"I dream't I dwelt in marble halls"
Devoted to the histories and current state of the great mansions of America's Gilded Age.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Country House Conference

The Country House Conference on Saturday, November 4th at the Mills Mansion, Staatsburg, New York. This event is being hosted by Gary Lawrance & TR Hamilton in association with Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Tickets can be purchased HERE. Please see below the photo for more about the event.

A premiere all day conference event. Explore the rich and diverse history of the country houses of New York. The Country House Conference will take participants on a 300 year journey from the humble origins of colonial farms and manors to the grand estates of turn-of-the century robber barons.
The day includes Four Lectures, Panel Discussion, Exclusive House Tour and Lunch.
Speakers will include;
Alison Spear AIA, Obercreek Farm. Ms Spear is an award winning architect and interior designer and currently runs her own practice. A native of Florida, Ms. Spear has over thirty years of experience and has worked on significant residential and commercial projects throughout the country. Spear will be presenting the journey she and husband Alex Reese have taken in the renovation of the Reese family estate Obercreek Farm.
David Byars, Foxhollow Farm, Mr Byars is currently the Deputy Managing Editor at Vogue. Mr. Byars, a native of Louisiana and resident of Riverdale, NY, has long been involved with preservation organization in the Hudson Valley with a particular interest in the Rhinebeck area. Mr. Byars will be presenting his book "Our Time at Foxhollow Farm: A Hudson Valley Family Remembered" exploring the development and history of Tracy and Alice Olin Dows early twentieth century estate 'Foxhollow Farm' in Rhinebeck, NY
Gary Lawrance, Mansions of Gilded Age, Mr. Lawrance is noted architect and historian and principal of Lawrance Architectural Presentations. Mr. Lawrance a native of Stony Brook, New York is better known by his social media account "Mansions of the Gilded Age", a topic he has written and lectured extensively about. Mr. Lawrance will present a history of the rise and fall of Gilded Age country estates from the Hudson Valley to the Long Island Gold Coast.
Randy Lamb, Hyde Hall, Mr. Lamb is the current site manager of Hyde Hall near Cooperstown, NY. Mr. Lamb serves is a museum educator based in Upstate New York and provides public education programming relating to the history, culture and places of significance around the greater Cooperstown, New York area. Mr. Lamb will be presenting the history and development of Hyde Hall, the Clarke family estate north of Cooperstown, NY often noted as one of the finest classical residences of early 19th century America.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Twilight of Splendor

The Twilight of Splendor

One of my all-time favorite books about mansions of the gilded age, is a book called "The Twilight of Splendor" by James T. Maher.  Printed in 1975, this book covers 5 magnificent mansions including, Whitemarsh Hall, Ca'd'zan, Vizcaya, San Marino, and Shadow Lawn.  I recommend this book to take out from your local library or if you wish to purchase click the following link HERE 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Colonnade Row, New York City

Original View of Colonnade Row at Lafeyette Street.

Colonnade Row is one of the first unified upscale housing enclaves in New York City. New York City has been moving uptown since the day it was founded. By the 1830s, the prominent members of New York Society were establishing themselves around Lafayette Street. Unfortunately, New York Society didn't linger long there and soon marched up Fifth Avenue after 1860 to build splendid mansions to rival European Palaces. Colonnade Row, now in decline became divided up into smaller apartments, a hotel and other uses. By 1900 half of the row was demolished and the rest continued into a neglected  state. That half is still around today and for many who live in New York City or have visited and passed these remaining structures, one always takes a New York minute to stop and wonder.

Last year, Mansions of the Gilded Age, written by myself, Gary Lawrance was contacted by Timothy Ranney, one of the apartment dwellers in Colonnade Row to help organize a series of events related to the Gilded Age era of New York. One of the first events we held was a talk by the very knowledgeable Michael Rayhill, who after completing his design thesis on Colonnade Row, probably knows more about the history and background of the early residents than anyone.

A few weeks ago Alex Vadukul from the New York Times, attended one of Mr. Rayhill's encore presentations. In today's Metropolitan section of the New York Times he wrote a wonderful article about Colonnade Row and the wealth of information Mr. Rayhill treated us and a small audience of followers of Mansions of the Gilded Age and Mr. Ranney's Colonnade Row Social media sites.

You can read Mr. Vadukul's article, "Life on Colonnade Row:The Hidden History Behind the Columns". HERE.

Mansions of the Gilded Age and Colonnade Row are both very actively involved with spreading the word on the history of the Gilded Age through lectures and other events. We try to give one or two events each month, mostly in the New York City area.

Please follow us on our respective social media platforms.

Mine are,
Mansions of the Gilded Age on Facebook, a group with almost 35,000 members.
The Gilded Age Society on Facebook, a group with over 10,000 members.
Mansions of the Gilded Age on Instagram, with 28,000 followers,
The Gilded Age Society on Instagram, with over 3,000 followers.

