December 20, 2013
Preservation of historic landmark is one of 81 State Parks and Historic Sites Improved by Governor's NY Works Initiative
STAATSBURG, NY (12/20/2013) - Staatsburg community members and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) officials today celebrated the rehabilitation of the landmark stone estate wall and return of the decorative gates and eagles at the gateway to Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Rehabilitation of the wall is part of $4.2 million in repairs to the Dutchess County historic site also known as the Mills Mansion, funded by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's New York Works program.
"For too long, the crumbled estate wall at the gateway to the Staatsburgh State Historic Site had been a depressing symbol of the deterioration of New York's noble state park system," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "Now, thanks to Governor Cuomo's historic investment in our parks and historic sites, we are witnessing the end of an era of disrepair. The Governor has made the protection of parks a hallmark of his tenure, and is leading the way in the revitalization of the state park system that means so much to economy and quality of life to communities like Staatsburg."
The once grand stone wall, now over 100 years old, began to deteriorate in the mid-1980s. By 2005 sections had been reduced to ruins. The meticulous process to rehabilitate this Gilded Age Estate Wall involved cataloging over 5,000 dimensionally cut stones that make up its east face, running parallel to Old Post Road. Dismantling and accurately restoring the original puzzle-like pattern of the historic veneer required precise cataloging of each individual stone: first for storage and then for the exacting reassembly phase. The project, carried out by Foreman Construction Inc. of Peekskill, also involved replacing over 2,000 square feet of missing veneer stones, which were hand cut to specific dimensions in order to replicate the design, in accordance with preservation guidelines. An entirely new footing was constructed to ensure the wall's stability and longevity.
The project also included the repair and return of spectacular 16' high wrought iron gates at both the entrance and the exit driveways to the Mansion. The gates have not been in place since the mid-1970s but now appear as they would have in the early 1900s. Iconic painted lead eagles were restored by conservators at the State Historic Preservation Office, and replaced on their rightful perches atop 14' high stone pillars, adorning the historical entrance to the estate.
Staatsburg resident Judy Linville noted that "Those of us who live in Staatsburg are especially pleased to see the restoration of the estate wall on Old Post Road. It provides an elegant welcome to our hamlet, and it allows the Staatsburgh Estate to have the grand entrance it deserves. We are thrilled to see the return of the eagles and gates after so many years! We applaud the completion of the project and believe that it demonstrates NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation's continued commitment to being a good neighbor to residents of Staatsburg and the surrounding area."
In addition to the estate wall, the New York Works project includes fixing the mansion's leaking roof and repairing the East Portico, which, after more than a century of continual use, was in dire need of structural and aesthetic rehabilitation. Launched by Governor Cuomo in 2012, New York Works is advancing $265 million in repair and improvement projects at 81 state parks and historic sites across the state.
The former country estate of Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills was originally built in 1798. The opulent Beaux Arts mansion known today as Staatsburgh State Historic Site was expanded and decorated to its present size of 79 rooms in 1895 by renowned architect Stanford White, of the well-known architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White. Part of White's renovation included the building of a grand, two-story portico entrance, which dominates the view of the house as one approaches from the road, and clearly communicates the wealth and importance of its occupants.
Staatsburgh State Historic Site is located on Old Post Road in Staatsburg, off Route 9 between Rhinebeck and Hyde Park. To visit Staatsburgh State Historic Site, please call 845-889-8851 or visit the websites www.nysparks.com/historic-sites/25/details.aspx and www.facebook.com/StaatsburghSHS. House tours are available Thursday through Sunday, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm in season (April through October) with additional special hours in the holiday season and winter months.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 179 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 60 million people annually. A recent study commissioned by Parks & Trails New York found that New York State Parks generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.nysparks.com, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.