Historic Places

Lyndhurst at Christmastime

Lyndhurst at Christmas dining room
The Christmas display in Lyndhurst’s dining room. All photos in this post are by A Scholarly Skater.

Over the weekend, I visited Lyndhurst mansion to take the Christmas tour.  I really love seeing historic places all decorated for Christmas. I try not to have my first experience with an historic house be with Christmas decorations, so I try to come back to houses I’ve really enjoyed at Christmas instead. Lyndhurst is a 19th-century Gothic Revival mansion in Tarrytown, New York. It was designed by Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892) and owned by three families, lastly that of railroad magnate Jay Gould (1836-1892). The house has all its original contents, including Tiffany stained glass windows and Gothic Revival furniture by Davis and by Herter Brothers. I first visited Lyndhurst last year and really loved it, so I was happy to go back and see it again.

Lyndhurst at Christmastime hats
This cool Christmas display in Lyndhurst’s upstairs art gallery includes Helen and Anna Gould’s old hats.

The information in the Christmas mansion tour is pretty much the same as on the regular mansion tour. It was nice to hear everything again, since I always pick up different things the second time around. This year, my tour guide talked a lot about the faux painting on the interior. Lyndhurst has lots of it. Only the fireplaces are actually the material they appear to be (marble). Everything else is faux painting, either on plaster or on canvas attached to the walls. The walls appear to be stone or marble, or, in one case, tooled and gilt leather. The ceilings look like different kinds of English Gothic stone vaults with ribs, bosses, and hanging cones. The trim is made to look like all sorts of materials, including different species of wood and several colors of marble. I was shocked the guide pointed to the front door inside the entry vestibule and told us that it wasn’t really made of bronze. I hadn’t gotten that particular detail on my first visit, and it really defies belief. All of the ceilings in this house are spectacular, even those that aren’t faux painted. There’s one on the first floor painted with allegorical female figures and another  in an upstairs bedroom that’s blue with gold stars. The guide confirmed my supposition that it’s based on the ceiling of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Lyndhurst at Christmas French bedroom
A Christmas tree in the French-style upstairs bedroom. The ceiling in this room is based on the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Now, about the Christmas decorations. There were lots of them, and they were all beautiful. Some were period appropriate. For example, one tree had individual little candles on it, which is how people of the late-19th century would have decorated it. There were also some lovely displays of antique toys and winter-related things from the Gould family collection. However, the majority of the decorations were not historically accurate. This personally doesn’t bother me, since they looked gorgeous in the space, but I know that some people really care. I loved the grouping of white and silver trees in the entryway, the spectacular display in the dining room, and the large upside-down tree-like creation decorated with Helen and Anna Gould’s hats in the art gallery (second image from the top of this page). The upstairs bathroom was also so really charmingly decorated. It was probably the most festive bathroom I’ve ever seen. The guide said that Lyndhurst hires a  theatrical set designer to come up with the whole arrangement. He did an excellent job! The arrangement of decorations took wonderful advantage of the house’s features. The trim and ornaments on each tree coordinated perfectly with the colors of each room, and ropes of garland outlined the tracery elements found on windows, doorways, and elsewhere throughout the house.

Lyndhurst mansion is located in Tarrytown, New York. It’s just a few miles away from the Tappan Zee Bridge and has beautiful views of the bridge and Hudson River from the house and grounds. It’s also near Kykuit mansion and Union Church of Pocantico Hills, which I visited earlier this year. Lyndhurst Holiday Classic Mansion Tours are until December 30th on Thursdays through Mondays hourly from 10 am to 4 pm. They last one hour and cost $20 per person. Holiday tours are in high demand and fill up weeks in advance, so it’s paramount to buy your tickets online as soon as possible. At this point, you might have to plan for next year instead. After Christmastime, you’ll have to wait until April for regular tours to resume again. Lyndhurst is owned and operated by the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation, which works to protect and preserve historic buildings in the United States.

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