Mr. Ranney's are,
Colonnade Row on Facebook
Colonnade Row on Instagram

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Haunted Mansions of the Gilded Age

Last year for the month of October, in celebration of Halloween I made 31 posts about Gilded Age mansions that are haunted, said to be haunted or look like they should be haunted. I also included some of my favorite films and books that have a haunted theme. So please click HERE to see them all and enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Astor Mansion Auction

The Astor Mansion at 840 Fifth Avenue Photo: MCNY

Here is a great find, the auction catalog from the sale of contents of the famous Fifth Avenue mansion of Mrs. Astor. Once located at 840 Fifth Avenue & 65th Street, this beautiful mansion was torn down in 1926. Have a look at the contents and be amazed at the prices that items sold for!

Click HERE to see it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Beacon Towers at Sands Point, New York

Beacon Towers at Sands Point, New York
Beacon Towers at Sands Point, New York is one of the most interesting and unusual mansions ever built. This castle on the sand is also often considered the model for the mansion of Jay Gatsby in the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, "The Great Gatsby". Built for Alva Belmont, once married to William K. Vanderbilt. Around 1919 she had the firm of Hunt & Hunt design this piece of fantasy architecture. She only used it for a few years then it was sold to William Randolph Hearst. He made it even more magical with additions and renovations before he moved to California and began construction of Hearst Castle. This unique house was torn down in the 1940s, with only the gate house and surrounding estate walls to show where it once was. The photo above is from an excellent blog that covers all the Long Island estates, OLD LONG ISLAND.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Somewhere in Time"

Somewhere in Time 

"Somewhere in Time", for those that ponder the idea of traveling to the past, you will love this movie. This 1980 movie based upon the book, Bid Time Return written by Richard Matheson stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The other star of the film is also one of America's greatest remaining Gilded Age hotels, The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The story is about a young playwright named Richard Collier who is suffering from writers block. He leaves his apartment in Chicago and takes his car on a drive, eventually discovering the Grand Hotel. He checks in an begins to wander around. One of the rooms off the main lobby is a room devoted to the history of the hotel. Looking over the glass cases with old menus, guest registers and photographs, his attention is then drawn to a portrait of a beautiful woman. Approaching it he see that it was a painting of a famous actress named Elise McKenna who performed at the hotel in 1912. Mesmerized by the image he goes to the front desk to ask more, then off to the local library. The actress he finds out is now dead, but he can't seem to let go of her. His obsession leads him to visit a local college and question a professor who studied time travel. Richard immerses himself in trying to travel back in time so he can meet Elise McKenna. He eventually is successful and he does meet her. I won't give the rest of the story away, but this is another one of my favorite movies that I think all will enjoy. For those who are overly sentimental or romantic a box of tissues is also recommend to have while viewing! The soundtrack composed by John Barry is also haunting and the main theme, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini will play in your head long after the film ends. Click HERE for the film trailer and HERE, HERE for music clips.

Monday, July 25, 2016

"Wings of the Dove"

Wings of the Dove
"Wings of the Dove", a 1997 film based on the 1902 Henry James novel is another wonderful film that also uses Venice as a background. The basis of the story is about a young woman named Kate, played by actress Helena Bonham Carter, born into a wealthy family, but once again like that of Lily Bart in the House of Mirth, must find a wealthy husband. Kate doesn't like the man who her aunt has picked for her and is in love with another man Merton Gambon, unfortunately not wealthy. As the story goes on, Kate meets a very rich young American heiress, named Millie, who she learns is very ill and expected to die soon. Kate invents a scheme to have her poor boyfriend meet the heiress and plans to have them fall in love. After Millie dies, she expects that Millie will have left her fortune to Merton and he will then marry Kate. Things do not work out as Kate planned and the ending leaves everyone unhappy. Another visually beautiful film, haunting soundtrack and Gilded Age locations. Not to be missed! Click HERE for the movie trailer.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Death in Venice"

A Scene from the film, "Death in Venice"
On my facebook group, Mansions of the Gilded Age, and my Instagram account I am doing a series about films that take place in the Gilded Age, mostly during the summer. Here is one that I saw many years ago and highly recommend. "Death in Venice", A beautiful film by Luchino Visconti based upon the Thomas Mann novel written in 1912. While the story is excellent, this is one of those films that is so luscious and languorous you could watch and listen to the soundtrack even if there was no dialog. The use of Gustav Mahler's adagietto from his Fifth Symphony and parts of his Third Symphony add to this mood of sedation. The main focus of the story is about a late middle aged exhausted composer named Gustav who needs a long vacation, travels to Venice. His time there is spent mostly alone and he reflects upon his life. A family staying at his hotel has a young son who seems to drift through the film phantasmagorically reminding him of his lost youth and now past life. Mixed with the exquisite scenery of Venice only adds to this dreamlike theme. Overall the film is very sad and reflective and will leave some in a comatose state or stupor of beauty. Here is a link to the trailer, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4N8B1ggYc4

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium at Lyndhurst

Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium at Lyndhurst

Mansions of the Gilded Age
A Symposium curated by Gary Lawrance
Sunday, May 22, 2016
To be held at the historic  Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York

