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.
In October 1920, Ruth was in Paris staying at her home on the Rue de Varenne. After purchasing the house in 1914, Ruth and Ogden ceased traveling across the ocean to Europe from 1915-1919 during World War I. They offered use of their Paris home to the American Expeditionary Forces and it was occupied by General John Pershing and used as his headquarters during the war until 1919. In March 1920 Ruth and Ogden resumed travel to Europe and traveled to England to spend time with their daughter Beatrice, now the Countess of Granard. Ogden returned to New York during July, but again headed to Europe in September. Ruth remained in Europe during the full spring and summer seasons. In fact, the entire family had been abroad during the summer of 1920, but son Ogden L. Mills departed in late August and Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps (Gladys Mills) returned to New York with her husband and children in early October.
|Poughkeepsie Eagle-News - October 14, 1920|
A grief stricken Ogden accompanied Ruth’s body across the ocean on La France for the funeral and burial in New York. Ogden departed from Le Havre, France on October 24th and according to family tradition, he filled the state room that held her casket with flowers. The ship arrived in New York on November 2nd and Ogden was met at the pier by his son, Ogden and daughter, Gladys. From Grand Central Terminal, a special train carried the funeral party to Hyde Park where Ruth’s funeral was held at St. James Church on November 4th.
|The New York Times - October 14, 1920|
St. James Cemetery was the resting place of Ruth’s paternal great-grandparents, grandparents, and her parents so it made sense that it would also become her the site of her burial. In 1921, Ogden commissioned a mausoleum where Ruth was ultimately laid to rest.
|The Mills Mausoleum at St. James Cemetery in Hyde Park, NY|
The mausoleum was designed by Robert Weir Schultz (1860-1951), a Scottish Arts and Crafts architect, who also developed furniture and landscape designs. His business was headquartered in London so it seems likely Ogden met with him there since Ogden did return to Europe in 1921. Schultz also had another connection to the family. He was commissioned by the 3rd Marquess of Bute in 1895 to work on several properties including Dumfries House and Mount Stuart. Decades later in 1932, Ogden's granddaughter Eileen married the future 5th Marquess of Bute and she lived at both of those properties. The architectural plans for the mausoleum are dated 1921 and reveal an elaborate yet dignified final resting place for Ruth Livingston Mills. In the future, Ogden, and their son Ogden Livingston would also be buried inside the mausoleum alongside Ruth.
In addition to commissioning the mausoleum at St. James Cemetery, Ogden memorialized his wife with panels of stained glass windows that he acquired in France and had installed in St. Margaret’s Church in Staatsburg. They were reported to be from Chartres and dated to the 13th-16th century. The center panel depicts St. Peter while the side panels depict saints or noble patrons that have not been identified.
|These windows were donated to St. Margaret's Church in Staatsburg by Ogden Mills with a dedication that reads "In Memoriam Ruth Livingston Mills"|