Staatsburg, N.Y. (5/10/17) – Two special theme tours this summer at Staatsburgh State Historic Site will explore very different aspects of the Gilded Age. “World War I and the End of the Gilded Age” will focus on the impact of the war on the social elite and their way of life. “Gilded Age Scandals” will share historic gossip about turn-of-the-century celebrity scandals. Both tours are led by guides in period costume.
Staatsburgh was the home of prominent social hostess Ruth Livingston Mills and her husband, financer Ogden Mills. The 79-room mansion, surrounded by gorgeous park land directly on the Hudson River, showcases the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthy elite of the early 20th century.
The “World War I and the End of the Gilded Age” tour will explore how the cataclysm of World War I brought an end to the extravagant excesses of the Gilded Age. Revolutionary social changes in the war years – including the income tax – killed the Gilded Age and ushered in a new era. After the war, many of the great mansions of the Gilded Age were torn down, abandoned by families who could no longer afford their upkeep. Staatsburgh, with its Louis XIV furniture, Italian marble and 17th century Belgian tapestries, remains as a time-capsule of the Gilded Age, with its original lavish furnishings intact.
Mills family members were active participants in the war. The Millses’ son, Ogden Livingston Mills, quit his job as a New York State Senator to join the army, and the Millses’ Paris home became American General John J. Pershing’s headquarters in France. Ogden Mills’ sister, aunt and mother-in-law all served as Red Cross nurses in Paris.
“World War I and the End of the Gilded Age” will be offered on May 20, June 18, and June 24 at 1 p.m.; and at 11 a.m. on June 3. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (845) 889-8851 x 336.
“Gilded Age Scandals” is a tour that focuses a spotlight on the scandalous behavior and intrigues of the very rich at the turn of the century. Staatsburgh’s owners, Ruth and Ogden Mills, were models of respectability, but the misconduct of many of their Gilded Age peers shocked and titillated Edwardian Society. Stories of sex, murder and money were not only whispered in the drawing rooms but published in the newspapers of the day.
Visitors taking the tour will hear about celebrity murders, heiresses for sale, and scandals that reached as high as the King of England and the President of the United States. Stories of misbehavior feature a monkey in the formal dining room, arsenic in the clam chowder, and the tale of the famous Society figure who told his distraught bride on their wedding night, “Your money is your only asset in my eyes.”
“Gilded Age Scandals” will be offered at 3 p.m. on May 14 and at 1 p.m. on May 28, June 4 and July 2. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (845) 889-8851 x 336.
The admission charge for each theme tour is $10; seniors and students pay $8; children 12 and under are free.
Staatsburgh and the Ogden Mills & Ruth Livingston Mills Memorial State Park are located on Old Post Road in Staatsburg, off Route 9 between Rhinebeck and Hyde Park. The historic site is one of six sites and 15 parks administered by the Taconic Region of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. For more information, please call 845-889-8851 or visit our websites at www.nysparks.com/historic-sites/25/details.aspx and www.facebook.com/StaatsburghSHS.
Donald Fraser | Staatsburgh State Historic Site
Donald.Fraser@parks.ny.gov | (845) 889-8851, ext. 338
Chris Steber | NYS Parks – Taconic Region
Christopher.Steber@parks.ny.gov | (845) 889-3880