Staatsburgh was the home of financier Ogden Mills and his wife, socialite Ruth Livingston Mills.The Gilded Age mansion, completed in Dutchess County, New York, in 1896, features 79 rooms.The Mills had tickets for the Titanic’s second trip, which never happened since it sank in 1912.

When New York City socialite Ruth Livingston Mills inherited her family’s country estate known as Staatsburgh in 1890, she felt it wasn’t grand enough to entertain her sophisticated friends.

With the help of her husband, financier Ogden Mills, she oversaw a massive renovation that transformed the home into a Gilded Age mansion modeled after the royal palaces of Europe.

Located in Staatsburg, New York, about 100 miles from New York City, Staatsburgh is now a museum that continues to preserve the home’s extravagant furnishings and rich history. Take a look inside.

Staatsburgh, once the fall home of Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills, offers guided tours of the historic estate.

Adult tickets for hour-long tours cost $10 each and can be reserved online. The full schedule is available on Staatsburgh’s official website.

I entered through the gift shop, which was full of apparel, accessories, and books about the Hudson Valley.
The gift shop at Staatsburgh.

Unlike other historic mansions I’ve toured where the visitor’s center is located in what was once a guest house or carriage house, Staatsburgh’s reception desk is on the ground floor of the original home itself.

The tour began in an exhibition space on the first floor, where our tour guide gave us a brief history of the Mills family.
The room where Staatsburgh tours begin.

Ruth Livingston Mills came from “old money.” The Livingston family descended from Scottish nobles, and their ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and signed the Declaration of Independence. Ruth’s great-grandfather, Morgan Lewis, served as the third governor of New York and purchased the Staatsburgh estate in 1792. Ruth inherited the home in 1890, according to Staatsburgh‘s official website.

Ogden Mills was known as “new money,” a financier who served as President Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of the Treasury.

Ruth and Ogden wed in 1882 and had three children.

The room also featured a section about the Titanic, which the couple had tickets for.
A Titanic display at Staatsburgh.

Ruth and Ogden Mills had tickets for the Titanic’s second voyage, but it never happened since the ship sank on its maiden voyage in 1912.

Staatsburgh offers special “Tales of the Titanic” mansion tours led by costumed guides.

We then walked outside, where our guide shared that the grass surrounding the opulent home used to be farmland.
A view of the Hudson River on the grounds of Staatsburgh.

When Ruth inherited the house, the backyard was planted with corn. In order to prepare the residence for entertaining her posh New York City guests, she had the crops replanted elsewhere on the property.

The estate grounds are now known as Mills Memorial State Park.

Our guide also pointed out ongoing preservation efforts on the home’s exterior.
Restoration efforts at Staatsburgh.

In the 1950s, Staatsburgh’s exterior was sprayed with gunite to preserve the facade. However, the active ingredient in gunite is asbestos, and it turned the house gray.

The white area in the photo above shows where the asbestos has been abated. Most of the front of the home has been restored, but the project is ongoing.

Staatsburgh’s two wings were added in 1895, expanding the home from 25 rooms to 79.

The renovation cost $350,000 in 1895, or about $11 million in today’s dollars.

When I walked into the entrance hall, the well-preserved decor transported me back to the Gilded Age.
The entrance hall at Staatsburgh.

The English oak wood paneling on the walls was meant to evoke the decor of English royalty.

Ruth hung portraits of her prominent ancestors in the entryway to impress her guests.
Portraits of Ruth Livingston Mills’ ancestors at Staatsburgh.

The portrait on the far left depicts Morgan Lewis, the third governor of New York and Ruth’s great-grandfather. Next to him is his daughter, Margaret.

Next to Margaret is Judge Robert Livingston, a statesman and attorney, followed by Chancellor Robert Livingston, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, swore in President George Washington, and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase under President Thomas Jefferson.

The grand staircase was reminiscent of the one on the Titanic.
The grand staircase at Staatsburgh.

The last three steps were wider than the others to leave room for women’s gowns to cascade behind them in elegant, dramatic entrances.

A side table featured an issue of The Boston Daily Globe with a headline about the Titanic sinking, emphasizing the family’s connection to the tragedy.
A newspaper with a headline about the Titanic sinking at Staatsburgh.

Ruth’s cousin, John Jacob Astor, was the richest man in the world when he died in the Titanic disaster. His body was recovered two weeks later, identified by the initials sewn into his jacket and the engraved gold watch in his pocket.

Ascending the stairs provided a wider view of the entrance hall.
The entrance hall at Staatsburgh.

