Author Archives: mansionmusings

Baubles and Bling: Holiday Trees Sparkle at Bartow-Pell

Sparkling baubles gleam like diamonds and rubies. Treasures from the woods, fields, and shore bring nature’s beauty inside. Handmade ornaments recall a charming childhood Christmas in the Victorian era. Lace adds a touch of delicate luxury. And festive decorations celebrate … Continue reading

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Mourning Marietta: A Family Story in Portraiture

Mary Jane and Daniel T. MacFarlan sat for this large double portrait about three years after the death of their young daughter Marietta. What is the story behind this handsome couple? And what can the portrait tell us about mourning … Continue reading

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Behind the Closed Door: Privacy by Design in 19th-Century Houses

She knocked at the parlor door, “and was answered by a low ‘come in.’ She opened it, entered, and closed it.” (Eliza Meteyard, Mainstone’s Housekeeper, 1864) Yes, that’s right. Doors—like the one in this novel from the 1860s—were generally kept … Continue reading

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Zelia Hoffman Does It Again: Untold Stories of the 1916 Flower Show at Bartow

Why is a long-forgotten flower show still relevant over one hundred years later? And why was a woman named Zelia Hoffman once a galvanizing force in the gardening world? A little digging into the past reveals some answers. On a … Continue reading

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Miss Lorillard’s Wedding in 1827: Did the Bride Wear White?

Maria Rosina Lorillard (1800–1880) was a wealthy twenty-six-year-old when she married Robert Bartow (1792–1868) in New York City on March 20, 1827. Did the bride wear white? This might seem like a silly question today, but as fashion historians know, … Continue reading

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The Wigwam at Bartow-Pell: A Living History for Students

In 2002, the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum was preparing to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the signing of a treaty on June 27, 1654, by Thomas Pell, his associates, and Lenape sachems. This treaty signified the transfer of land, which included … Continue reading

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Through the Looking Glass: A Pair of New York Pier Mirrors by Hosea Dugliss

Robert and Maria Bartow had a house to furnish. In 1842, when the couple moved into their brand-new residence on Robert Bartow’s ancestral Pelham Bay estate, they had probably purchased some furnishings for the superb Greek Revival interiors from shops … Continue reading

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Sugarplum Fantasy: Visions of Candy Long Ago

Lemon drops, cardamom comfits, coconut creams, almond taffy, chocolate cream drops, sugared almonds, violet drops, and rose drops offer just a small taste of the sugary confections that have enchanted past generations of candy lovers and inspired professional candy makers … Continue reading

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Soap, Optional (and What Is Shampoo?): The Sometimes-Surprising Bathing Habits of Americans in the Past

We’ve all seen the period films (or heard the spiel in historic houses) that depict cozy fireside baths in a tub filled with warm water by an obliging servant. But is that the whole story? And how did people’s bathing … Continue reading

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Pretty and Cool: A White Summer Dress, ca. 1895

Pretty white summer dresses were everywhere in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were lightweight and cool, and everyone looked fabulous in them, whatever the occasion. No wonder these gowns were so popular. In August 1897, a fashion … Continue reading

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