You are invited to join us for an exclusive one-day excursion to visit two extraordinary historic houses overlooking the majestic Hudson River near Rhinebeck, New York.
WILDERSTEIN is the country home near Rhinebeck that we will visit in the morning. Built in 1888 in the Queen Anne style for Robert Bowne Suckley and his wife Elizabeth Philips, the house greatly enlarged an 1852 Italianate house constructed for Suckley’s father Thomas. One could refer to the somewhat similar history of Ventfort, the Italianate Lenox “cottage” built in the 1850s for Ogden Haggerty and his family, and replaced by Ventfort Hall in 1893.
The renovated Wilderstein was the design of Poughkeepsie architect Arnout Cannon, soaring to include a third floor, multi-gabled attic and a dramatic five-story circular tower with commanding views of the surrounding landscape. The fanciful asymmetrical roof line of the house was complimented by the addition of an imposing porte cochere and a generous verandah (again, Ventfort Hall could be brought to mind). Five of the principal rooms on the first floor were designed by Joseph Burr Tiffany, a younger cousin of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The books, letters, photographs, furniture, paintings, art objects and china amassed by three generations of Suckleys are of great interest to both scholars and visitors. The last resident of Wilderstein was Margaret (Daisy) Suckley. A distant cousin and confidante of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Miss Suckley traveled extensively with FDR during his presidency, gave him his famous Scottish terrier Fala and helped to establish his library in Hyde Park. The letters they exchanged, which were discovered in a battered suitcase at Wilderstein, provide one of the best resources for understanding Roosevelt’s private life.
EDGEWATER at nearby Barrytown dates from 1825 and combines classical architecture with a dramatic setting, built on a small peninsula facing the Hudson and the Catskill Mountains beyond. With its Doric columns, high ceilings and tall windows, the mansion seems more suited to a Southern climate than the Hudson Valley. The design of the house may possibly have been provided by Robert Mills, Charleston’s leading architect at the time.
Early owners included a Livingston, a name that resonates with many country houses lining the river. After sitting empty for several decades, Edgewater was purchased in 1950 by the writer Gore Vidal, who found inspiration there by writing such best sellers as The Judgment of Paris (the proceeds of which paid for improvements to the house) and Myra Breckenridge.
By 1969, Vidal was living in Rome when the late Richard Jenrette, co-founder of the Wall Street securities firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, took a serious liking to Edgewater and a quick sale ensued. Aided by a group of friends who took on the title of the “Empire Mafia,” Jenrette painstakingly researched, located and reintroduced many of the Livingston furnishings. Today the house is under the care of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust established by Jenrette in 1993, a collection of seven architecturally significant houses that he had acquired.
Ventfort Hall has made arrangements for the excursion with a private motor coach leaving from the mansion, 104 Walker St. in Lenox, at 9:00 am and returning by 5:30 pm. All-day parking at Ventfort Hall is arranged. The cost of the tour is $165 and includes comfortable transportation, private tour admissions and a $50 fully tax-deducible donation to Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum. Participants will select from the menu and pay for lunch separately. Lunch will be in The Tavern at the Beekman Arms, since 1766 providing “culinary expertise” in a charming historic setting.
Call us at (413) 637-3206 to reserve your spot. Trip is limited to the first 25 people to reserve.
Discover the wines of Moldova, one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world!
Presenting nine wines with Andrei Birsan of Wines of Moldova USA, an exclusive Moldovan wine importing company.
$35.00 per person. For an additional $15.00 enjoy a private guided tour of Ventfort Hall starting at 4:30 pm.
For reservations please call Nejaime’s at (413) 637-2221.
As the fourth appearance he will have made here at the mansion, Prof. Gary H. Darden will return to give a visual presentation on “Making Gotham Global: New York City from 1825 to 1929.” His lecture will be followed by a Victorian tea.
From the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 to the Stock Market Crash in 1929, New York City evolved from a regional port of little more than 100,000 people into the world’s largest urban area with nearly 8,000,000 people.
