Friday, May 18, 2012

Welcome to the Second Floor: A Photo Tour Continued



For those of you who've been waiting on pins and needles for the second installment of my photographic tour of the mansion, I am finally making good on my promise.  In the Part One we toured the first floor of Clermont.  To be honest, these are the most glamorous spaces; upstairs we are more homey.  In 1930, there were eight bedrooms for family and guests at Clermont, and we still show two of these as bedrooms.  Others are used as our exhibit gallery, reference library, and storage.

First things first: I will lead you up the steep servants' stairway off the main hall.  This stairway was added in the 19th century, as part of a larger national trend to conceal the work of servants in the home.  Because the staircase was added after the original building of the house, it had to be fit in as best as possible.  Consequently, it only goes about three quarters of the way to the second floor; it joins the main staircase at the landing.  The servants' stairs are steep.  I always joke that there weren't many concerns about servants' knees.

At the top of the stairs you are greeted by a little gate to keep children and dogs on the second floor.  The second floor hallway is broad and shady, the walls lined with doors.

To your left, a little hallway leads you to one of my favorite rooms, the historic bathroom.  Actually, there are eleven bathrooms at Clermont, but this is the only one restored for your viewing pleasure.

This little hallway also takes you out to the four comfortable bedrooms John Henry Livingston had added for his family in 1874.

(I'm adding a  picture of the wall sconce here because I just love the river scene on the shade.  These are located in numerous places around the house and have a great Colonial Revival look.)


There are two bedrooms on the second floor, then up a steep little staircase to two more charming bedrooms in the attic.  Each of these bedrooms was quite modern, with its closet and three bathrooms to serve all four rooms.  The historic photo here shows one room as it looked in 1965, when Alice had been using the house in the warm months to house guests.  You can just see the reflection of the the bathroom in the mirror at left.  When Alice Livingston began to run out of money after John Henry's death in 1927, she closed the wing up to save money on heat.

Alice then moved her own bedroom across the hall to this large space on the second floor. Note the small daybed where she took her afternoon naps. As was common for its Empire style, it was designed to be pushed against the wall, and the back side is consequently undecorated.


I also love to point out the exotic little screen that Alice kept in her fireplace when it was not in use.  Broad decorative screens like this had been commonly used since the house's building in the 18th century.  They were often used in the summer when the fireplace was cleaned and put to bed for the warm months.  I like this one because of the ogee arches and strong contrast between the black and gold.  It has a flair of the exotic that was popular are the turn of the century.



From Alice's bedroom, we head into the gallery.  This room was formerly a large bedroom with a view of the Hudson River.  Now it has become a space for us to exhibit some of the many treasures that are commonly in storage at Clermont.  One of these days I'm going to write a post about that dynamite chair in the corner.  It has a very curious history...


The sewing room is at the end of the hall.  In fact you can see the doorway in the very first photo in this blog.  This tiny little room was closed off from the main hall in the 19th century, and large cabinets were installed at that time.  You can just see one of them to the right of this picture.  The room has a stellar view of the river.


At the next doorway, we come to the guest bedroom. 

When Janet and Honoria were infants, this was their shared nursery.  It was later the room in which Rex McVitty staid when he came to visit Honoria (before they were married).  Like almost all of the other bedrooms in the house, this one has a bathroom adjacent.  This time it's the blue bathroom we've already seen.


(I love a historic bathroom.  It's so human to see the hum-drum day-to-day parts of people's lives).


So that about wraps up the second floor!  While heading back down the stairs, it's a good idea to pause on the landing and enjoy the view of the front hall.  I think if I can get some time with my camera (always a tricky proposition once the Tour Season has started), I will snap a few behind-the-scenes photos for you of the 18th century basement details and the 19th century servants' spaces in the attic.  Stay tuned!


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