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

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Passing Fancy: Gilded Age Crushes

During the month of February, in honor of Valentine's Day, we celebrated some of the many swoon-worthy men and women of the Gilded Age.  These short profiles take a look at four men and four women who captured the attention of Staatsburgh staff.  Originally posted on Staatsburgh's facebook page, we compiled all the posts here to share in a single essay.  


Who is your Gilded Age crush? Without further ado, here are our selections descending by age...

Sunday, January 31, 2021

When Ice Came from the River: Ice Harvesting in Staatsburg

Before the invention of electric refrigeration, how did food and perishables keep cold, especially during the warm summer months?  The answer is ice.  Large blocks of ice cut from a river or lake during the winter would keep food items cool all summer.  But how did the ice move from the river into the home?  To answer that question, we must take a look at the ice harvesting industry, which was active throughout much of the north-east coast of the country (as well as inland, in northern states) between the 1830s and 1920s, and which was dominated for several decades by production on the Hudson River and nearby lakes.

Ice harvesting on the Hudson, 1912
Photo: New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_830

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

On the 1st Day of Christmas...

 ...my true love gave to me...  Are you already singing it in your head?  "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a Christmas carol with a very catchy tune.  This popular and enduring carol cumulatively lists increasingly lavish gifts during each verse from a partridge in a pear tree to twelve drummers drumming.  Even though the version we hear today identifies the gift giver as "my true love," some earlier versions of the song instead used "my mother."  Many different tunes were also used with the lyrics until the current version became the standard in the early 20th century.   


Monday, November 30, 2020

Dude, Where's Ogden's Cars?

"The new speed limit signs which were recently placed north and south of the village by Mrs. Ogden Mills do not seem to have any effect on the motorists with their speed." 

- Poughkeepsie Courier (July 7, 1918)


No self-respecting 'motor-head' would ever, voluntarily, put speed limit signs outside their house. So, it's safe to say the Mills probably weren't car people. That's not to say they didn't enjoy the status and luxury of the new inventions to sweep the nation during their years at Staatsburgh. 

A century ago, the Mills family were known for their successful racehorses. Yet, many people today associate their estate with 'horseless carriages' - cars! Every October, Staatsburgh State Historic Site welcomes hundreds of antique cars to its main lawn. 

Sadly, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 "Gathering of the Old Cars" had to be cancelled, so we thought it would be fun to explore some of the antique - or, rather new for the era - automobiles owned by the Mills and their employees. In our archives, we found period photographs of the family and servants enjoying the open roads.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

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

This essay is the conclusion to 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.