How this historic house museum influenced the many Golden Age mansions that followed it

The Golden Age is arguably one of the most influential periods in the world of design, whether in architecture, interiors, landscaping or entertainment, but there are a particular period pre– Golden Age structure that played a key role in the designs that succeeded it: the Lockwood-Mathews Manorwhich is now a historic house museum, located in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Built between 1864 and 1868, this Queen-Anne-meets-Gothic-Revival-and-Chateauesque dwelling was completed just two years before what many recognize as the official start of the Golden Age. It was one of the first mansions to be built in the United States, before Gilded Age mansions even existed. The mansion itself, which is both a National Historic Landmark and part of the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the oldest and most significant Second Empire-style homes built in the United States, leading the way to an architectural style which became quite common later in the 19th century. It was also the first castle-style mansion built in this country.

Sarah Grote Photography

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion is also notable for its extensive furnishings by the Herter Brothers, a maker that would go on to outfit many Gilded Age interiors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art even paid homage to the design firm with the exhibition “Herter Brothers: Furniture and Interiors for a Gilded Age”, in 1995. This particular mansion was decorated in part by the brothers, and it has some of the only remaining interiors designed by the duo.

Naturally, the Herter Brothers firm had quite an impressive list of clients, including J. Pierpont Morgan and Jay Gould, who both owned New York residences that are now museums: the Morgan Library and Museum and Lyndhurst Manor. The brothers also designed William Henry Vanderbilt’s now nonexistent Fifth Avenue mansion (known as both the Vanderbilt Triple Palace and William H. Vanderbilt House) as well as the Manhattan residences of Jay Gould and Darius Ogden Mills. .

The White House, too, bears his mark: the brothers worked in the White House during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, under the direction of Charles Follen McKim, of the famous architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, who wanted a ceiling plasterwork and carved oak paneling in the new, expanded building. State dining room. The duo also installed sculpted panels in the East Room under the direction of McKim.

lockwood mathews mansion museum courtesy of sarah grote photography norwalk connecticut

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, courtesy of Sarah Grote Photography

Additionally, the Red Room of the White House was furnished with Herter Brothers pieces during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. Today, several pieces from the firm remain on display in the Maison du Peuple, including a slipper chair and a center table (the table bears the only known Herter Brothers paper label).

    As for more logical design elements, the Lockwood-Mathews mansion also set a precedent by incorporating “hot and cold interior plumbing, gas lighting, ventilation, a sophisticated battery-operated alarm and a central heating system. that burned a ton of coal a day,” says Susan Gilgore, executive director of the mansion-turned-museum.

    Lockwood Mathews Mansion Gilded Age Historic House Museum Norwalk Connecticut

    Sarah Grote Photography

    By the 1960s, however, the mansion was in danger of being demolished. Fortunately, it was saved thanks to the efforts of local conservators and concerned citizens who worked to save the house. This ordeal was later considered “one of the largest and most bitter preservation battles in Connecticut history,” says Gilgore, as the mansion became a National Historic Landmark a few years later, in 1971. difficulties, however, not all were so lucky.

    Over the past few decades, the Lockwood-Mathews mansion has been featured in everything from Stepford Wives film for House of Dark Shadows to a Netflix movie based on a Stephen King novel, known as Telephone of Mr. Harrigan, proving that his grand design is still as influential as ever, over 150 years after its completion.

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