Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vanderbilt Mansion: Oh, Wow, What a Pile!

"Vanderbilt Mansion"
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior

(from National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, used w/o permission)

"Vanderbilt Mansion NHS, in terms of architecture, interiors, mechanical systems, road systems and landscape, is a remarkably complete example of a gilded-age country place, illustrating the political, economic, social, cultural, and demographic changes that occurred as America industrialized in the years after the Civil War...."

The Lemming suspects that this website is in the 'under construction' phase, with the occasional incomplete or missing page.

On the 'up' side, there's a pretty good amount of information available. Like this, on the "Historic Resource Study" page (Home > History & Culture > Places)

"When the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site was designated by the Secretary of the Interior on December 18, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt hoped to see the grounds set aside as an arboretum for public enjoyment. He believed the estate would be an example of a social and economic phase of our national development that would be of distinct national interest.

"Unlike the site of a decisive battle, or the home of the great American patriot, the justification for accepting the site was at least in part based on the belief that it was 'representative.' The designation order states that certain buildings and structures of the estate are 'representative and illustrative of their period and hence of national significance in the economic, sociological, and cultural history of the United States.'..."

The "Things To Know Before You Come" (Plan Your Visit > Things To Know Before You Come) page includes this statement:

"...Baby carriages, strollers, infant carriers, backpacks and photography are all prohibited from the tour...."

That may not be a goofy as it sounds. Quite a few things changed after September 11, 2001. (September 11, 2010)

Finally, about the Vanderbilt Mansion being "representative." The Lemming thinks that's a reasonable statement - although a little explanation or clarification may be in order.

Back in the late-1800s, that magnificent pile was not "representative" of the sort of house most Americans lived in. It represents high-end residential architecture of the period: sort of like what Bill Gates has these days. As the website's introductory paragraph puts it, this is "a remarkably complete example of a gilded-age country place....

If you visit the place in, say, August, you may gain a greater appreciation for why we embraced certain technologies. The place isn't air conditioned.

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