Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden

Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden MVHM celebrates life in 19th-century New York and educates the community through relevant interpretation and preservation of the only remaining historic day hotel in Manhattan. It is owned and operated by The Colonial Dames of America.

#WhatsItWednesdayWriting Desk1820-1830 lacquered wood, brass, ivoryChinaThe Museum’s three part black lacquerware writin...
06/17/2020

#WhatsItWednesday

Writing Desk
1820-1830
lacquered wood, brass, ivory
China

The Museum’s three part black lacquerware writing desk is ornamented in gold and silver with designs of Chinese figures, buildings, island landscapes and floral borders. Two cabinet doors on the upper portion open onto six drawers, with two open cubbyholes, and two doors - one with a round hole and the other with a rotating oval portrait/clock at the center of the interior. The top portion also has a hidden drawer on the back right side, behind the desktop. The desktop in front of the top cabinet forms the middle portion. It has curved metal handles that allow the owner to lift this section off so it can be portable. The base supports the two upper portions on four curved cabriole legs with a curved apron running around the entire top and hair paw feet at the bottom. The wood beneath the lacquer is probably pine.

Lacquerware furniture was one of the most popular Chinese imports. In the late eighteenth-century, Japanese lacquerwork was considered higher quality than Chinese, but as Japan ports remained closed to westerners until 1853, most early lacquerware came from Canton. Chinese-made lacquerware furniture combined local decoration with European forms, learned from pattern books or exemplars brought from the west. The most popular models made for the export trade were armoires, gaming tables, and writing desks. Depending on the quality of the furniture, pieces would be coated in three to fifteen layers of lacquer made from sumac tree sap before being painted and gilded. Decorations often consisted of swirling grapevines, fluttering butterflies, fantastic landscapes, and garden scenes, variations of which are found on the Museum’s desk. Painting was done in a miniaturist style which required incredible finesse. While the artisanship of the facade was usually exquisite, the construction was often shoddy. Lightweight woods, thin paneling, and poor carpentry led to cracking and warping once the furniture reached the West. Our piece has not been exempt from these conditions.

Import records indicate that a large amount of China trade furniture was ordered on commission, especially early in the trade, possibly because the voyage was long and the goods fragile enough to make speculative purchasing risky. Merchants with ships sailing between China and the Eastern ports were much more likely to own furniture acquired in the China trade. Before the Mount Vernon Hotel was a hotel, it was originally built as a large carriage house and stable for a mansion house nearby that was owned between 1798 and 1808 by China trade merchant William T. Robinson. So it is likely that there was a great deal of Chinese export pieces on our site throughout its history. China trade merchants like Robinson established New York as a center for exotic Asian wares. Once our building was converted into a public establishment competing with other fashionable hotels in the city and country, the proprietor would showcased objects like lacquerware to entice visitors. In the May 1827 New-York Post ad, first proprietor Joseph W. Rogers, the first proprietor, boasts that he “is now fitting up [Mount Vernon] in a style calculated for a first rate Hotel.” To have China trade items available for guests at the Mount Vernon Hotel would be a status symbol for the proprietor, symbolizing his connection with China trade merchants and the luxury goods they bring, as well as his knowledge about tast

Can you tell where this week’s #WhatsItWednesday object came from? Hint: it involves the product of a very particular tr...
06/17/2020

Can you tell where this week’s #WhatsItWednesday object came from? Hint: it involves the product of a very particular tree...
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[Image: a black surface with gold decoration of trees, flowers, islands, and a bridge]
#nysmuseums #cultureathome #museumsathome

This week’s #TuesdayTrivia will focus on abolition, in honor of upcoming celebrations. Tune in to our stories later this...
06/16/2020

This week’s #TuesdayTrivia will focus on abolition, in honor of upcoming celebrations. Tune in to our stories later this evening!
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#nyhistory #cultureathome #museumsathome

The lute was one of the most popular instruments of the Renaissance. With a new fingertip style of playing and the publi...
06/15/2020

The lute was one of the most popular instruments of the Renaissance. With a new fingertip style of playing and the publishing of lute solos, the number of amateur lutenists grew in the 15th and 16th centuries, and its popularity expanded through France, Germany, and Italy through the 18th century. Interest in the lute experienced a resurgence in the 20th century, including in America, that continues today. Join us Tuesday evening to experience its beautiful and unique sound in a virtual concert, featuring lutenist Christopher Morongiello, RSVP to [email protected] for login details.

