A Sip of High Victorian – Trip to the Hudson River Museum

While browsing the website of Hudson River Museum, Eric and I found an attached house museum, “Glenview” which is regarded as one of the finest examples of Aestheticth century. Last Saturday a train of MTA Metro North took us to Yonkers and once again we were rewarded with a splendid river view along the railroad for a pleasant d Movement interior decoration from the last quarter of the 19ay trip.

Eric and I were greeted by a museum staff who told us there is no admission fee between Thanksgiving to New Years. We headed directly toward the Glenview house.

Built in 1877 for John Bond Trevor family, the house is a fine example of high Victorian style with 26 rooms. As a visitor who took 30 minute train ride from Grand Central, what interested me most at the beginning was not the scale or the style, but the suburban sensibilities associated with the house. Situated on a bluff overseeing the river, Glenview is at the suburb of a suburb. The rapid development of railroads after 1860’s made it possible that wealthy families could buy a dream home of pastoral treats with easy commute to the city. In 1881, downtown Yonkers station had 6 morning trains between 7 and 9 AM, John Trever, who spent three quarters of the year (except winter) at Glenview and had an office at 40 Wall St. must be a regular commuter.

Architect Charles Clinton’s design utilized what nature offers to the house. The piazza, which once extended to the entire west facade, linked the house to the river. The house, unlike the city block which is usually 25 by 100, is so wide and spacious that the kitchen is on the first floor.

Entering the hall decorated with encaustic tile floor, the arrangement of the rooms is similar to that of Ballatine house in Newark Art Museum: On the left is the library and right is the parlor. The library is decorated with ebony furniture. Oriental motifs mingle with Italian-style tile inset. The notion of affluence and social statues in Victorian period, is not only apparent in the quality, but also by the quantity and its cosmopolitan assembly of everything that was popular. But other rooms, probably redecorated by the museum, show a more consistent decorative style which began to appear in mid 1880’s. I was fascinated by the parlor room which was unified by the color and patterns used in wall paper, ceiling stencils and fabrics. It is reported that Trevor brought Leissner and Louis to complete the ornate ceiling stencils and Daniel Pabst to create the mantels and a dining room sideboard. All were photographed by the brother of Albert Bierstadt,Edward Bierstadt in the book “Homes on the Hudson” published in 1885.

The shimmering yet restrained wallpaper can also be found in the sitting room next to the library in the form of sun flowers. The stenciled leaves, flowers and branches on the ceiling become an abstraction of the nature, echoing the spring scene through the bay window.

Paintings by the contemporary artists such as Cropsey, Hart or Robert Swain Gifford do not take the spotlight. They are hung as they would be in a real family home, an integral part of the house decoration and a notion of owner’s tastes.

Up the stairway which is on the right behind the billiard room, I saw the beautiful laylight which was restored by the museum with artificial light. The stain glass panel recalls the beautiful tile floor in the hall way.

The second floor is reconstructed like a traditional exhibition place. I didn’t find the paintings by George Inness or John Francis Murphy as seen in their website, but there are paintings by best landscape artists such as Ashe Durand, William Hart and Théodore Rousseau.

This is the first house I have experienced faithfully decorated in Eastlake style. The visit aroused in me curiosity about the Aesthetic Movement. It may seem old-fashioned and overly decorative, yet in a grand house that speaks out affluence and tastes, the opulence looks cultivated and restrained under the iridescent wallpaper.

You can also visit Hudson River Museum website.

The regular admission fee is $5 for adult.
Metro North Hudson Line with local stops to Glenview.

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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