Another walk through the Gilded Age

It was another daylong step back in time when Lyndhurst hosted the third annual “Mansions of the Gilded Age” symposium April 29 in Tarrytown.

As were the past two daylong events, it was a well-rounded exploration of varied aspects of the era, one featuring a panel of experts who touched on everything from architecture to art, travel to traditions and fashions to families.

As Gary Lawrance – architect, author, historian and founder of the Mansions of the Gilded Age group – said at the start of the day, “It’s not just the houses. It’s about the people in these houses.”

David Byars spoke first, offering a look at “Our Time at Foxhollow Farm,” drawing from his 2016 book, subtitled “A Hudson Valley Family Remembered” and devoted to the Dows family and their 800-acre estate in Rhinebeck.

Next, Susan Ronald offered a talk based on her new book, “A Dangerous Woman: American Beauty, Noted Philanthropist, Nazi Collaborator – The Life of Florence Gould.” Ronald’s subject was the first wife of Frank Gould, a son of Lyndhurst’s Jay Gould, and a woman whose multilayered history kept the room captivated.

Following the lunch break, it was full-steam ahead with scholar David Nelson Wren’s entertaining talk on “Ardrossan: The Last Great Estate on the Philadelphia Main Line,” based on his 2017 release of the same name.

Lawrence offered another spin on his classic book, “Houses of the Hamptons: 1880-1930,” touching on properties that included the always fascinating, much documented Grey Gardens – once home to a mother and daughter who were both named Edith Beale, the aunt and cousin respectively of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and later home to former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and his wife, author and journalist Sally Quinn.

Howard Zar, executive director of Lyndhurst, was the final speaker, offering an insightful talk on “Jay Gould and His Daughters: the Forgotten Collectors of the Gilded Age.”

As he said, “Most people who know Lyndhurst know it as a historic house but don’t really know where the Goulds stand as collectors.”

His talk provided an informed – and entertaining – look into Lyndhurst’s most famous family, focusing on the railroad magnate and his daughters, Helen and Anna. It was a talk that offered thoughts on their personalities, their collecting habits and their place in history.

Zar’s lecture paved the way, too, for “Becoming Tiffany: From Hudson Valley Painter to Gilded Age Tastemaker.” The expansive summer exhibition, opening June 1 and continuing through Sept. 24 at Lyndhurst, will trace the legacy of Louis Comfort Tiffany, who began his career as an Irvington-based artist. For those interested in an in-depth exploration, the “Becoming Tiffany” symposium will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 3 on site. Registration is now open.

Can’t wait.

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– Mary Shustack

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