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

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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Nutcracker Christmas at Staatsburgh

This year the mansion was decorated for the holidays with a nutcracker theme.  Visitors walking through the house heard the lovely strains of the famous musical score as they admired the decorations and collection of various sized nutcrackers.  Not only are nutcrackers a popular Christmas decoration, the score from The Nutcracker ballet, composed by Peter Tchaikovsky in 1892 has a lasting association with the Christmas season.  The ballet is performed every year in cities large and small around the world.  Many productions continue to be set in the late 19th century and depict a world similar to the American Gilded Age (at least during the party scene before the fantasy elements begin).

Nutcrackers grace the mantel in Staatsburgh's dining room, Christmas 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2019: Part III - Moving the Drawing Room Carpets

During June 2019, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2 week intensive preventative conservation workshop at Staatsburgh.  This was the fourth year that the workshop was held at Staatsburgh with sponsorship from The  Foundation for the Advancement of 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.

Independent Conservator Cathy MacKenzie organized this workshop to occur at Staatsburgh collaborating on its organization with the NYS Bureau of Historic Sites and Parks.  Several conservators participated in the workshop's instruction including Furniture Conservator David Bayne, textile conservator Kirsten Schoonmaker from Syracuse University, objects conservator Valentine Talland formerly of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, paper conservator Lyudmyla Bua of the Center for Jewish History in New York, and furniture conservator Paige Schmidt from the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA.

Blog Author, Josephine Ren
Blog Author, Beth Reid

Beth Reid is a museum technician at the Valentine Museum in Richmond, VA where she cleans the 1812 Wickham House and the general collections. She also interns in the conservation lab at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources treating archeological objects. Beth holds a B.F.A. in Painting and Printmaking with minors in Art History, History, Anthropology, and Italian Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University and is completing an A.S. in Chemistry at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.  Josephine Ren is from the Greater Los Angeles Area and received a B.A. in Art Conservation with a minor in Art History from Scripps College. She has held pre-program internships at the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and in private practice. She also studied conservation during a semester abroad at Studio Arts College International, Florence, and has worked in collections at Pomona College Museum of Art and Scripps’ art gallery. Currently she works under private practices, and is interested in objects and painted surfaces.