(Image: 16th-century print of "Two Musicians Playing the Violin and the Lute" courtesy of the NYPL Digital Collection)

Summer is upon us and with it thoughts of fresh food abound. Where was food storied in the Mount Vernon Hotel in the 19t...
06/12/2020

Summer is upon us and with it thoughts of fresh food abound. Where was food storied in the Mount Vernon Hotel in the 19th century? According to “Meg’s Favorites,” it would have been in a pie safe like the one in the Museum’s Historic Kitchen, located against the east wall. It is made of pine with punched tin panels in interesting patterns, such as baskets of fruit or gourds with leaves. It is functional as well as aesthetic. The holes allowed air inside, and the sharp edges of the tiny holes, together with tightly closed doors, kept insects and mice out. Thus the pies stacked inside were safe. Pie was very popular in the 19th century in New York City, made from a variety of fruits, vegetables, and even oysters. However, the latter was probably less appealing in June. Bring on the blueberries instead!

[Image description: close-up of closed wooden cabinet door with punched tin design and open door with two pies inside.]

#WhatsItWednesday"New-York Mirror & Ladies’ Literary Gazette" Vol. VI, Nos. 44-46 (May 9, 16, and 23, 1829) George Pope ...
06/10/2020

#WhatsItWednesday

"New-York Mirror & Ladies’ Literary Gazette"
Vol. VI, Nos. 44-46 (May 9, 16, and 23, 1829)
George Pope Morris and Samuel Woodworth (editors)
Daniel Fanshaw (publisher & printer, 163 William St.)

"The Ladies’ Garland, devoted to Literature, Instruction, Amusement, Female Biography, & c."
No. V., Vol. II. (November 20, 1838)
John Libby (publisher, Philadelphia, PA)

Women’s newspapers of the 1820s and 1830s present us today with interesting cases of how women in the U.S. attempted to navigate social, political, economic, and civic issues and engagement. No daily newspapers were produced expressly for a female audience, so one would have relied upon either the regular newspapers or the special ladies weekly or semi-monthly gazettes for news and social commentary. Two well-known publications are “The Ladies’ Garland” and the “New York Mirror and Ladies’ Literary Gazette”, which we have copies of in our collection. Both men and women (denoted with a “Miss”) were published in the pages of the Gazette.
“The Ladies’ Garland”, a monthly periodical, published writings for women on social discourse, fashion and good taste, and music, in addition to poetry and short stories. Its pages reveal popular contemporary opinions on female Christian virtue, beauty, and manners. It began publication in 1837, during the boom of women’s magazines, and started as one of the less expensive periodicals available with lower-cost woodcut engravings. The Garland eventually upgraded to larger issues with hand-colored woodcuts and even some lithograph prints. It was available for subscription at a relatively affordable $1/year.

The “New York Mirror and Ladies’ Literary Gazette” afforded its readers with articles on issues of politics, civic and economic issues, and international affairs, as well as music and literature excerpts aimed at women. An article in an 1828 issue of the “Ladies’ Literary Gazette” speaks to conducting political discussion: “with administration-politicians [politeness] is to advocate the re-election of Mr. Adams—and with those of the opposition, it is to prefer General Jackson.” While this advice may seem to indicate that women should have no political opinions of their own, it actually suggests that many women of this time did—and were finding themselves in awkward situations when they expressed those opinions to men of the opposite leaning. The Gazette also contained appeals to “men of capital” to advocate for better public infrastructure like city streets; its articles reported on public speeches, criminal trials, and on battles in far away countries. An article from July 11th of that year also describes, quite openly, the ability of an extremely partisan press that has the potential to sway or even misinform the public: “A large portion of the people of this country look for information, upon all subjects, to the public press. As each one of those, however, generally belongs either to one party or the other, all news assumes the tinge of the channel through which it flows [...]”