The Symposium will feature six esteemed speakers on topics of Gilded Age architecture, interior design, fashion, travel, and society.
Gary Lawrance, Architect, Author, and Historian: Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930
Robert B. King, Author/Photographer and Historian: Lost Vanderbilt Homes along Fifth Avenue
Ulysses Dietz, Chief Curator of Newark Museum: Jewelry in the Gilded Age
Caroline Rennolds Milbank, Fashion Historian: Gilded Age Fashion
Walter G. Ritchie, Jr., Decorative Arts Specialist and Architectural Historian: “Furniture of the Gilded Age”

Leighton Hammond Coleman III, Spedden Family Archivist: The World of Daisy Corning Stone Spedden: Edwardian Diarist, Titanic Survivor, & Children’s Book Author

Tickets to the Symposium are $20. Tours of Lyndhurst are also available.
Following the event, for an additional $15, an exclusive Wine & Cheese reception will be held in the newly restored Lyndhurst observation tower, with its spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline (please note, no wheelchair access, stairs only).
For more information and tickets:
https://www.showclix.com/event/mansions_reception (Optional Wine & Cheese Reception)

Gary Lawrance
Architect, Author, and Historian
Topic: “Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930”
Gary Lawrance is an architect from Stony Brook, New York, specializing in detailed models of fine residences and landscapes in the Hamptons and Long Island's north shore. Since completing his architectural thesis on the country house architecture of Long Island's Gold Coast in 1982 at the New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, Mr. Lawrance has lectured on the lost architecture of the Gilded Age for historical and garden societies, and preservation and arts groups and consults with preservation groups, scholars, and homeowners in researching the historical background of their properties. He has written articles on architecture and society for Architectural Digest and Quest magazine, co-authored the bestselling book "Houses of the Hamptons, 1880-1930", Acanthus Press 2007, and writes for his two blogs, Mansions of the Gilded Age and Houses of the Hamptons, in addition to founding and contributing to the very successful Mansions of the Gilded Age Facebook Group.

Robert B. King
Author/Photographer and Historian
Topic: “Lost Vanderbilt Homes along Fifth Avenue”
Robert King is an award-winning author, with extensive photography and research in documenting historic homes such as those of the Vanderbilt family, the Otto H. Kahn Estate, Ferguson’s Castle, and other mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast and the Hudson River. He has done extensive lecturing, television, and radio work, as well as teaching college courses on the topics of: "The Great Estates of the Gilded Age" (1880-1930), the Vanderbilt family, and the embassies of Washington, D.C.

Ulysses Grant Dietz
Chief Curator of Newark Museum
Topic: “Jewelry in the Gilded Age”
Ulysses Grant Dietz, Great-great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, has been the curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum since 1980, and chief curator since 2012. He received his BA from Yale University in 1977, and his MA in Early American Culture from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in 1980. Mr. Dietz restored the Newark Museum’s 1885 Ballantine House, which became the centerpiece of the decorative arts department in 1994. Mr. Dietz has published numerous articles on decorative arts, as well as books on the Museum’s studio and art pottery, and its 19th-century furniture collection.

Caroline Rennolds Milbank
Fashion Historian
Topic: “Gilded Age Fashion”
Caroline Rennolds Milbank’s work in fashion history has included stints as an auction house expert (Sotheby’s and DoyleNewYork), appraiser, and consulting curator. She contributed essays to the catalogues of and curated the costume components of the exhibitions: Art and the Empire City: New York 1825 – 1861, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000 and Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: American Orientalism, 1870 – 1930, the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2000. She was co-curator of the exhibitions Elegance, Glamour and Style: Fashion and Its Photography, The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, 1998; and The Couture Accessory at the MFIT in 2004, the latter based on her book of the same title; and also selected the Worth evening gowns included in the exhibition John Singer Sargent: portraits of the Wertheimer Family, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2000.

Walter G. Ritchie, Jr.
Topic: “Furniture of the Gilded Age”
Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. is a decorative arts consultant and independent scholar specializing in nineteenth-century American furniture and interior decoration. He writes, lectures, and teaches courses on a variety of decorative arts subjects in addition to organizing decorative arts exhibitions for museums; researching and developing furnishings plans for the restoration of period rooms in house museums; and cataloging furniture and decorative arts for auction houses. Mr. Ritchie has taught courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels on subjects including American and European decorative arts and the restoration of historic interiors, as well as offered courses as part of certificate programs in appraisal studies. He has lectured at a number of museums including the Smithsonian Institution; written a weekly antiques column; and contributed articles to a variety of arts and antiques magazines.
 Leighton Hammond Coleman III
Spedden Family Archivist
Topic: “The World of Daisy Corning Stone Spedden: Edwardian Diarist, Titanic Survivor, & Children’s Book Author”
Leighton Hammond Coleman III presents a glimpse of the Gilded Age & The Titanic through the lives of the Corning, Stone, Spedden family members via the prism of his best-selling children's book "Polar The Titanic Bear”, the award winning true story of a Steiff toy bear that survived the Titanic, originally penned in 1913 by Daisy Corning Stone Spedden, his Great Grand Aunt. Graduate of several prestigious institutions, including NYC’s Parsons School of Design, Leighton is currently the appointed Historian for The Village of Head of The Harbor, NY, where he works as a niche interior designer with projects all over Long Island and New York City.
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