STAATSBURG, N.Y., June 5 -- The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation issued the following news release:
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced the completion of the restoration of the East Portico at Staatsburgh State Historic Site, the third major rehabilitation project to be completed at the Dutchess County state historic site as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's New York Works program.
"The East Portico at Staatsburgh State Historic Site was a highly visible sign of the deterioration of the historic structures at this popular site. With these restorations, the visual impact of the portico is stunning and visitors to the site will most certainly appreciate the bright and historic accuracy of the white stucco and marble," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "Governor Cuomo's historic investment in our parks and historic sites is helping to revitalize these structures to their original splendor and he is leading the way in the revitalization of the entire state park system that means so much to economy and quality of life to communities like Staatsburg."
"The restoration of the East Portico at Staatsburgh State Historic Site reveals the magnificent architectural features that make this historic site such a special place and its preservation helps ensure that the grand entrance to the historic home is available for all to appreciate. Through Governor Cuomo's New York Works program, we are seeing an exciting renaissance among state parks and historic sites that is not only improving them for visitors now, but will make certain that future generations are able to enjoy all the cultural, historic and natural resources they have to offer," said Lucy R. Waletzky, Chair, New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Originally designed by renowned architect Stanford White during his 1895 renovation of the house, the East Portico was in dire need of structural and aesthetic rehabilitation. Over many decades, the Portico experienced structural failure of decorative ornamentation, and evaluation revealed that major beams and arched brick supporting the large portico deck had decayed beyond repair - creating safety hazards. Ultimately, these areas of decay and decline were determined to require removal of asbestos-laced gunite coating - applied several decades ago by New York State - and full replacement or repair while preserving historic materials wherever possible. This work involved the restoration of the grand marble staircase and deck, massive fluted columns supporting the pediment roof above, and various classical decorative elements.
An equally important aspect to the project is the provision for accessibility improvements. Incorporated into the design is a permanent fully compliant ramp providing safe and convenient access to the portico deck where groups may gather to experience the surrounding portico. Now that the primary marble deck is restored in its historic location, Taconic regional capital staff is preparing to install a secondary minor ramp to the large entry doors leading to the grand entrance hall. Once complete, accessibility to the mansion will be greatly improved.
"The majestic East Portico is the first view one gets of the mansion, on entering the estate. Towering over the landscape from the top of the hill, it surely would have greatly impressed all visitors. We are delighted to see its visual impact, and beauty, restored. The Friends want to thank State Parks for their dedication and generosity to Staatsburgh," says Caroline Carey, President of the Friends of Mills Mansion.
The $2.1 million project is part of $4.2 million in projects at Staatsburgh State Historic Site funded by New York Works. Last fall, rehabilitation of the landmark stone estate wall and return of the historic, wrought iron gates and eagles at the gateway to site were completed. Repairs to the mansion's roof have also been completed. Launched by Governor Cuomo in 2012, New York Works is advancing $421 million in repair and improvement projects at 109 state parks and historic sites across the state.
Also announced at today's event was the start of special tours to be held during Path Through History Weekends, held June 7-8 and June 14-15. Special tours include Downton Abbey-themed tours on June 7th & 14th at 1:00pm, which highlight Staatsburgh's real-life counterparts to characters from the popular television drama. Reservations are required for that tour and can be reserved by calling 845-889-8851 Ext. 300. Other themed tours include "Gilded Age Scandals" on Sunday, June 8th at 1:00pm and a Titanic-themed tour on Sunday, June 15th at 1:00pm. Reservations are recommended for those tours as well. Tickets for themed tours are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Saturday, June 14th will also feature a complimentary outdoor tour at 10:30am called "The Lost Garden at Staatsburgh," which will be followed by Staatsburg Spirit Day, an old-fashioned country fair at nearby Dinsmore Park.
Staatsburgh State Historic Site, formerly referred to as Mills Mansion, was the Gilded Age country home of Ogden Mills and Ruth Livingston Mills and is an elegant example of Beaux-Arts architecture overlooking the Hudson River, within Mills Memorial State Park. The site and park are located on Old Post Road in Staatsburg, off Route 9 between Rhinebeck and Hyde Park. Regular house tours are offered throughout the season. Staatsburgh is open through October 31st from 11am to 5pm (last tour starts at 4pm); look for special hours during the holiday season.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 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.