Sunday, July 9, 2017

Central Hall - Introduction

Welcome to Schuyler Mansion's Digital Self-Guided Tour! 

After this introduction, you can explore the Mansion in any direction you want. Please refer to the map to find the correct information for each room. You will find links for each room at the bottom of the post. Links interspersed throughout the text of this article will take you to further reading material on the topic from within Schuyler Mansion's Blog (unless otherwise noted). If you have any questions, please ask a staff member or volunteer.

An Introduction to the Home and Family:

Built between 1761 and 1765, this English-style Georgian Mansion was the centerpiece of a more than 80-acre estate belonging to Philip John Schuyler and Catharine van Rensselaer Schuyler. This elegant and spacious Georgian-style mansion, originally situated in a rural setting just outside of the 18th century city of Albany, was a powerful symbol of the family’s status and affluence, and of the important role Philip Schuyler played in the politics and military affairs of his time. Over the course of his life, Philip Schuyler would serve as a Major General in the Continental Army, Delegate to the Continental Congress, Senator at both a State and Federal level, Surveyor General for New York, and Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He also operated an extensive military intelligence and espionage network, incorporated the Western and Northern Inland Lock Navigation Companies, and was a major landholder and land-speculator in the early American republic.

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This 1805 James Eights painting shows Albany as it would have looked when Schuyler begins construction of Schuyler Mansion  in 1761. Philip grew up in a Dutch home similar to the brick structures, shown here, on the corner of modern S. Pearl & State Streets. Though Philip and Catharine are both Dutch, they built an English Georgian home, which would have been a novelty in contrast with Dutch Albany.
The Schuylers raised eight children to adulthood in this home, and hosted such notable guests as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Madame de la Tour du Pin, Talleyrand, and British General John Burgoyne. The family and their guests would have enjoyed a refined lifestyle, surrounded by elegant textiles and the most tasteful furniture available. Entertainment included sumptuous meals, enlightened conversation, strolls in the garden, music and dancing; all of the trappings of an aristocratic 18th century lifestyle.

This house was also home to approximately thirty people of African descent over the years, enslaved by the Schuyler family. This included eight to fourteen men, women, and children held in bondage at any one time. Some of these individuals worked in the house itself, waiting on the Schuylers and their guests and attending to household chores. Others labored in the courtyard originally located behind the house, cooking, making and repairing necessary goods, driving carts and wagons, and tending to livestock.

Today the home has been decorated to represent the family’s interests, as well as the tastes and styles of the period. The house is also undergoing long-term efforts to restore it as nearly as possible to the period of the Schuylers’ residence.

This is a portrait of Catharine Schuyler's cousin,
Catharine van Cordtland van Rensselaer. The dress shown
in both images did not belong to either woman, but instead
was copied from painting to painting, by multiple artists,
as these wealthy ladies tried to emulate one-another.

[Read about what was and wasn't appropriate in 
18th-Century Women's Fashion]
The Central Hall:

The wide center space you are standing in now was used to receive guests, hold small gatherings, and sometimes served as a dining chamber.  The wallpaper, The Ruins of Rome, was an English import and a clear symbol of the family’s wealth and refinement [learn more about this wallpaper and the 2016/17 restoration effort to display it on the walls once more]. Prominent guests arriving at the home may have been greeted personally by Philip Schuyler. For others, the first person to greet them often would have been one of the enslaved members of the household, possibly a man named Prince, who served as Philip’s personal attendant [read our brief overview of slavery in NY/Albany]. Due to the volume of guests that came through the home, a floor cloth, like the one you are standing on, was the perfect material for a hallway [read more]. The arch in the center of the space reinforced social protocol and class distinctions, serving as a buffer between the more public chambers at the front of the house, and the more exclusive areas beyond. Portraits of Philip and Catharine Schuyler hang either side of the arch.

With the Front Entrance at Your Back:

Left will bring you to the Best Parlor

Right will bring you to the Yellow Parlor

Straight ahead, you will find the Back Hall

Other Rooms:


Dining Room

Salon (Upstairs Hall)

Blue Chamber (Upstairs)

Yellow Chamber (Upstairs)

Green Chamber (Upstairs)

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