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

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Hallowe'en in the Time of War and Pandemic: 1917-1919 - Part II

This essay is the second in a four part series about Hallowe'en during the time of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. The series was written by Carol Kohan who is one of Staatsburgh's wonderful volunteers. In addition, Carol enjoyed a 38 year career with the National Park Service, holding interpretation, curatorial, and management positions including Curator of Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, Midwest Regional Curator in Omaha, Superintendent of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa, and Deputy Superintendent of Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park. After her retirement from the National Park Service in 2013, Carol served two terms as Historian for the Town of Hyde Park.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Hallowe’en in the Time of War and Pandemic: 1917-1919 - Part I

This essay begins a four part series about Hallowe'en during the time of World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic.  The series is written by Carol Kohan who is one of Staatsburgh's wonderful volunteers.  Carol has presented enchanting Gilded Age Hallowe’en Tea & Talk programs at Staatsburgh since 2016.  In addition, Carol enjoyed a 38-year career with the National Park Service, holding interpretation, curatorial, and management positions including Curator of Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook, Midwest Regional Curator in Omaha, Superintendent of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa, and Deputy Superintendent of Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park.  After her retirement from the National Park Service in 2013, Carol served two terms as Historian for the Town of Hyde Park.

We hope you will enjoy this four-part blog post which continues the story of this spellbinding holiday. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Remembering Ruth Livingston Mills a Century After her Death

Today, October 13, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Ruth Livingston Mills, the long-time matriarch of Staatsburgh, born in 1855.  Ruth’s legacy can be found in her descendants, the preservation of her Staatsburgh mansion, and the surrounding park that bears her name.  Upon announcing her death, The New York Times reported, “Since the death of Mrs. William Astor no leader of New York society has more nearly approached the position of social arbiter than Mrs. Mills. Her characteristics as a hostess never altered; she did not believe in easily letting down the bars to newcomers or to new methods and manners of entertaining, one critic of her small invitation list during a certain Newport season asserting that she was determined to reduce the ‘400’ to ‘150.’”  

A September 12th article in a Pittsburgh newspaper reported that Mrs. Ogden Mills was due to spend the late autumn at Staatsburgh though she was currently in Paris with her daughter, the Countess of Granard. Mr. Mills was on his way to join her.  Alas, Mrs. Mills was never again going to welcome guests to her beloved Staatsburgh.


Friday, September 25, 2020

How Samantha Parkington Taught Me About the Past

Do the names Kirsten, Samantha and Molly ring a bell?  If they do, it is likely that you are a child of the 1980s and early 1990s...like me.  Beginning in 1986, Pleasant Company introduced these three young women who made up the American Girls Collection. Kirsten Larsen (1854) was a Swedish immigrant living on the frontier, Samantha Parkington (1904) was an orphan being raised by her grandmother, and Molly McIntire was living through World War II.  Each girl was represented by a doll, but the collection was much more than just a doll.  The story of each girl was told in a series of books which included a book about school, Christmas, her birthday, summer, and change.  Each doll had different outfits and accessories which all related to the content and illustrations in the books.  This clever marketing helped transform Pleasant Company into a multi-million dollar company re-branded American Girl after it was purchased by Mattel for $700 million in 1998.    

The original American Girls Collection released in 1986

Friday, August 28, 2020

Traces of Edith Wharton's House of Mirth at Staatsburgh

This blog is authored by David Bayne who served as the furniture conservator for the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites from 1992 until his retirement in early 2020.  David spent eleven years as a musical instrument and furniture maker before taking the Smithsonian Institution's Furniture Conservation Training Program and becoming a conservator.  David conserved many pieces of furniture at Staatsburgh including the French armoire discussed in this blog from 2018.

Essay author David Bayne

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Summer at Knebworth House

During summer, is not unheard of for wealthy or even middle class families to rent a home for the season.  But could you imagine renting this house?  Well, in 1909, that is exactly what Ruth & Ogden Mills did.

Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, England

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A 1901 Epidemic at Staatsburgh

In this time of COVID-19, it is instructive to note that the world has been plagued (if you will) with epidemics throughout history. The Gilded Age was no exception. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, as in past centuries, waves of yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, diphtheria, typhoid fever, polio and scarlet fever brought fear and death.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Hidden Treasures of the Collection: Vichy Water

One of the reasons that we initially created this blog was to be able to focus on items in Staatsburgh's collections that are tucked away, harder to see, or not highlighted on the standard house tour. The house has so many items in it, that it is impossible to cover it all on a tour. The "Hidden Treasures of the Collection" essay series provides a closer look at some of the lesser-known, yet interesting objects throughout the house and estate. This essay examines the high-end (non-alcoholic) beverage of choice for European elites, also found in Staatsburgh's pantry.

