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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Life Downstairs at Staatsburgh: A Servant Wedding

Fans of the television series Downton Abbey may remember the slow burn of the relationship between the butler, Carson, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes.  Finally, after many seasons of the show, and many more years of working together, the pair expressed their love for each other and were married (much to the delight of the show's fans!).

Romance between servants was usually discouraged, but it did happen.  Some left service after being married, but others continued like Anna and Mr. Bates (another married couple featured on Downton Abbey!).  Even here at Staatsburgh, we know the servants were not immune to falling in love.  Staatsburgh's butler was already married with children when he started working for the Mills family, but his daughter fell in love and married a footman!  Read their story below:

Carson & Mrs. Hughes (Photo: PBS/Masterpiece)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Love in the Gilded Age: Successful Second Marriages

During the early years of the Gilded Age, divorce was quite uncommon and a reason for immediate expulsion from Gilded Age society. However, within a couple decades, divorce was more frequent even among families like the Vanderbilts and Astors. A few groundbreaking divorces from those high up in society, and more couples decided not to remain married to individuals they despised. Many Gilded Age marriages, especially among the upper classes, were not love matches. Parents would push for and even arrange certain marriages in order to cement a partnership, elevate social status, or increase finances, but the individuals were frequently ill suited to each other.  Many of these marriages ended in divorce, but what often resulted from these divorces was a happy second marriage.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2017: Part IV - Cleaning the Passage Room

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.

Blog author Jennifer Mikes
Part III in this series was written by Jennifer Mikes and Stephanie Carrato. Jennifer Mikes is a pre-program art conservation intern.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology with a minor in studio art from Franklin & Marshall College.  She has acquired experience in textile, furniture, paintings, and objects conservation from the University of Delaware, Headley Conservation Services, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Blog author Stephanie Carrato

Stephanie Carrato is from Monroe Township, New Jersey. She has a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009). She has worked in conservation for The Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Andrea Pitsch Conservation, and The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Stephanie is currently a conservation technician at the Penn Museum.

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...