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Debut of Staatsburgh’s dining room improvements

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Pictured from the left are Tom Watt, assistant regional director, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Neil Krupnick, Hyde Park councilman; Diane Topkis, president, The Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh; Pam Malcolm, Staatsburgh State Historic site manager; Mary Kay Vrba, Dutchess Tourism; Sarah Stevens, textile conservator, NYS OPRHP; Jonathan Duda, grants administrator, Parks & Trails, NY.
November 11, 2019 11:32 am

STAATSBURG — After more than 120 years, even a fantastically opulent mansion needs a little touch-up now and then. Staatsburgh State Historic Site, the Gilded Age country estate on the Hudson, with its 79-room mansion, filled with Gilded Age furniture, art, and objects, has been receiving some restoration, including repainting and new floor-to-ceiling velvet draperies in its palatial formal dining room.

A celebratory ribbon cutting was held on Oct. 15 and guests came to view the new, handsewn reproduction drapes, the repaired ceiling, and a lovely new table-setting for the fall season, a hint of what the dining experience was like when visiting for the weekend, invited by leading social hostess, Ruth Livingston Mills.

“The dining room was the zenith of impressive experiences during the Millses’ lavish weekend parties for the elite people in New York society,” says Pam Malcolm, Historic Site Manager: “If their guests were not sufficiently impressed by all the other rooms, or the stunning landscape and river views, entering the dining room with its marble-lined walls, giant tapestries and gilded 18-foot ceiling, tended to elicit the admiration Mrs. Mills sought from peers in her social set.”

After a century, however, the silk velvet drapes and the ornate ceiling design were showing their advanced age, diminishing the opulence of this impressive and elegant room. Staatsburgh’s support group, the Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh, has been partnering very successfully with Parks and Trails New York, staff from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and volunteers on the creation of stunning new drapes, closely resembling the originals, for the room’s enormous windows.

Fabrics and trims were sourced from New York-based company Kravet/Lee Jofa, which specializes in high-end and custom fabrics. The very ornate trims, tie-backs and tassels were supplied by Samuel & Sons, a leading supplier of intricate trims, or passementerie. The materials used to make the drapes very closely replicate the Gilded Age materials of the mansion’s historic drapes. The project has been supported with funding from the Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh, and the New York State Park and Trail Grant Program (NYSPTGP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSPTGP is administered by Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

In addition, the Friends of Mills at Staatsburgh have funded a project a re-painting of portions of the room’s ceiling: “Many people immediately notice the peeling paint and comment on how it detracts from the splendor of the room,” says Friends President, Diane Topkis, “we are delighted to be able to remove this distraction from a room that is all about the ‘wow!’ We are equally excited to partner with Parks and Trails New York on creating new drapes, and improving the setting for these beautiful reproductions.”

The Friends have also recently purchased a stunning, linen damask tablecloth for the 15-foot dining table, custom made in Ireland. “Mrs. Mills was renowned for the quality of the linens in her various houses; we have even found an article from the time period about their impressive quality,” says Malcolm, “so to have a tablecloth that reflects her special concern for this aspect of entertaining is fabulous!”