Just 10 miles up Route 9 from Marist, Staatsburgh State Historic Site rests peacefully on the Hudson River, secluded from much of the surrounding area of Staatsburg, NY. Getting to the mansion takes you up a winding road, with colorful trees overlooking the path and leaves scattered about, ready for footsteps to crunch them.
It accesses the Hudson River, so you have the option to trek down the path toward the water and relax on the grassy knoll to enjoy the scenic view. Or, you can keep following the road until you are at the top of the hill.
Finally, you reach the mansion, with designs and architecture stemming from the Gilded Age. The home is the former residence of Ruth and Ogden Mills, a renowned financier and philanthropist during that time era. The rooms and furniture are kept furnished so that they look as close to their original state as possible.
Annie Callaghan, a Marist sophomore, has visited the mansion numerous times and is impressed by its level of authenticity. “I absolutely love how elegant and aesthetically impressive the mansion is,” she said, “the master bedroom is timeless.”
Marist students are encouraged to branch out from touring the usual historic sites, Vanderbilt Mansion and the FDR Historic Site, and explore Staatsburgh. Such was the case of Sophia Brana, a Marist junior who is now a Public Relations Intern for the site. She became interested in the area after visiting the mansion for her Museum Studies class. “Professor Wayne Lempka sent an email to our class announcing that Staatsburgh was looking for an intern and I realized I wanted to look further into museum work,” Brana said. “Staatsburgh is smaller than the other historic houses in the area, so they have to work harder to attract visitors but that’s part of what makes it so special.”
While some may wonder what sets Staatsburgh apart from the other local historical sites, Maria Reynolds, a historical interpreter at the mansion, feels that it is its beautiful Hudson River location. “Unlike most mansions located along this side of the Hudson, the train does not cut off Staatsburgh’s access to the river and in fact passes by the other side of the house,” she said. She also noted how its original furnishing provides the house with “a lived in feel often absent from historic house museums.”
The mansion offers several types of tours so that guests can explore the mansion and get a genuine idea of what life was like back in its prime. The docents are passionate in their tours, bringing the mansion to life by often reenacting several events that took place there. “My tour guide did an excellent job at bringing us back in time and explaining the Mills’s lifestyle,” Callaghan said. “I enjoyed seeing each room and hearing about how it was used to entertain guests.”
Tour guides are just another key aspect of what makes Staatsburgh such a hidden gem. While Marist students are often criticized for staying inside “the Marist bubble,” this place offers them the opportunity to see what else lies in the Hudson Valley. “Touring the mansion can provide college students with an experience of the region’s history and a way to understand local history and sense of the Hudson Valley Community,” Reynolds explained. “The mansion brings history to life in a way that books do not and the experience of visiting a museum or historic site provide a type of experiential learning that is integral to a greater understanding of the past.”
Throughout the year, Staatsburgh hosts several different events that bring back the Gilded Age, including Downton Abbey Themed Tours, an Antique Car Show, a Gilded Age Christmas, and a Holiday Whodunit for the children.
Staatsburgh offers something different for each guest that visits. “Whether you’re looking for nature or a history lesson, there is something for everyone,” Brana said.