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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hidden Treasures of the Collections:
Footman's Table

One of the reasons we wanted to start a blog was to be able to highlight some of Staatsburgh's collections that are not always noticeable or highlighted on the tour. The house has so many collections items that it is impossible to include everything on a one hour tour! This is the first entry in a series that will explore many of the fascinating pieces in the house.

The upstairs furniture at Staatsburgh often receives the most attention, but the pieces furnishing the servants quarters also have stories to tell. All of the bedrooms in the basement and attic were furnished with tables, chairs, beds, and dressers that were very different from the pieces used by the Mills family and their guests. Where did this furniture originate and what style did the Mills select to furnish their servants quarters?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

American Heiresses & English Lords: A Match Made in Heaven?

The staff at Staatsburgh are great fans of the television program Downton Abbey. We love the show because it illustrates the way a great estate like Staatsburgh would operate with opulent dinner parties and a strict hierarchy of servants. Watching the show can bring to life situations that would have happened here at Staatsburgh. We love it so much that we started a special Downton Abbey themed tour at the site. The tour will be offered again in September and October (check out our facebook page for dates), and in the spirit of Downton Abbey, this blog takes a moment to look at marriages between American heiresses and the European aristocracy.

There has been some interest in the practice of American heiresses marrying titled Englishmen because of the show.  On Downton Abbey, Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, is married to an American woman, the former Cora Levinson, daughter of a dry goods millionaire. At Staatsburgh, Ruth Livingston Mills used her sister's position in English society after marrying an Englishman to help secure her daughter Beatrice's marriage to an Earl.  

Downton's Cora Levinson arrived in England in 1888 at age 20 chaperoned by her mother. She was presented at court and enjoyed a London Season. During a London Season, a young lady would attend countless parties and balls with hopes of meeting a potential suitor. By the end of Cora's first Season, she was engaged to the future Lord Grantham who needed to secure funds to rescue his large estate. What began as a marriage of convenience soon grew into love and on the show the marriage between the Earl and Countess of Grantham is portrayed as loving and happy. Other women who were forced into marriage like Conseulo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, were not as lucky in love and many of these marriages later dissolved. Yet like the fictional marriage between Cora Levinson and the Earl of Grantham, a great influx of American money helped to maintain and preserve the great estates of the English nobility.