It wasn’t always a museum!

It wasn’t always a museum!

Unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this building wasn’t always a museum, it was the country home, first for the Lockwood’s, then the Mathew’s.

Lockwood–Mathews Mansion is a Second Empire style country house, now a museum, at 295 West Avenue in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was built in 1864-68 by railroad and banking magnate LeGrand Lockwood. The 62-room 44,000 square feet mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

It has been described as “one of the earliest and finest surviving Second Empire style country houses ever built in the United States.” It sits at 295 West Ave., in Mathews Park, where the Stepping Stones Museum for Children is also located.

The estate, then called “Elm Park,” was built by LeGrand Lockwood, who made his fortune in banking and the railroad industry. Construction began in 1864 just west of the Norwalk River in Norwalk and was completed four years later. Designed by European-trained, New York-based architect Detlef Lienau, the mansion “is considered his most significant surviving work,” according to the association. Both American and immigrant artisans worked to construct and decorate the house.[6] Prominent New York decorating firms, including Herter Brothers and Leon Marcotte were contracted to furnish the mansion’s interiors. Financial reversals in 1869 and Lockwood’s death in 1872 resulted in loss of the estate by Lockwood’s heirs. The Mathews purchased in 1874 and maintained the country home until 1938 and was sold to the city of Norwalk.

East side of the home seen from the south, showing porte-cochere and greenhouse

“The Museum’s mission is to conserve the building while creating educational programs on the material, artistic and social culture of the Victorian era,” according to the museum organization’s Web site. Built in 1864-68, it is an early example of the style used by wealthy New York City elites such as the Vanderbilt’s in building their Gilded Age mansions later in the 19th century, and set a new standard for opulence.

In a decades-long Christmastime tradition, interior decorators deck out about a dozen rooms in the mansion with holiday decorations. An annual “community celebration” is held in December with Christmas music, refreshments and a Santa Claus. In 2007, 10 interior decorators volunteered their services and materials for the event.

The museum has hosted an annual antique show since 1978. In 2006 the show was held the last weekend in October and attracted dealers from Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as Connecticut.

The home was used as a filming location for the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives. Paramount Pictures paid the museum $400,000 to paint its central rotunda. The studio also left behind some large paintings (in essence, theatrical pastiches), which serve to emphasize the dramatic size of the rotunda. As a result, the walls look fresh and decorated, and will remain protected until further funds become available for proper, curatorial restoration of the original damaged surfaces.[8]

The mansion was also featured in the movie House of Dark Shadows.

On December 21st, with mistletoe and holly, the trustees celebrated the volunteers who are doing a fantastic job serving as workers for the operations and docents. While the trustees, of which I am one as well as the art curator, work for the preservation and protection of this precious part of history in the United States. Other dedicated people are here below who offer their services unsolicited!!! Ladies, Danna of The Silk Touch and Marcia, interior designer, and two gentlemen, Mike, and David Westmoreland.
If you want to be part of this museum, we always appreciate volunteers. Just give us a call, ask for Melissa. 203-838-9799 ext. 115.

Celebration!

Celebration!

Come now Christmas morning, white snow falling, the star in the night sky gone, but the King remains, always in our hearts. The celebration of love, forgiveness, and hope resounded at the Black Rock Church in the songs of this special time of year. Everyone sings and rejoices, no matter who you are, all love the music, the lights, the smiles on everyone’s faces.

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In the 19th Century… Women’s Suffrage

In the 19th Century… Women’s Suffrage

It began around 1840 here in the USA. Women’s suffrage. That’s the same year of Ireland’s potato famine. Women had their own famine, lack of freedom, poor job situations, lack of education for children who had to work to help their families. Working conditions shamefully were like rat holes. Women have been fighting for their freedom for almost two centuries, the vote finally came in 1920, but the fight continues.

I’m still writing my book, the Unforgettable Miss Baldwin. Allie, bless her heart, has a passion to see women get the vote, and have rights, be free. She’s working with Susan B. Anthony and the many women fighting for the same. Of course no resolution happened in her day, but she fought alongside the many women working to change the way women were treated. The resolutions below are actually from Wikipedia’s 20th century list.

Dragged off to jail for participating in a freedom fight.

Those who fought got dragged off to jail. Some went on hunger strikes and were forced fed. Unbelievable. This is not a history lesson, but some of the stories read like unsolved mysteries.

If you remember Gloria Steinham, another fighter for women’s freedom, along with Billy Jean King and others, we are still fighting.

Resolutions 1325 and 1820 and CEDAW share the following agenda on women’s human rights and gender equality:

  1. Demand women’s participation in decision-making at all levels
  2. Rejection of violence against women as it impedes the advancement of women and maintains their subordinate status
  3. Equality of women and men under the law; protection of women and girls through the rule of law
  4. Demand security forces and systems to protect women and girls from gender-based violence
  5. Recognition of the fact that distinct experiences and burdens of women and girls come from systemic discrimination
  6. Ensure that women’s experiences, needs and perspectives are incorporated into the political, legal and social decisions that determine the achievement of just and lasting peace.https://bit.ly/2Ejoq3n

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THE BILTMORE HOUSE

THE BILTMORE HOUSE

A couple of years ago, my husband, Tom Claus and I spent three fantastic days in Asheville, NC, home to the Biltmore House. The place is awesome. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States. The 250-room mansion features 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, an indoor swimming pool with electric underwater lights and a bowling alley. We took an architectural tour and got to see behind the scenes.

A cozy room at the Biltmore

George W. Vanderbilt III knew what he was doing. His inheritance was less than his siblings, but he managed well. He called in the prominent New York architect, Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various Vanderbilt family members, to design the house in the Chateauesque style, using several Loire Valley French Renaissance architecture chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois as models. The house has similar features as France’s Chateau Chambord. He closely copied the staircase of the Chateau de Blois. The estate includes its own village, today named Biltmore Village, and a church in town, known today as the “Cathedral of All Souls.”

Christmas entry Hall

The collections at the house are priceless furnishings and artworks. The house is equipped with every convenience from elevators to refrigerators. The surrounding grounds, designed by prominent landscape architect, who also designed New York’s  Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, are impressive, encompassing 125,000 acres of forests, farms and a dairy, a 250-acre wooded park, five pleasure gardens and 30 miles of macadamized roadways.

Biltmore House was his  country home, a respite away from city life, and a place for his mother when she visited the hot springs in the area. It became an American icon. Unfortunately,  after his death and the passing of his wife, Edith Vanderbilt, it became run down, like other historic sites. Developers offered to buy 12,000 acres to build subdivisions. But George’s great-grandson, William A. V. Cecil, Jr. thought not. By the 1950’s Cecil had started a restoration project. The treasure was to remain with the Vanderbilt family.

Jan Aertsen van der Bilt had emigrated to this country from Holland around  1650. They prospered as farmers on Staten Island, New York and lived modestly. It was only during the lifetime of Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) that the family name became synonymous with extraordinary wealth. It was especially important to me to visit this architectural wonder, not only architecturally, but to follow the trek of the Vanderbilt family.  My affiliation with the 1867 Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, CT connects me to the Vanderbilt name through the business relationship of Cornelius (aka as the Commander) and LeGrand Lockwood, same as the mansion mentioned above.

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