Central to its civic identity and economic power was the development of cultural and architectural assets befitting a global city of rank, one that emerged both through civic initiatives and the determination of its elites. This process radically reimagined the scale and scope of Gotham, from Central Park and its museum collections to its multitude of mansions and corporate skyscrapers.
In 2016, Darden lectured at Ventfort Hall on the decline of the British aristocracy leading up to World War I and a year later presented a talk on the architectural rivalries within the Vanderbilt family. Last year he covered the White House from presidential palace to the people’s palace.
Darden chairs the Department of Social Sciences & History at Fairleigh Dickinson, Becton College of Arts & Sciences, Madison, NJ. He was awarded Teacher of the Year at the college.
His scholarly work includes articles for journals, encyclopedias and the historical text for the book, The American Soldier: From the Civil War to the War in Iraq, A Photographic Tribute, which accompanied a major exhibit touring the US. Darden was also a moderator with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.
Tickets for the Darden talk are $28 for advance reservations and $32 day of the event. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited. For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.
October was always “peak season” at Lenox’s Osceola House for others, but original owners Edward and Sarah Livingston would be at their French country house “Villa Clermont” in the Pyrenees, conditioning their horses for the fox-hunting season.
This is just some of the fascinating knowledge that historian Cornelia Brooke Gilder and local craftsman Steve Baum will impart at a benefit lecture hosted by present owners Ernie and Jo Faraci in the mansion’s elegant reception rooms on Saturday, October 19 at 3:30 pm. The event titled “October at Osceola House” will include the visual presentation as well as seasonal refreshments, benefiting the restoration and educational programs of Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum.
Boston architects Rotch and Tilden designed Osceola House for the Livingstons in 1889, shortly before beginning their biggest Lenox project, Ventfort Hall. Both were among the five Lenox “cottages” designed by the firm, all of which are extant.
Over the thirty-year period that the Livingstons owned Osceola House, it was frequently rented, and these long-term tenants, often their friends, were active in Lenox’s social life. Gilder will recount untold stories of Gilded Age romances, festive parties, sudden deaths and financial ruin which occurred in the mansion.
Baum, long experienced in Rotch and Tilden’s architecture through his extensive work at Ventfort Hall, will focus on the recent restoration work at Osceola House which he directed, bringing it back to the splendor of the Livingstons’ day.
Tickets for the Osceola House benefit event are $75. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited. For information or reservations call us at 413-637-3206. Osceola House is located at 25 Cliffwood Street in Lenox.
The Comical Mystery Tour ensemble returns to the mansion with and encore performance of “Murder Is in the Stars” and invites the public to join the fun on Saturday, October 19th. Doors open at 5:00 pm. Program starts and first course served at 5:30 pm.
Lady Lydia the psychic, has called together a group of millionaires offering the gift of eternal life for the small sum of 5 million dollars. Some believe it is totally legit, but someone decides her life shouldn’t be eternal and drops the final curtain on her. Was it Big Bosco, the “Family” man, or Governor Bill Fold? It couldn’t be a politician, could it? I mean they are all so honest. How about Candy Cotton, the adult film star trying to make it big in legit movies or might it have been Gaylord Gabby, the fashion designer from the left coast. If Lydia were still alive she could tell you for sure. Wait a minute; if she is a real psychic, she would have known it was coming wouldn’t she? Come along and join us for another fun filled night of mystery and help figure out who offs Lady Lydia.
In production since 1995, The Comical Mystery Tour has had over 50,000 audience members viewing and/or participating in their programs. The ensemble appears regularly at Ventfort Hall.
Cost to attend is $40 per person including a full course dinner. A cash bar is available for beer and wine. Reservations are required by Wednesday, Oct. 16th. Seating is limited. For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.
October brings many different activities — jumping in leaves, apple picking, trick-or-treating, and not to mention…pumpkin painting! Join us as we prepare for Halloween by painting pumpkins here at the mansion. While pumpkins dry, there will be opportunities to have some spooky snacks and craft other autumnal decorations.
Drop in at any point and wear your painting clothes! Cost to attend is $7 per child with advance reservation; $10 per child day-of (adults free with their child). Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited. Call us at (413) 637-3206 to reserve your child’s spot.
