Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Peek Inside Arryl House

I've already spent some time gushing about Arryl House on this blog.  The Chancellor's 1793 mansion was an architectural masterpiece that competed with the homes of his contemporaries like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington for originality and grandeur.

The house was an H-shaped "villa," with its grandest rooms located in the front arms.  Huge tripple-sashed windows allowed occupants to take in the beauty of the Hudson River, and very high ceilings made the place airy and fresh.

While plenty of late 19th century photographs exist of the exterior, what's been missing from my picture of Arryl House was any glimpse of the inside.  So I was thrilled when, while digging around on another project, one of my coworkers unearthed these images:

 Apparently copied from a photo album at Calendar House, another Livingston home not far from here, the circa 1880 photos are labeled "Parlor Ideal - because of the doors painted by Montgomery."  It is supposed by former curators that "Ideal" refers to "Idele," one of the former names given to Arryl House.

And even without a more confident attribution, it seems pretty plausible.  This "parlor" could easily be the Chancellor's former dining room.  Unless the image has been mirrored, it seems to show the corner marked in yellow at right, including a door, recessed slightly into a corner, with a matching recess on the other side of the fireplace and a large window immediately to the left.

A close-up of the mirror over the mantle also shows us that there is another large window directly across the room.  I love that you can just see the house's louvered shutters closed across the top of this window.  This technique was commonly used to keep houses cooler in the summer, and it is neat to see it illustrated from the inside.

This room shows all the elegance of a late Victorian parlor, with its Rococo revival mirror, arched marble mantle, and ornate chandelier.  This was taken most likely after Clermont Livingston moved into the house with his third wife.

But the pictures do offer us some interesting clues into the house's past ownership.  First of all, the image of Montgomery Livingston door paintings are pretty neat.  Montgomery inherited the house from his father Robert L. Livingston in 1843.  He was devoted to his art and apparently filled the house with paintings, canvases, stretchers and other supplies.  A printing studio was installed in the basement.  And it seems he also put some art onto the house itself.

The six paintings include two smaller landscapes at the top (the right side of which could possibly be an image of the Palisades), a monument, a grand waterfall, a bridge or ruin, and a church.  The images bear some similarities to other pieces of his that Clermont has, such as the image of the Jungfrau Mountain pictured at left.

The other details that appear to reach back into the house's history are those nearer to the room's ceiling. You can see a deep crown molding with a dentil detail that would be consistent with the 1780s when the Chancellor designed the room in the first place.  You also get a glimpse of the vaulted ceiling, another decorative touch that would have set this room apart from its contemporaries.   

Of course, I can't help but be a little bit distracted by the intense window dressings that go with the rest of the room's late Victorian decor.  But that's just me. 

So it's just a glimpse, but any peek inside Arryl House is a huge treat for me.  It fleshes out the picture I've been trying to paint of life her at Clermont, both for the 19th century generations and a little bit for the 18th century as well. 

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