The furniture was arranged differently when the Mills family took up residence there, but everything in the room was original to the home.

The painted ceiling on the stairwell concealed a 10,000-gallon water tank above.
A painted ceiling at Staatsburgh.

The home had its own water system with a pump house on the property that filtered water into a steel-reinforced tank.

Female visitors stayed in guest bedrooms upstairs, while male visitors slept downstairs.
A guest room at Staatsburgh.

Alice Roosevelt was good friends with the Mills’ twin daughters and a frequent guest at Staatsburgh.

A replica of a maid’s room was built on the second floor by lowering the ceiling and narrowing the walls to display the smaller space.
A servant’s room at Staatsburgh.

Maids slept on the third floor, while male servants such as footmen and butlers slept downstairs. Servants at Staatsburgh worked six days a week and had their own rooms, a rarity in the Gilded Age.

The male servants’ quarters on the ground level included a dining room, lounge, and kitchen suite.
The servants’ quarters at Staatsburgh.

The male servants’ quarters were used as the New York State Parks Taconic Regional Headquarters until 2009, and the area is undergoing restoration.

Before dinner, guests would line up in the oval room to be escorted into the dining room.
The oval room at Staatsburgh.

A detail-oriented hostess, Ruth would be at the front of the line to be escorted into dinner by the highest-ranking gentleman.

Our tour group gasped in awe upon walking into the stunning dining room, exactly as Ruth Mills intended.
The dining room at Staatsburgh.

The green Italian and French marble walls were decorated with 18th-century Belgian tapestries. The Mills would also decorate the room with plants from their greenhouse.

The floor was constructed with 1-inch-thick Vermont marble to deaden the sounds of the kitchen below.

The table was set with the Mills family’s original Tiffany & Co. china.
Tiffany & Co. table settings in the dining room at Staatsburgh.

The table could seat up to 30 people when fully extended. Meals lasted around two hours and included eight to 10 courses of mostly French cuisine.

The gilded ceilings were embellished with ornate gold designs.
Gold ceiling decorations in the dining room at Staatsburgh.

Typical of the Gilded Age, even the ceilings were works of art.

The base of the fireplace was decorated with Chinese guardian lion statues known as foo dogs.
Decorative lion statues in the dining room at Staatsburgh.

The bronze lion statues had brass eyes that glowed when the sun shone on them.

Servants took food to the dining room via a dumbwaiter in the butler’s pantry.
The butler’s pantry at Staatsburgh.

Located off the dining room, the butler’s pantry featured a speaking tube for communication with the kitchen.

The butler’s pantry included a display of Titanic china set replicas.
Replicas of Titanic china at Staatsburgh.

Different classes of passengers on the Titanic dined off different china patterns.

We then moved into the drawing room, named for where the family and guests would withdraw after dinner.
The drawing room at Staatsburgh.

Our tour guide described the drawing room as Ruth’s “she shed” where female family members and guests would socialize and take tea.

Our guide pointed out how the backs of the chairs were not as faded as the seats because of the upright posture women maintained.
A chair in the drawing room at Staatsburgh.

Women’s corsets in the Gilded Age didn’t enable them to fully sit down.

She also pointed out the oldest artifact in the room: a set of three ancient Greek urns.
Urns in the drawing room at Staatsburgh.

The urns date back to 400 to 600 BCE.

The Mills family would play games of bridge in their ornate library.
The library at Staatsburgh.

Their collection of books included rare artifacts such as George Washington’s diaries.

Ruth also had a French-style boudoir, a private space to write correspondence and plan parties.
The boudoir at Staatsburgh.

A large portrait of Ruth hung on the wall on the left.

Ruth’s bedroom was modeled after royal palaces in Europe, with her bed up on a pedestal and the walls upholstered with damask silk.
Ruth Livingston Mills’ room at Staatsburgh.

Her and Ogden’s suites were on the main level, which was unusual in the Gilded Age, but Ruth had a heart condition that made it difficult for her to go up and down flights of stairs.

The tour ended with Ogden’s room, which was noticeably smaller and less ostentatious than Ruth’s.
Ogden Mills’ room at Staatsburgh.

Ogden called Ruth “Tiny,” and her nickname for him was “Sweet.”

Even though Staatsburgh was just a two-hour drive from New York City, I felt like I’d visited a European palace.

According to our tour guide, 95% of the items inside Staatsburgh are authentic to the home and the Mills family, providing a historically accurate portrayal of how the wealthiest members of high society lived during the Gilded Age.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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