Women’s involvement in publishing and editing continued to increase during and after the Mount Vernon Hotel closed its doors. Scottish-born female orator Frances Wright was co-editor of the “New York Free Enquirer” (1828-1835), which focused on working class activism and labor reform. Later in the 1840s, Margaret Fuller would publish front-page editorials in Greeley’s “New York Tribune”, as well as co-publish “The Dial” literary magazine with renowned poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1840-44). There were those who published on romantic poetry and the latest European fashions like Sarah Josepha Hale’s Godey’s “Lady’s Book”; there were also those who wrote on more uncomfortable topics of abolition and women’s suffrage in their own pamphlets, like Lydia Marie Child’s “Anti-Slavery Catechism” (1836), “Letters from New-York” (1843), and “The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act” (1860).

This week’s #WhatsItWednesday is more a compilation of a few items in our collection. Can you guess what these are, and ...
06/10/2020

This week’s #WhatsItWednesday is more a compilation of a few items in our collection. Can you guess what these are, and who their audience was?
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#museumsathome #cultureathome #nysmuseums

06/02/2020

Out of respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, we have decided to cancel tonight’s concert to make room for the voices of the Black community.

“The "Melting Pot" project started as an idea to understand what New York City means for me as an artist and as an immig...
06/01/2020

“The "Melting Pot" project started as an idea to understand what New York City means for me as an artist and as an immigrant. As someone who has only been in the city for a short period of time, I have already gotten a strong feeling for its dynamic rhythm. When I started these drawings I decided to think of words or phrases that come to mind when I think and dream about New York. Some of them are: food, people, culture, fast pace, movement, home, buildings, a melting pot. I feel that the latter summarizes the whole spirit of the city.” - Eliana Pérez

Read more on Eliana Pérez’s “
“Crisol de Razas” (“Melting Pot”) on the Virtual Museum on our website (link in bio).
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#museumathome #cultureathome #meltingpot

The Museum has six functioning mirrors. Each one serves a necessary purpose. For this installment of “Meg’s Favorites” s...
05/29/2020

The Museum has six functioning mirrors. Each one serves a necessary purpose. For this installment of “Meg’s Favorites” she focuses on three of them, all made in America.

There are four mirrors in the upstairs Ladies’ Parlors; reflecting light rather than visages is their similar characteristic. The circular girandole above the mantel is simply placed too high to look into, plus this mirror is convex, so it is not likely to appeal to young ladies’ self-appraisal! The three candles and gilt surface serve to brighten the room.

The nearby pier table (the “pier” refers to the south wall between the two windows) has a mirror near the floor, which could be perfect for ladies’ petticoats that required adjustment. Additionally, light from the windows was also reflected in the mirror.

In the Lower Hall is the eglomise (reverse painting on glass) mirror that features a naval scene. It is based on a print or etching that amplifies America’s triumph as a world power. Ironically, the glass itself may come from England, a defeated foe in the war of 1812! A similarly themed rectangular mirror can also be seen in the Men’s Tavern Room.

Both men and women were well served by the mirrors in the Mount Vernon Hotel in 19th-century New York City.

#WhatsItWednesdayTraveling Liquor Caselate 18th-early 19th centurypine, glassUnited States or EnglandThis case composed ...
05/27/2020

#WhatsItWednesday

Traveling Liquor Case
late 18th-early 19th century
pine, glass
United States or England

This case composed of pine is divided into seventeen individual compartments made especially for blown-glass bottles of various shapes and sizes. The glass bottles, complete with round stoppers, were originally made to hold liquor of various kinds for its owner while traveling. The case presents interesting design elements in the form of the geometric composition of its compartments, as well as impressed flowers and beading on the sides of the bottles and gilt-painted floral garlands on the bottle shoulders. While next to nothing is known about the makers of traveling liquor cases, similar examples have been found in the Northeast dating to and preceding the Mount Vernon Hotel period that point to interesting developments in drinking habits and manufacturing changes in the young United States. Cases attributed to belonging to Revolutionary War figures Baron von Steuben and George Washington have appeared in historic collections, but the bulk of these rare items are unattributed to owners.

