Getting my historical geek on

by Christine on October 6th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates

I had a lovely time visiting the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, even despite the rain.  I got to the Visitor’s Center, and of course it was empty–I expected it to be, mid-week on a rainy day like this. There was a HUGE black cat stretched out on the heater. I think he had the right idea on a forelorn day like today.

I paid my $4 for my tour, and it was well worth the money! I was the only one in the tour group, ha ha. That was fun! I remember touring the Breakers in Newport, and I think there were 30 or 40 people in the group. Of course I’m short, and everyone else in the world is taller than me, and it was impossible to see anything in the roped-off rooms. This was a vastly different experience, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.  The tour guide was very nice and knowledgeable. I asked her all kinds of questions about Schuyler, the house, the Revolutionary War, about general society and how households were run during the time, etc.  She was delightful to talk to, and I enjoyed her personal commentary, such as how “ridiculous” a “house like this” could be built “in a climate like this” — I think she was referencing the large, under-utilized rooms that would have been extraordinarily costly to heat during the cold New York winters.

I got a kick out of her description of an attempted kidnapping that occurred in the house. Supposedly the house was stormed by Loyalists during the Revolution. The family heard the raiding party coming, so they ran from the sitting room downstairs and locked themselves in the bedroom upstairs. However, in their flight, they forgot the baby in the sitting room! The middle daughter bravely offered to sneak downstairs to get her little sister. As she was sneaking back up the stairs, the raiding party broke down the door. There were indians in the party, and one Native took his tomahawk and threw it at the sisters creeping up the stairs. “And that,” said the tour guide, “Is how this particularly large gash on the staircase supposedly came to be.”

I looked down at the exceptionally large cut in the bannister and had to laugh.  Too bad CSI has jaded today’s generation of any possibility for the really juicy gossip. The gash in the bannister clearly faced the wall; there was no way a thrown tomahawk, coming from the direction of the doorway, could have made that particular directional mark. I laughed, and the tour guide laughed with me. “It’s part of the folklore, but clearly it’s a bit of made-up history,” she explained. “Still, it adds a little romance to the house!”

The place was a beautiful Georgian mansion, with four large rooms downstairs and four large rooms upstairs. It was spacious and grand for its day, although I have to imagine that the formality would have been stifling.

It was a really fun outing! I hope to visit another local historical mansion of the same time period in the coming weeks.

Schuyler Mansion upstairs

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  • Dr. Fatty

    Beautiful. How fun!

  • Bonnie

    That’s so cool that you got a one on one tour. Too funny about you breaking out your CSI knowledge.

  • http://www.heathersbandedjourney.com Heather

    What a wonderful tour! Sound like you had a great time. I know exactly what you mean about the short stuff. I can’t ever see anything (5’2″)!

  • Patrick

    Being a history buff i enjoy old architecture. I lift an eyebrow and pictures such as the one of this interior shot. The wall art is amazing, the furniture of the period is gorgeous, and then the bright red fire extinguisher in the corner is so 1998. Fire code, I get it, but boy does it stick out. Just an odd quirk of mine to notice that which doesn’t belong. So, are you gaining any writing inspirations from your romance with historical sites?