, silk fabrics and a collection of art objects from Europe, ancient Greece and the Far East.

Ogden Mills

Ogden Mills

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogden_Mills_(financier)

In 1938, the house and 192 acres were given to the State of New York by Gladys Mills Phipps, the daughter of Ruth and Ogden Mills. The estate is now operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. In 1988, the Friends of Mills Mansion were organized to support the preservation and educational work at the site.

(Friends of the Mills Mansion Website)

Design:

The outside of the mansion features a massive portico, balustrades, pilasters and floral festoons. The central part of the mansion is layered into a basement, three floors and an attic. In the north and south wings, there is a sub basement, a basement and two floors. Ceilings in the older part of the building dating prior to the enlargement (the first floor of the central part) are about 14 feet high, whereas the ceilings of the later construction (first floor of the north and south wings) can be about 18 feet high. The interior of the building is decorated in French styles of the 17th and 18th century. However, some architectural elements of the previous home have been preserved in the process.

Preservation:

The Mills Mansion poses several challenges to preservation: On the outside, a gray sprayed concrete finish which was added later as a preservation measure need to be removed and replaced with a more suitable surface treatment. At the same time, the decorative cornice and many decorative elements need to be either restored or replaced. On the inside of the building, wall paint and furnishings fabrics are in need of replacement, marble and wooden surfaces need to be cleaned and the objects of the mansion’s collection need to be conserved.

(Wiki Website)

Locust Grove Estate                                                                 2683 South Road (Route 9)                                    Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Locust Grove Estate 2683 South Road (Route 9) Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Locust Grove: A National Historic Landmark

2683 South Road (Route 9)

Poughkeepsie, NY  12601

(845) 454-4500

http://www.lgny.org

https://www.lgny.org/

Open: Seasonal-See Below

Visitor Information: The gardens and grounds are open year round from 8:00am to dusk, weather permitting.

House Tours: Offered May through November, daily from 10:00am-5:00pm and weekends in April & December. Groups tours by appointment.

Visitor Center: Open January through March, weekdays from 10:00am-5:00pm. April through December daily from 10:00am-5:00pm.

Fee: Adults $12.00/Children (6-18) $6.00

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48443-d263920-Reviews-Locust_Grove_Estate-Poughkeepsie_New_York.html?m=19905

The Locus Grove Estate

Overlooking the Hudson River, the 180 acre Locust Grove Estate includes an Italianate villa designed in 1851 by architect Alexander Jackson Davis for artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse.

The Locus Grove additions of the tower and back rooms

The estate, with miles of carriage roads, landscaped grounds, historic gardens and Hudson River views, was preserved as a museum and nature preserve by the Young family, whose collection of art and antiques is exhibited in the mansion’s 25 rooms.

Entering Locus Grove for the Christmas holidays

I have visited the house twice for Christmas with the mansions elaborate but tasteful displays and once in the last fall when the foliage was in full peak. The house is an interesting example of turn of the century architecture and innovation of both the Morse and Young family’s love of Locust Grove. Each added their own touch to the house.

The Library right off the main hallway entrance used to be the original Dining Room when the Morse’s owned the house

The Christmas tree in the Library

The Parlor across the hall from the Library

A closer look at the Christmas tree

During the Christmas holiday season, the house is beautifully decorated both inside and out for the holidays, with a formal tree in the back Living room, smaller trees and garland around the house on the first floor and smaller trees with presents in the bedrooms and in the Billiards room.

The Library at Locust Grove for the holidays

One of the rooms set for Afternoon Tea

One of the back offices

When the Young’s moved into the house, they needed more room for entertaining so they added the larger dining room (The Morse’s added the Tower to the home). So the old Dining Room became one of the reception rooms and a library. Some of the smaller rooms were used for social occasions so the first floor was reconfigured.

The Living Room in the Tower addition of the home

The mirror in the Living Room was the last thing left by the Morses

The larger Living Room held the most beautiful Christmas tree with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River from the back window. The room is elaborately decorated for the holidays and the volunteers created a very festive decor for the room. I do not know if the family would have decorated this much but still the halls were decked perfectly.

The Dining Room was set for an formal Christmas lunch with the family’s best china, crystal and silver and had displays of fruits and desserts that would have been served during the holidays. The Morse family spent their holidays in New York City so it would have been the Young’s who spent their holidays here.

The Dining Room set for Christmas lunch

The Christmas tree in the Dining Room

The Butler’s Pantry for the Dining Room

The upstairs to the bedrooms

The house had been added onto twice from the small cottage that had been built by the second owners, the Montgomery family. The back tower and wings were built by the Morse family and the formal dining room by the Young’s for their growing family.

The bedrooms were nicely decorated and the rooms had lots of Christmas decorations that you would not ordinarily see in a bedroom. Each room had its own Christmas tree.

The Master Bedroom with a breakfast nook overlooking the Hudson River

The paintings above the bed are of the Young family

The modern bathroom with hot and cold running water

The Young’s son lived in this room until he died

The Young’s daughter lived in this room until her death

The guest rooms were also nicely decorated

The dollhouse in the guest bedroom

Another guestroom

Guest room

The tour guide told us that the second floor Billiards Room was once a very popular and engaging room in the house for everyone visiting. There was always a lot of action going on in this room.

