Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Photo Tour of Clermont

It occurred to me today that probably most of the 1,000-2,000 visitors to this blog every week have never physically set foot inside of Clermont. Using my internet stalking device (also known as a stat counter), I see that our web visitors come from down the road in Red Hook, New York, glamorous and beautiful Mission, British Columbia, and decidedly exotic Auckland, New Zealand.

So I thought I would take a moment to post a photographic tour of Clermont here on the blog. Hopefully if you are ever in our neck of the woods, but in the meantime, you can at least get familiar with the mansion through our eyes.

Ready? Here we go!

You approach Clermont down a long path called the Lilac Walk, bordered of course with tall lilac bushes. This walk was part of the Livingston's pleasure gardens in the 1810s, planted by Edward P. Livingston. It was later augmented by Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston in the 1920s. Along the way, you can just catch fleeting glimpses of the mansion and the Hudson River away to your left, and if you are lucky, you'll spot one of the brilliant orange orioles that ocassionally flit through the branches here.

At the foot of the path, you find yourself on the Croquet Lawn, facing the back of the mansion. As the name implies, this broad flat lawn was Janet and Honoria's croquet court during the summers in the 1910s. The girls played here together or with their friends the Wyatts. Today it is home to a modern croquet tournament in their honor and additionally to our Old-Fashioned Independence Day celebration on July 4th.

Don't hesitate to take a seat on the porch under the wysteria. Located on the east side of the house, this is a always shady spot on summer afternoons.

When you enter the mansion, you'll push aside the heavy Dutch door and enter under the house's main staircase (left) into the center hall. The hall devides the house from front to back, and gives access to the house's four original first floor rooms. The hall is lined with portraits of the Lords of Livingston Manor and several Federal and Late Neoclassical pier tables. A broad arch devides the front of the house from the back, a feature not uncommon in Georgian and Federal homes.

Don't miss the view out the front door (at right). It's one of the highlights of the tour. When the house was built here in the 1740s, Robert of Clermont could boast that he owned everything he could see, including five mountain tops in the Catskill Mountains!

If you turn left, you will find yourself in the Drawing Room, one of the most formal rooms in the Livingston home. This room houses some of the finest furnishings, including a clock that was brought back to Clermont from France by Chancellor Livingston in 1807. The balloon clock (pictured at right) commemorates the first hydrogenated balloon flight by the Mongolfier brothers in France. The room also features a beautiful coffered ceiling (photographed in this post), beautiful door surrounds (Colonial Revival, added in the early 20th century), and a glittering crystal chandelier. The views from the room are stellar, but you're best to catch it in the evening, when you can watch the sun set over the river and the mountains from all four of its windows.

From the Drawing Room, we turn and head into the study. This less-formal room is lined with bookcases that were constructed in the 1830s. The room is much smaller than the study, and it is dominated by its fireplace and the large Lannuier mirror atop it.

In the center of the mantel, Alice Livingston mounted a small terra cota frieze in the 1920s or 30s. She sculpted this herself to depict her two daughters, their nurse Ollie, and their two favorite dogs (Peggy and Gobi).

This little sewing box is another intersting feature in the room. It is inlaid with mother of pearl and was imported from England in the early-mid 19th century. It belonged to John Henry's mother Cornelia. The top opens up to reveal little compartments all lined with blue velvet, which held a lady's sewing notions. Below, the hanging box was intended as storage for larger things, possibly the project she was working on presently.

From the study, walk on through that dark-looking door to the right, and you'll find yourself in one of everyon'e favorite rooms at Clermont: the library. This very large room is an addition to original Georgian footprint of the house and impresses almost everyone with its extensive oak paneling and large Gothic-revival fireplace.

In the early 20th century, this was the Livingstons' place for daily relaxation, reading, and pay-time for the girls. Its windows on three sides bring in lots of sun, making this room feel cozy and bright in the winter. However, when the interior shutters are closed in the summer, it can feel dark and cool.

At this point, we've reached the far end of the house. You'll need to turn back around and trek back through the study and the center hall to get to the dining room, the other most formal room in the Livingston home. Apart from the library, this is the largest room in the house, devoted to the nightly ritual of formal meals. Of all the rooms in the house, this is also the only one that John Henry chose not to put any electrical outlets into in 1923. He prefered that the family dine by candle light.

This room houses several important portraits, including Margaret Beekman Livingston, her husband, Robert R. Livingston (the Judge) and the Thomas Sully portrait of Andrew Jackson (just visible at right). Large, impressive portraits like these lend granduer to the space.

From the dining room, you turn and walk out the door to your right and go into the servants' working area. This includees a small hallway, the butler's pantry, and of course the kitchen. Here is where the cook spent most of her time and where the other servants in the house took their meals together (in between their various duties to the Livingstons).

This north wing was chronically dark for years, necessitating the addition of a skylight in the 1860s. It is well-appointed with a large number of built-in cabinets (see below at left), a coal-fired stove, and large double-basin enamel sink.

The large copper cylinder you see is a hot water tank (the water is actually heated by the coal stove).

From here we let you out the kitchen door, used as the main entrance for servants and deliveries. The nicest part of this is that it drops you right off in the large mock orange bushes, full of fragrant blooms for a week or two in the spring. Hidden by the (rather gray-brown) bushes in the photo is a pretty little porch where you are let out.

From here, we encourage you to wander through the gardens (where this photo is taken from) and to get the view from the front of the house. So there you have it; the first floor of Clermont. I haven't showed you upstairs today because, quite honestly, this post was getting to long for my normal length limit. I will save the bedrooms for another day.

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