In 1830, during the heyday of the Mount Vernon Hotel, the average per capita consumption of spirits in the U.S. had increased to 7.1 gallons (from 5.8 in 1790). In fact, between the years 1810 and 1830, Americans were drinking record amounts of wine, beer, and other spirits that had never been topped (before or since). During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Americans considered patriotic to drink whiskey because corn was a native product. During the 1820s, a cup of tea cost more than a mixed drink made with whiskey because of the import duties. Besides the sheer popularity and amount of alcohol consumption in the early nineteenth century, the fact that the Mount Vernon Hotel was a traveler’s pit stop or, for day travelers, a final destination, encouraged drinking at this establishment. In terms of what types of alcohol the owner contained here, rum, brandy, gin, and various forms of whiskey were the most popular in this time period. Finding refreshment on the roads of the 1820s and 1830s often took the form of whiskey mixed with water or an alcoholic punch. But the large seventeen bottle case in the Museum’s collection likely points to an owner taking much longer trips. The alcohol in these bottles was also likely utilized for medicinal purposes nearly as often as it was for recreational imbibing. Dressing wounds, before the widespread use of ether or chloroform as anesthetics in the early 1840s, often required hefty amounts of rum, whisky, or other spirits.

The style of the Museum’s liquor case can be dated as far back as the 1500s in Europe, with tall geometric bottles beginning to be referred to as “case bottles” because they were made for just that – being transported in cases. American glass manufactures into the early nineteenth century often hired skilled and more experienced glass workers from Great Britain and Germany to create their pieces, and thus also brought European styles and methods into production in the States. Several glass houses in the U.S. did advertise for case bottles like these at the Museum, including the Mount Vernon Glass Works in upstate New York (1810) and New England Glass Co. in Massachusetts (1818). Advertisements from glass works in the States list case bottle options in sets of six, seven, nine, twelve, fifteen, sixteen, or twenty-four. The colorless glass of the Museum’s bottles, often called “white flint glass”, was more expensive and difficult to manufacture than colored glass in green or brown, and were finely polished to remove any marks betraying the manufacturing process.

Can you guess this week’s #WhatsItWednesday feature? It’s a rather rate item in our collection that relates to traveling...
05/27/2020

Can you guess this week’s #WhatsItWednesday feature?
It’s a rather rate item in our collection that relates to traveling and consumer habits in the late 18th-early 19th century United States. Check back later today on our page to find out!
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#cultureathome #museumathome #19thcentury #nysmuseums #MANY

05/23/2020

Happy 130th anniversary to The Colonial Dames of America! The CDA promotes historic preservation of sites, including the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum’s building which it rescued in 1924 and opened to the public in 1939. Cheers to America’s first Colonial Dames!

In this week's "Meg's Favorites" she looks at three sofas in the Museum collection. In the 1820s, reportedly, Margaret H...
05/22/2020

In this week's "Meg's Favorites" she looks at three sofas in the Museum collection. In the 1820s, reportedly, Margaret Hall wrote to her sister Jane in England, “American hostesses are always encouraging us to take a seat on the sofa.” Unfortunately, she found the horsehair stuffing “uncomfortable.” Sofas were all the rage in America in the 1820s. The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum is at the height of fashion as it has three of them!

The first one we encounter is in the Upper Hall by the stairs. Visitors are encouraged, as Margaret Hall would have been, “to take a seat.” Over 200 years old, it features wooden swans on either side. The Greek goddess Aphrodite was sometimes shown with a swan. This is a forecast of things to come.

The red satin damask sofa also features a Greek mythological creature, the griffon, which has the body of a lion and the wings of an eagle. This sofa is in the style of Duncan Phyfe and is thus a highlight of the room.

The third sofa is green and is found in the Ladies’ North Parlor. It is called “Meridienne,” which translates to “middle of the day.” It’s intended for lounging, but not for us as it is either by the school of Charles-Honoré Lannuier or Duncan Phyfe.

In the 19th century, Greek-style sofas were popular as Americans liked to be reminded of Greece, an ancient example of democracy. They also prided themselves on their interior decoration. This is certainly true of the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum!

Address

421 E 61st St
New York, NY
10065

Bus: M15, M31 or M57. Subway: N, R or 4, 5, 6 to 59th Street/Lexington Avenue Station or the F to Lexington Avenue

Opening Hours

Monday 11:00 - 16:00
Tuesday 11:00 - 16:00
Wednesday 11:00 - 16:00
Thursday 11:00 - 16:00
Friday 11:00 - 16:00
Saturday 11:00 - 16:00
Sunday 11:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(212) 838-6878

Website

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Destination after the ban.