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. 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.
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.
|Location: Norwalk, Connecticut
Over the top, Lockwood Mathews mansion is over the top, bigger, better, more complex and complete than other later similar homes. It was first, before the Newport Cottages, before Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine, before any of the homes in this blog. Mr Lockwood was a genius. He heated his house with radiant (floor) heating with the most amazing furnace in the basement. (Looks Steampunk.) Indoor plumbing . . . with sinks in every room. And a bowling alley in the basement. In the tradition of the Second Empire, this home was built in 1867 by Legrand Lockwood.
Lockwood exterior 1867
The Connecticut estate, about an hour outside of the city, was the summer home of the prominent railroad magnet and shipping mogul. It was later home to the Mathews family for 75 years until 1938 when Florence Mathews, last member of the family died. Now known as Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, the estate originally had 30 acres of land overlooking the Sound. Slowly the land was sold off leaving a small parcel showing a 44,000-square-foot main house, a carriage house, a Victorian-style caretaker’s cottage. Can you imagine? You must see this one. You can get more history and information easily at: www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com.
Library as it was when the Mathews family lived there after 1873
Library as it was when the Lockwood family lived there 1870
Lockwood Photos Courtesy of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum
Unlike the other noteworthy homes below that are for sale, Lockwood is not, but is open with tours to the public.
The cities too had their fair share of elaborate mansions built in the Gilded Age, but thanks to development in the ensuing hundred odd years since, few survive. In NYC, the Schinasi Mansion, on Riverside Drive not far from Columbia University, is the last remaining detached single-family house in Manhattan. The 12,000-square-foot mansion retains almost all of its historic detail, including amazing coffered ceilings and a Prohibition-era trap door that leads to a tunnel that once extended all the way to the river. The 35-room marble mansion was built for “Turkish tobacco baron” Morris Schinasi.
Location: Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Listing price: $26.5 million
|Devonshire, with its 101 acres, was owned by the Vanderbilts.
In the tradition of the English country house, sprawling homes began to spring up in Westchester, north of New York City, in the mid-1800s. This Mount Kisco, N.Y. estate, about an hour outside of the city, was built in 1901 for J. Borden Harriman, of the prominent American family, and was later owned by the Vanderbilts, and then ended up in the hands of a “prominent European family.” Known as Devonshire, the estate includes 101 acres of land, a 21,000-square-foot main house, a “carriage house, a Victorian-style guest cottage, and a caretaker’s house.” The garage, which fits 10 cars, has a washing station and hydraulic lift. The main house features a grand staircase, eight bedrooms, a 10,000-bottle wine cellar, “gold-leaf moldings, wood and antique mirrored panelling, and marble floors.”
Location: Miami, Fla.
Listing price: $4.2 million
|The Helmsleys’ penthouse was converted to an Arabian palace.
America’s second Gilded Age, the 1980s, produced many lavish residences, but perhaps none are so emblematic of the spirit of the decade as this Miami penthouse, built for notorious real estate magnates Leona and Harry Helmsley. At one point the Helmsleys controlled the Empire State Building, along with a string of NYC hotels, but by 1989, Harry was very ill and Leona was doing time for tax evasion. The couple never moved into the Helmsley Penthouse, completed in 1981, and sold it off to Saudi Shiek Saoud Al-Shaalan. The sheik transformed the modern apartment into an Arabian palace over two years, with the help of 27 Moroccan artisans and craftsmen.
Old-world-style American palaces
by Rob Bear, Yahoo Real Estate, May 1, 2012
Photos above provided by: Curbed
So, what are these places all about? Those years around the industrial revolution raised Robber Barons, using everyone else to make themelves rich and show off their new found money. Those spaces that seem unusable are show-off spaces. Victoriana, an era of more is better, bigger is better, periodically carried over to the 21st century.
The pendulum swings back and forth. Everything comes and goes, especially money. Nothing much seems to have changed, has it?