Archduke Dr. Geza von Habsburg will return to the mansion to give a visual presentation on “Sisi, the Tragic Empress: A Great-Great Grandson’s Perspective.” This is the story of the beautiful Empress Elisabeth, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“I am so fond of the Emperor! If only he were not an emperor!” Elisabeth is said to have expressed these feelings when she learned of Franz Joseph’s desire to marry her. Clearly she sensed that life as empress at the Viennese imperial court would not suit her personality.
A member of the Wittelsbach family of Bavaria, Elisabeth came from a rather informal household, entering at the age of sixteen into the restrictive formal life at court and the overly rigid supervision of Sophie, her mother-in-law. Franz Joseph on the other hand had been groomed from childhood for his future role of emperor (he came to the throne in 1848), and often showed no understanding for the needs and fears of his somewhat shy wife.
After giving birth to three children, Elisabeth within the first years of their marriage took refuge in travel. Considered one of the great beauties of the 19th century, she was extremely vain of her slender figure, observing strict diets, exercising constantly, unusual for her time, and exhausting her ladies-in-waiting with long hours spent riding or walking.
Tragedy struck in her later years when the couple’s only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, took his own life at Mayerling, some say due the lack of understanding, even from his father, of his desire to modernize the multiethnic empire’s complex political system. In 1898, Elisabeth was assassinated during a holiday in Switzerland, dying at the hands of an Italian anarchist.
Franz Joseph continued to reign until he died in 1916 in the midst of World War I.
Dr. von Habsburg began his career as Chairman, Switzerland of Christie, Manson & Woods Auctioneers, overseeing offices throughout Europe. In 1980 he became Chairman of European Operations for the company. Later, he served as Chairman, New York and Geneva, of Habsburg Fine Arts International Auctioneers. In both companies, he specialized in silver and gold, objects of vertu and Russian art. In 1994, he joined Fabergé Co. as a consultant, spokesman and lecturer worldwide.
Dr. von Habsburg is considered one of the foremost experts on Faberge, the former court jeweler to the Russian Tsars and the subject he covered in 2016 at Ventfort Hall. He has organized and curated exhibitions worldwide, including Fabergé in America, which toured five cities and attracted 400,000 visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Fluent in seven languages, the speaker has authored several books and was also an associate professor at The New York School of Interior Design, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts and New York University. He has lectured for over ten years at the Met.
As part of a theme, the planning committee has organized a menu of desserts as offered in Viennese cafés. Committee members are Mary Frances Benko, Patrick Brennan, Karen Carhart, Thomas Hayes, Helga S. Orthofer Kaiser, Lucille Landa, Alice Nathan, Wendy Philbrick and Beverly Rainey.
Tickets for the event are $55 per person. RSVP by Monday, October 21st. Reservations are required as seating is limited. For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.
Join David Raby for a paranormal investigation of the historic and haunted Ventfort Hall. A non-fiction author and paranormal investigator, Raby has always been intrigued by history. He undauntedly enters haunted locations that would terrify others with hopes of contacting lingering spirits to discover why they remain.
Raby is the author of four published books and countless online articles. With his passion for the paranormal field, he has accumulated over a decade of experience, founded a paranormal group and has helped many people (and spirits) that ranged between the curious and those seeking urgent advice.
His interest in the paranormal was shaped by the fact that spirits seem to be attracted to his compassion and openness. He has a knack for storytelling that fuels his intensive historical research and fact finding.
He believes that by bringing people’s stories out of the shadows and into the light of our awareness, they may find eternal rest and peace.
Before the investigation, he will give a brief history of the lives that once graced the hallways – and possibly still reside within. He will also share some of his favorite evidence from previous investigations and will be happy to answer any questions about paranormal investigations. This event is perfect for everyone; from someone who has never been on a paranormal investigation to the seasoned investigator.
The event will begin at 7:00 p.m. and conclude at midnight. Tickets for this exciting event are $35 per person; reduced rate of $20 for ages 12 – 18 and 19-23 with student ID. All of the proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the preservation and restoration of Ventfort Hall. Call us at (413) 637-3206 for reservations.