Welcome to Staatsburgh State Historic Site's blog! Learn more about the Gilded Age home of Ruth and Ogden Mills!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas 1900 at Staatsburgh: The First Christmas of a New Century

Christmas 1900

Christmas 1899 must have been an enjoyable occasion because the family spent Christmas 1900 at Staatsburgh as well.  Many wealthy families like the Millses left the city to spend the holiday in a quiet, country location.  Nearby Tuxedo Park was also a popular location for many families.

Wilbur and Orville Wright's Christmas Tree, 1900

Marking the beginning of a new century, 1900 brought a seven-month-long world's fair in Paris.  The 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle celebrated the achievements of the last century and the new developments moving the world forward in the next.  Over 50 million people from around the world visited the fair.  It was an election year in the United States and President William McKinley was re-elected.  He defeated William Jennings Bryan just as he had in 1896, but this time his running mate was none other than New York governor and rising star, Theodore Roosevelt.  The Poughkeepsie Eagle's Christmas day edition makes little mention of Christmas since the holiday had not yet become a mass marketing scheme.  For the Mills family, the holiday was a quiet family affair at their country home.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas 1899 at Staatsburgh

Every year we decorate the mansion for the Christmas season.  We don't merely put up a tree and throw some garland on the railings.  We really deck the halls...Gilded Age style!  There are no fewer than six decorated trees, bows on every sconce, decorations in every room, and an amazing display in the dining room.  We are talking splendor x 100!  The mansion closes for three weeks for all of this work to be done by staff and a highly-skilled cadre of volunteers!  However, the Mills did not leave behind a blueprint or photos of their Christmas decorations.  The only thing we have is a quote from a neighbor who remembers boughs of holly.  Since 100% historical accuracy is out of reach, we decorate in the spirit of the holiday and the spirit of the splendor of the Gilded Age.

Christmas at Staatsburgh, 2016

We also do not have definitive knowledge that the Mills family spent Christmas here.  We know the family spent most of the autumn at Staatsburgh and we assume they did spend at least a few Christmases here over the years.  Thankfully, earlier this year, we received an amazing gift.  The Staatsburgh guestbook used from 1899-1908 was discovered and donated to the site.  The guestbook was signed by visitors when they arrived at Staatsburgh.  It has entries and therefore proof that the family was here for Christmas in both 1899 and 1900.  There are many guests all fall, during the week of Thanksgiving and even two weeks before Christmas, but Christmas, as we will discover, was mainly a family affair at Staatsburgh. Let us first take a look at Christmas 1899...

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2017 Part III:
Clocks of Staatsburgh

During June 2017, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive preventative conservation workshop at Staatsburgh.  This was the second year that the workshop was held at Staatsburgh with sponsorship from The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The workshop taught in-depth methods of caring for many different types of collections. Participants gained insight into artifact conservation and the conditions that cause deterioration. After the workshop, several of the participants wrote blog entries about their experience and a specific aspect of the workshop.

NYS Bureau of Historic Sites Furniture Conservator, David Bayne, organized this workshop to occur at Staatsburgh collaborating on its organization with Independent Conservator Cathy MacKenzie.  Several conservators participated in the workshop's instruction including  Kirsten Schoonmaker from the Shelburne MuseumValentine Talland formerly from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Michelle Smith, most recently at the National Library of France.

Part III in this series was written by Aubrey Skye Quasney, an artist, historian, and aspiring conservator from Pasadena, Maryland. In 2013, she graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Art History and Painting. Since then she has interned at the Walters Art Museum assisting with the curation and conservation of Islamic Arts for the traveling exhibition, Pearls on a String. Currently, she is museum director of the System Source Computer Museum in Hunt Valley, Maryland where she oversees the curating, restoration, and collection management. As an artist, she likes to bring creativity to all that she does, from painting portraits to finding new ways to present artifacts within museum collections. She is passionate about our collective histories and preserving them for the future through restoration, photography, and writing. She continues to work towards becoming a conservator of objects, with a specific interest in clock and watch restoration.

AIC Workshop Participant and Blog Author Aubrey Quasney

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2017 Part II: Exploring the Library

During June 2017, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive preventative conservation workshop at Staatsburgh.  This was the second year that the workshop was held at Staatsburgh with sponsorship from The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The workshop taught in-depth methods of caring for many different types of collections. Participants gained insight into artifact conservation and the conditions that cause deterioration. After the workshop, several of the participants wrote blog entries about their experience and a specific aspect of the workshop.

NYS Bureau of Historic Sites Furniture Conservator, David Bayne, organized this workshop to occur at Staatsburgh collaborating on its organization with Independent Conservator Cathy MacKenzie.  Several conservators participated in the workshop's instruction including  Kirsten Schoonmaker from the Shelburne MuseumValentine Talland formerly from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Michelle Smith who is currently spending the summer at the National Library of France.

Part II of the series was written by NYU graduate Natasha Kung.  Natasha was born and raised in New York and graduated from New York University in 2016 with degrees in Art History and Chemistry. She has gained pre-program conservation experience at the Museum of Modern Art, with Central Park Conservancy, and with several private conservators. She is currently interning in the Department of Photograph Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Conservation Department at the Brooklyn Museum. She expresses interest in specializing in objects, but is also fascinated by photo chemistry and materials science.

AIC Workshop participant and blog author Natasha Kung

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2017 Part I: Outdoor Marble Sculpture

During June 2017, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive preventative conservation workshop at Staatsburgh.  This was the second year that the workshop was held at Staatsburgh with sponsorship from The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The workshop taught in-depth methods of caring for many different types of collections. Participants gained insight into artifact conservation and the conditions that cause deterioration. After the workshop, several of the participants wrote blog entries about their experience and a specific aspect of the workshop.

NYS Bureau of Historic Sites Furniture Conservator, David Bayne, organized this workshop to occur at Staatsburgh collaborating on its organization with Independent Conservator Cathy MacKenzie.  Several conservators participated in the workshop's instruction including  Kirsten Schoonmaker from the Shelburne Museum, Valentine Talland formerly from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Michelle Smith currently spending the summer at the National Library of France.

Part I in this series of blogs is by Ruthie Rolfsmeyer.  Ruthie is a conservation technician who has been contracted to work with concrete and wooden sculpture folk art environments in Maine, Georgia, and Wisconsin. She has also done conservation work on indoor murals in Idaho and Minnesota. Her degree is in Fine Art and Graphic Design with a minor in Art History, and she is continuing her education through courses in chemistry and Italian.

Workshop participant and blog author, Ruthie Rolfsmeyer