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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Collections Care Workshop Part III
Where Housekeeping Ends and Conservation Begins

During June 2016, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive workshop at Staatsburgh.  "Housekeeping for Conservators", sponsored by The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation, along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 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 and textile conservator Kirsten Schoonmaker from the Shelburne Museum.  Several conservation experts also participated in the workshop's instruction including John Childs from the Peabody Essex Museum, Genevieve Bieniosek from Biltmore, and Catherine Coueignoux London of Oak Street Conservation.

The author of our third post, Stephanie Hufford, is an aspiring conservator and artist. She received a BA in Studio Art with a minor in Art History from Rowan University, where she focused on printmaking. She also has an AS in Chemistry from Middlesex County College. She has completed internships in conservation at Quarto Conservation of Books and Paper, the National Museum of American History, the New-York Historical Society, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. She will be starting as a technician at Rieger Art Conservation in the fall. Her background in printmaking has led her to focus on book and paper conservation.

Workshop participant and blog author, Stephanie Hufford

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Collections Care Workshop Part II
Large Lessons from Little Pests


During June 2016, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive workshop at Staatsburgh.  "Housekeeping for Conservators", sponsored by The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation, along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 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 and textile conservator Kirsten Schoonmaker from the Shelburne Museum.  Several conservation experts also participated in the workshop's instruction including John Childs from the Peabody Essex Museum, Genevieve Bieniosek from Biltmore, and Catherine Coueignoux London of Oak Street Conservation.

The author of our second post, Allison Kelley, is a 2016 graduate of the College of William & Mary  with a BS in Chemistry and a minor in Art and Art History.  While working as a student research assistant, she discovered the field of conservation and was attracted to the connection between science and art.  She has volunteered in the objects lab at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and plans to apply to graduate conservation programs in the near future.

Allison Kelly, workshop participant and blog author, vacuums a chair at Staatsburgh.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Collections Care Workshop Part I
Visitor Perception of Age in Historic Sites:
In Defense of the Wrinkles and Face-lifts Alike

During June 2016, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive workshop at Staatsburgh.  "Housekeeping for Conservators", sponsored by The Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation along with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities 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 and Kirsten Schoonmaker from the Shelburne Museum.  Several conservation experts also participated in the workshop's instruction including John Childs from the Peabody Essex Museum, Genevieve Bieniosek from the Biltmore, and Catherine Coueignoux London of Oak Street Conservation.

The author of our first post, Courtney Books, is an artist and art historian with experience in historic preservation.  She received a B.S. in Fine Arts and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin and a Master's in Art History from McGill University.  She is currently an assistant at Parma Conservation in Chicago.  Her love of painting, architecture, and travel drive her aspirations to specialize in mural conservation.

Workshop participant and blog author Courtney Books

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ocean View: How the Millses Summered in Style in Newport


There is something extraordinary about the sea and the summer season is a great time to enjoy the salty tides and coastal views far away from the bustle of the city.  Staatsburgh was generally quiet during the summer because the Mills family was usually headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island.  Newport was the center of the summer season for wealthy Gilded Age families. The elite flocked to the ocean breezes and built grand mansions along the shore.  The young Ruth Livingston spent summers as a young lady in Newport at her parent's cottage on Bellevue Court and even served as a bridesmaid at her twin sister's wedding to Englishman George Cavendish-Bentinck at the Episcopal Chapel of All Saints, which was one of the most anticipated events of the 1880 season.  Once Ruth married Ogden Mills, they visited Newport each summer and rented a home where they would reside during their time there until they purchased Ocean View in 1889.

As a port city on the Atlantic Ocean, Newport was the center for the New England slave trade during the Colonial era until the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in 1807.  Soon wealthy Southern plantation owners began to build summer homes in Newport to escape the heat and by the middle of the nineteenth century wealthy Yankee families began to do the same.  Most of the homes built during this era were shingle style cottages.  By the 1880's, the Newport season began to get longer, beginning in May and ending in October for some families, and the number of cottages occupied each summer continued to increase through the decade.  By this time, the style of the homes had changed, and most of the large mansions were built with marble and resembled prodigious European palaces (see Marble House).



On Right: Ocean View, the Ogden Mills Newport Mansion
located on Bellevue Avenue, circa 1932-34
Source: DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Friday, May 6, 2016

A History of Dinsmore Golf Course

This blog entry was written by Tom Buggy, a graduate of Villanova University and a Hudson Valley resident since 1961. An avid golfer, Tom was always interested in the history of Dinsmore Golf Course as he played it over the years.  He started researching Hudson Valley golf courses in the 1990s when he authored a book for the centennial of the Dutchess Golf and Country Club in Poughkeepsie.  His interest led him to expand his research to include Dinsmore and write a recently published book entitled The Golf Courses of Dutchess County.  See this article for more information about his recent publication.  We thank him for contributing this essay to the blog!

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Golfers who play Dinsmore Golf Course today may come away from their experience thinking “it’s nice but no big deal.” After all, it’s only 5,759 yards long with very generous fairways, modest rough and few hazards. Longtime local players might add remarks about the significant improvement of the greens and the creation of attractive naturalized off-the-fairway areas over recent years. However, few will realize the depth of the course’s history.

The Dinsmore course of today dates to 1962 when the North Nine (Holes 1 to 9 on the scorecard) opened for play, and 1964 when the South Nine (Holes 10 to 18) replaced nine holes that were put into play on the same site 121 years ago in 1894. The original nine holes, which still existed when work on the South Nine began in the early 1960’s, have a history rooted in the beginnings of golf in the United States.

A modern view of Dinsmore Golf Course with the clubhouse in the background.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Maternity Wear in the Gilded Age

Due to a present need for maternity wear in my own life, I started wondering what life was like for a pregnant woman who was also part of Gilded Age society.  Women generally took a reprieve from the public eye during this time, but was this the case for their entire pregnancy?  Would women use their clothing to embrace their shape or try to hide it?

It is true that pregnancy was a private subject during the Gilded Age and women were quiet about the subject.  It was not socially acceptable to flaunt a growing belly in public during the nineteenth century.  Any celebrating was saved until the actual birth of the child, which was partially due to higher mortality rates for infants and mothers and partially due to what was deemed an acceptable conversational topic in society.  The fact that the topic was private and not shared or discussed publicly certainly limits the sources that were left behind, but some examples of maternity wear and corsets remain.  In a society in which corsets were worn by all women and the ideal was a 15 inch waist, how did women deal with their expanding waistlines?  Today, maternity girdles are occasionally worn by women to support their growing midsection, but about 100 years ago, maternity corsets were worn to help minimize or mask the appearance of a growing bump.  These corsets were worn by many women despite warnings from the medical community that lacing too hard could harm the baby or the mother's organs (Check out this recent video on modern day corsetry).  Advertisements for corsets emphasized their safety, but it was up to the women to avoid lacing them too tight.

Maternity Corset