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

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Preventative Conservation Workshop 2018: Part I - Theodore Roosevelt Print

During June 2018, aspiring conservators from around the country attended a 2-week intensive preventative conservation workshop at Staatsburgh.  This was the third 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.

Independent Conservator Cathy MacKenzie organized this workshop to occur at Staatsburgh collaborating on its organization with NYS Bureau of Historic Sites Furniture Conservator, David Bayne.  Several conservators participated in the workshop's instruction including  Kirsten Schoonmaker from Syracuse UniversityValentine Talland formerly of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Michelle Cornelison Smith, the Assistant Paper & Book Conservator at SF Art Conservation in Oakland, CA.

Part I in the series was written by one of this year's student participants, Meredith French.  Meredith has a BA in Studio Arts from Bard College and has spent nearly a decade working in screen printing and textile conservation in California.  She currently works in the San Francisco area at Chrysalis Art Conservation, a private conservation firm, where she focuses on textile conservation.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hidden Treasures of the Collections: Greek Vases

Recently the site was delighted to receive a visit from Vassar Professor of Art History, Eve D'Ambra, who was encouraging her undergraduate students to explore and research works of art in local collections.  The essay below is drawn from a research and observation paper completed by her student, Lily Palaia, Class of 2019, who chose to research the five ancient Greek vases on view in the mansion.  The site thanks Lily for her contribution to our blog!

In Staatsburgh's drawing room, five Greek vases sit on two bureaus on the south side of the room. Ogden Mills purchased these vases in 1909 from Henri De Morgan at an auction in New York City. These five vases feature diverse subject matter, yet are from the height of the classical period, from early 6th through 4th century B.C. Three of these objects would be described as “Attic” because they come from the city of Athens or the surrounding area, one from Boeticia and one from Southern Italy.  

A page from the 1909 Henri De Morgan sale catalogue.  Ogden Mills purchased the center amphora.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Ladies' Fashions at the Turn of the 20th Century

When Stanford White was brought in to remodel Ruth Livingston Mills’s inherited home, he took special care to install an enormous staircase, knocking out a ceiling and a couple of walls to do the job. Looking at the staircase today, you can almost see the beautiful ladies visiting Staatsburgh sweeping down those steps to make their grand entrance for dinner, no doubt bedecked in one of the most fashionable gowns they owned.

The "pigeon chest"

Fashion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was quite elaborate and just as fickle as it is today. Over the course of around twenty years (from the very late 1890’s up to around 1915) women’s fashion would undergo a veritable coup.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Hidden Treasures of the Collections: Armoire

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. 

One of the most remarkable pieces of furniture is the 19th century oak armoire in Mrs. Mills' bedroom, which is situated just between her closets.  Even though there are two closets in Mrs. Mills' room, closets were uncommon and most homes like Staatsburgh contained armoires in every bedroom to store clothing.  Read on to learn more about the armoire and the intensive efforts that went into conserving it.

Oak Armoire from Normandy, early 19th century (ML.1974.382)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Francis Lewis: A Revolutionary Life

Happy Independence Day!

You may not realize what a close connection Staatsburgh and the Mills family have to the events we commemorate by recognizing Independence Day as a national holiday.  Ruth and Ogden were born about eighty years after the momentous event, but there is a family connection!  Mrs. Mills' great-great grandfather was a member of the Continental Congress and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  We know that Ruth took considerable pride in her ancestors because several historic documents relating to Francis Lewis and other illustrious fore-bearers were displayed in the house.

Francis Lewis (1713-1802)