A 1975 photograph of the butler's pantry showing the Vichy bottle cabinet.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Dining on the Titanic - Part III

Parts I and II of the Dining on the Titanic blog began by saying that we talk a lot about the Titanic at Staatsburgh. Staatsburgh’s owners, Ruth and Ogden Mills, planned to sail on the ship’s second voyage, one the doomed liner was never to make. The people who traveled first-class on the Titanic included people in the Millses’ social circle, as well as Mrs. Mills’ cousin, John Jacob Astor. The Millses’ connection to the Titanic led us to create “Tales of the Titanic,” a themed tour that we offer each spring. The Titanic has also been a theme for some of the talks at our Tea and Talk series. This 3-part Dining on the Titanic blog essay reproduces the 2016 Tea Talk of the same title.

As in Parts I and II, this essay will start with acknowledging the primary source for the Tea Talk, the delightful book, Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner, by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley. Featuring sound scholarship, good writing, and beautiful illustrations, the book is a great read.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Dining on the Titanic - Part II

Dining on the Titanic Part I began by saying that we talk a lot about the Titanic at Staatsburgh. Staatsburgh’s owners, Ruth and Ogden Mills, planned to sail on the ship’s second voyage, one the doomed liner was never to make. The people who traveled first-class on the Titanic included people in the Millses’ social circle, as well as Mrs. Mills’ cousin, John Jacob Astor IV. The Millses’ connection to the Titanic led us to create “Tales of the Titanic,” a themed tour that we offer each spring. The Titanic has also been a theme for some of the talks at our Tea and Talk series. This 3-part Dining on the Titanic blog essay series reproduces one of the Tea Talks: “Dining on the Titanic.”

The primary source for the Tea Talk was the delightful book, Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner, by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley. Featuring sound scholarship, good writing, and beautiful illustrations, the book is a great read. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Dining on the Titanic - Part I

We talk a lot about the Titanic at Staatsburgh. Staatsburgh’s owners, Ruth and Ogden Mills, planned to sail on the ship’s second voyage, one the doomed liner was never to make. The Millses connection to the Titanic led us to create “Tales of the Titanic,” a themed tour that we offer each spring. The Titanic has also been a theme for some of the talks at our Tea and Talk series. In this blog and ones to follow, we’ll reproduce one of the Tea Talks: “Dining on the Titanic.”

The primary source for the talk was the delightful book, Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner, by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley. Featuring sound scholarship, good writing, and beautiful illustrations, the book is a great read.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Music of the Gilded Age at Staatsburgh


Staatsburgh has been working with Dr. Christopher Brellochs, Chair of the Academy of Music at Dutchess Community College, on programs about Gilded Age music.  Dr. Brellochs has been researching Gilded Age music and performing at various Gilded Age sites throughout the Hudson Valley region.  He has explored the connections between the Mills family and music, and especially their relationship with the Metropolitan Opera.  Although his upcoming tea talk and music programs are postponed, please enjoy this preview of his research into the music that Ruth & Ogden would have enjoyed at the opera.

Dr. Christopher Brellochs

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Consummate Gentleman: Winthrop Rutherfurd and Some of His Leading Ladies

The press was enamored of many dashing gentlemen during the Gilded Age, but no one quite so much as Winthrop Rutherfurd.  "Winty" was tall, handsome, and of good stock.  His father, Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, was a pioneering astronomer, but Winthrop also descended directly from Peter Stuyvesant who was the head of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, and from John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts.  Edith Wharton once referred to him as the "prototype of my first novels." Perhaps she thought of him as she wrote male characters who she wanted to portray the discreet proper gentleman or ideal suitor.  Rutherfurd visited Staatsburgh multiple times and his family became connected to the Mills family when his niece married Ogden Livingston Mills in 1911.

Winthrop Rutherfurd, circa 1895

His three best-known loves span different eras of his life, but there were also probably countless others that never became public record.  How many women succumbed to the charms of Winthrop Rutherfurd?  We may never know....

Friday, February 28, 2020

Hidden Treasures of the Collection: Asian Statues

One of the reasons that we initially created this blog was to have an avenue to highlight some of Staatsburgh's collections that are not always noticeable or highlighted on the tour.  The house has so many collections that it is impossible to cover it all on a tour.  Some objects or paintings are positioned in such a way that is is hard to see them from the tour path.  The "Hidden Treasures of the Collection" blog series provides a closer look at some of the interesting pieces throughout the house. This essay will examine a Chinese and a Japanese figure, which were just two of the many Asian pieces that adorned Staatsburgh.

Chinese Ming-Style figure, c. early 19th century.
Japanese Buddah statue, c.19th century.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Gilded Age Ice Skating Tea

It is currently tea season at Staatsburgh and we are serving scones, sandwiches, and our special Harney & Sons Staatsburgh blend tea almost every weekend.  We enjoy welcoming guests to the historic dining room for this unique experience.  During the Gilded Age, having tea was a very common social experience.  One of the more unique tea entertainments was the 'ice tea,' which was tea in conjunction with ice skating!  Ice skating became very popular during the Gilded Age when indoor ice rinks first opened, which lengthened the skating season.  Before 'artificial ice,' skating only happened on frozen outdoor ponds, and the weather played a big role in the number of skating days every season.  An event like an 'ice tea' was only possible once skating moved indoors!