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Tours Have Begun at Staatsburgh, Mt. Gulian & Locust Grove Estates

Believe it not, spring has actually arrived despite the low level of the mercury. A sure sign of spring – the Great Estates are opening for their tour seasons this month! The mansion museums are opening their doors now hopefully they can save a little of the heat and let in some fresh air. 

Staatsburgh State Historic Site, also called Mills Mansion, opened for the season on Thursday, April 19.  Take an $8 tour Thursday thru Sunday from 11am to 5pm (last tour, 4pm). Special events, including tours focusing on the Titanic, on WWI and the popular America’s Elite in the Downton Abbey Era tour, are listed online.

The 79-room mansion overlooks the Hudson River is in the quaint Staatsburg hamlet, between Hyde Park and Rhinebeck. A Gilded Age time capsule, Staatsburgh displays its original furnishings and opulent décor. The estate grounds, now Mills Memorial State Park, offer scenic walking paths, plus woodland trails, and some great places to picnic with river views.

Staatsburgh was the fall home of manufacturer and philanthropist Ogden Mills and his wife, Ruth Livingston Mills, a prominent New York Society figure. The mansion was redesigned by famed architect Stanford White in 1895 and decorated in the styles of 17th & 18th century France. In this lavish setting, Ruth hosted parties for the Gilded Age Society elite. Guests included her cousin John Jacob Astor, neighbors Fredrick and Louise Vanderbilt, and her twin daughters’ close friend Alice Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt’s eldest daughter.

You’ll see an incredible relic of a vanished era. Still adorned with the Millses’ antique furniture, oriental rugs and art work, the mansion vividly recalls the over-the-top Gilded Age stratosphere. You’ll learn what it was like to be among Society’s elite, to attend one of Ruth Mills’ exclusive parties, and to be looked after by an army of servants. 

Staatsburgh State Historic Site is located on Old Post Road in Staatsburg, off Route 9. For info, call 845-889-8851, or visit Staatsburgh’s two different websites

The Samuel F. B. Morse Estate and Mansion Opens on Weekends

Down in Poughkeepsie, the main house at Locust Grove is ready to throw open its shutters, too! This Italianate-style villas was designed in 1850 for artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse by Alexander Jackson Davis. The house was renovated 50 years later and expanded for new owners William and Martha Young. Their daughter, Annette Innis Young, set up the foundation preserving the Estate as a museum today.

Morse knew what he wanted in his summer home (his family wintered in New York City). For inspiration, Morse recalled the elegant villas he’d visited in the Italian countryside and he sketched towers, windows and floor plans for his architect. Sited on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Hudson River, construction began in 1851 and was finished the next year. Locust Grove required a large, pricey staff to maintain, though, so after Morse’s death in 1872 his family spent little time at the estate. In time they rented it to William and Martha Young, a wealthy local couple.

Hopeful they could buy the property, the Youngs’ furnished the house with family heirlooms in 1895. In 1901 they did buy it. They expanded and modernized the house as a year-round residence for their daughter, Annette, and their son, Innis. They added a larger dining room wing, guest bedrooms, and practical services like central heat, hot and cold running water, and electric lighting.

When Innis died in 1953, Annette Young became the sole owner of the Locust Grove, as well as three other family homes. Miss Young spent 20 years donating her inherited art, furniture, land, and the historic houses to museums, so they’d be protected forever. Before her death in 1975, she established a foundation to ensure Locust Grove, her home for 80 years, along with its collections and the Young family archives, would be protected as a museum and nature preserve.

The Estate, located at 2683 South Road in Poughkeepsie, opened for tours in 1979 and features the Young family’s 15,000 piece collection of furniture, paintings and decorative arts, just as they were used in the early 20th century. Locust Grove Visitor Center with it several art and invention galleries are open 10am – 5pm every day. Guided tours of the mansion are offered for $11 on weekends. Locust Grove gardens & grounds are open 8 am to dusk, year-round. You can reach them at 845-454-4500.

Mount Gulian Historic Site Opens for the Season

Mount Gulian Historic Site, Beacon, opened for the season on Sunday, April 22nd. Tours of the historic home, 18th century Dutch barn, and restored garden are given Wednesday through Friday and every Sunday through October 28th.

A microcosm of American history, Mount Gulian’s visitors hear about its part in the Revolutionary War and learn how General Von Steuben, headquartered here at the end of the war, trained the Continental Army troops to defeat the British. They’ll discover the stories of James F. Brown, a fugitive slave who risked his life for freedom, and of Robert Newlin Verplanck and his involvement in the Civil War as an officer in the US Colored Troops. They’ll learn about the founding of the Society of the Cincinnati, our country’s oldest veterans’ organization, and the history of the generations of Verplanck family members who lived at Mount Gulian.  Artifacts on display span the 18th through the 20th centuries and include antique books, furniture, and an array of Revolutionary War items.      

Tours are given every hour on the hour, from 1 to 5 pm, with the last tour at 4 pm. Admission is $8; $6 seniors; and $4 children 6-18 years of age. For information, directions and event listings call 845-831-8172, email at info@mountgulian.org, or visit www.mountgulian.org

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