The Second Floor Billiards Room

The Christmas decorations in the Billiards Room

Our last stop on the second floor was the modern bathroom which was considered extremely innovative for its day. This was the most modern approach to plumbing.

The upstairs bathroom

The last stop on the tour was the downstairs Servants Quarters which were also decorated for the holidays. It showed what the Servants of the household would have been doing on a daily basis to help keep the house running.

The Servants kitchen

The kitchen table in the Servants Quarters

The Servants Dining Room

Our tour guide, Ethel, did a nice job interpreting how each family would have used the house and for what occasions. The Young’s lived here full time until the last owner, Annette, died in 1975 and the Morse family used it as a summer retreat until Samuel Morse died in 1872.

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The view from the back of Locust Grove to the Hudson River during the early fall

The view to the Hudson River from the back of the house during Christmas 2022

The house is tastefully furnished both in turn of the last century decor and some more modern pieces. The grounds in the spring and summer months are in full bloom and in the fall awash with colors from the trees.

Also, don’t miss visiting the small museum of Samuel Morris’s paintings and his development of the telegraph system, where the patents is where most of the family fortune came from. Mr. Morse was an artist, educator and inventor and his life’s work is displayed in the galleries.

The Morse Family

Morse Museum: Samuel Morse family in the early Colonies

Samuel Morse with his career in portrait painting

Samuel Morse’s Portraits

Samuel Morse’s inventions and innovations with the telegraph

Samuel Morse’s innovations

The History of Locust Grove:

Locust Grove has an interesting history. The estate was first owned by Henry Livingston Jr. when he purchased the property from his father in 1771. The estate was such named because of the black locust trees that grew on the property. After his death, the estate was sold to John and Isabella Montgomery who built the original cottage on the estate. Mr. Livingston’s home had been torn down by this point.

The main house at Locust Grove is a villa in the Italianate style designed in 1850. Morse had recalled the elegant villas that he had visited years earlier in the Italian countryside and he sketched towers, windows and floor plans. Construction on the villa, sited on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Hudson River began in 1851 and was completed the following year.

He continued to expand the cottage and the gardens during his time and the family continued to use the house as a summer retreat and living in the winters in their brownstone in Gramercy Park. After Mr. Morse’s death, the family used the house occasionally and then sold it to one of their renters, the Young family.

William and Martha Young added modern amenities to the house like central heat and running water and updated the bathrooms. They added the new dining room and guest bedrooms in the new North Wing of the house. They also brought with the many family heirlooms and their decorative art collection which is still on display in the house.

After their deaths, the Young’s children, Annette and Ennis worked to preserved and restore their family’s homes in here, in New Haven, New York City and Ulster County. After the death of her brother in 1953, Annette Young continued to live at Locust Grove and began donating to museums the art, land and historic houses she inherited so that they would be protected. When she died in 1975, she established a not-for-profit foundation to ensure that Locust Grove with its collections and archives would be protected. The house is now available for touring and for weddings.

(Locust Grove History and Wiki: I give both organizations full credit for this information)

Location: Locust Grove is located on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie, NY, two miles south of the Mid-Hudson Bridge or 11 miles north of Interstate 84.

Locus Grove Gift Shop

Disclaimer: this information is taken from the Locust Grove Historic pamphlet. The site is very interesting and should be added to your list of ‘must sees’ in the area. Please call the site for more information.

Olana State Historic Site                                    5720 Route 9G                                               Hudson, NY 12534

Olana State Historic Site 5720 Route 9G Hudson, NY 12534

Olana State Historic Site

5720 Route 9G

Hudson, NY  12534

(518) 828-0135

Home

Open: 11:00am-3:00pm (check the website for seasonality)

Fee:

TripAdvisor Review:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47931-d263717-Reviews-Olana_State_Historic_Site-Hudson_New_York.html?m=19905

History of Olana:

Olana, one of the most important artistic residences and planned landscapes in the United States, is the last and perhaps greatest masterpiece created by Hudson River School artist Fredrick Edwin Church (1826-1900). Church designed the landscape and his Persian style home on and around the same hilltop where, as an eighteen year old student, he sketched spectacular views of the Catskills and the river alongside his mentor Thomas Cole.

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Even in an era defined by personal architectural statements, the home of Fredric and Isabel Church was unique. Delight in the Moorish details of the building and each room. View the original furnishings of the house and walk or jog along the paths and carriage drives of the surrounding landscape, also designed by Church.

A designated National Historic Landmark, Olana State Historic Site opened to the public in 1967. The house, its contents and the landscape still look very much as they did in Church’s day.

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The inside of Olana in the main rooms

Directions: Located on Route 9G, five miles south of Hudson. Take NYS I-87 to Exit 21, Catskill. Take Route 23 over Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Bear right on Route 9G south. Olana is one mile on the left. Or visit our websites at http://www.Olana.org and http://www.nysparks.com.

Hours: House available by guided tour only. Call for days and hours or visit http://www.olana.org. Reservations suggested; group tours by advance reservation only. Grounds open 8:00am-sunset year around.

http://www.nyparks.com

http://www.olana.org

Disclaimer: this information is take directly from the NY Parks pamphlet on the Olana Historic Site. Please call the site for more information.