The holiday season goes by quickly, so if you want to dazzle your eyes with the glory of lavish decorations in a historic setting, start making your plans now. To make it easier, we’ve rounded up five historic sites outside of Brooklyn that have decked their halls for visitors this year.
There’s a range of time periods and diverse themes — from early 19th century to contemporary design. The picks can be found in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut; all are no more than three hours from Brooklyn.
1. Lyndhurst, Tarrytown, N.Y.
Constructed in 1838, Lyndhurst is a dramatic Gothic Revival estate designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, a giant of early 19th century American architecture. The house was purchased by railroad magnate Jay Gould in the 1880s, and this year the holiday decor is inspired by one his daughters with a theme of “A Very Duchess Holiday.” Anna Gould was the Duchess of Talleyrand and moved into Lyndhurst after the death of her husband in the 1930s.
To make the mansion duchess-worthy, they’ve brought out some of her rarely seen possessions — including jewels, clothing and silver. To see the objects before they are packed back up, visit before December 30. The house is open for hourly guided tours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday. The holiday tours do sell out, so buying tickets in advance is recommended. For more info on available dates, click here.
2. Boscobel House and Gardens, Garrison, N.Y.
Built between 1804 and 1808, Boscobel is one of the country’s premier examples of Federal architecture. It’s beautifully restored and furnished with outstanding pieces from the leading furniture makers of the early 19th century.
The refined mansion celebrates the season in true early 19th century style, with historically inspired decor including garlands, fruits and sweet goodies. The holiday spirit will be in place through the end of December and the museum is offering daytime and twilight guided tours of the house. Tickets for the twilight tours are limited; for ticket prices and availability, click here.
3. Merchant’s House Museum, Manhattan
Lived in by just one family for almost 100 years, the elegant brick house on East 4th Street, also known as the Seabury Tredwell House, is preserved intact, inside and out. It’s worth a visit any time of year, but it shines during the holiday season when the brilliant red of the parlor upholstery and drapery feels particularly festive.
The museum is celebrating with a theme of “Christmas Comes to Old New York” this year and the period rooms are arranged with vignettes of mid-19th century holiday preparations. The trees, stockings and poinsettias are on view through January 8 and the house is open Thursday through Monday from noon to 5 p.m. The museum also hosts an annual New Year’s Day open house. For more information on admission prices and all the holiday events, click here.
4. The Hermitage, Ho Ho Kus, N.J.
Originally constructed in the mid 18th century, this historic house was owned by a British officer during the Revolutionary War. It sat in the midst of British and American troops, leading to some lively history — when the British officer died, his widow married Aaron Burr and, of course, George Washington slept here. In the mid 19th century the house was transformed into the picturesque Gothic cottage it is today.
The house was turned into a tea room in the early 20th century and the historic site is recapturing those stylish days with a 1920s themed holiday display. There are trees and ornaments and fashionably dressed mannequins wearing their best flapper dresses and tuxedos. The decorations are up through the end of January and the house is open Wednesday through Sunday, with three tours a day. For more information on tour prices and availability, click here.
5. Lockwood–Mathews Mansion Museum, Norwalk, Conn.
In 1868, railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood moved his family into their brand new Second Empire-style mansion. The house was built with the latest technology, like indoor plumbing, central heat and gas lighting, but didn’t sacrifice style for modern comforts — the grand rooms are filled with rich woodwork, marble, frescoes and murals.
The rooms are further embellished for the season with decorations showcasing holiday style from the 1860s to the present day. For those wanting to experience a Victorian-style Christmas there are rooms decked out as the family would have celebrated in the house. If you want some more modern inspiration, there are also trees and displays by contemporary Connecticut interior designers. The displays are up through January 7 and the house is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
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- Visit a Modest Little Hudson Valley Beaux-Arts Palace Built for a Vanderbilt