The Mansion - Mansion Modernization

The Mansion

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Mansion Modernization

In 1921, the estate came into the possession of John Ross Delafield, a Livingston descendent.

Within a few weeks of inheriting Montgomery Place, John Ross Delafield and his wife Violetta White Delafield embarked on a wholesale program of renovating and updating the mansion.

During the early 20th century, many homeowners wanted what they assumed was an early American look for their homes. In choosing the external paint scheme for their mansion, the Delafields were no different. They rejected the earth tones Louise and Cora had favored during the 19th century in favor of a creamy white. Their shutters would be light, rather than dark, green. The white and light green color scheme was not actually accurate for the colonial period they wanted to reference, but rather was used during the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries.

Less than a year after inheriting the property, the Delafields hired carpenters to construct a sleeping porch on top of the mansion’s north pavilion. At the time, there was a widespread movement in the United States to incorporate screened-in porches into homes and to sleep in the open air when temperatures permitted. Family members accessed it through a bedroom window on the second floor. At the turn of the twentieth century, Americans appreciated the value of fresh air and ventilation to good health, in part a response to then rampant tuberculosis. Indeed, Violetta had struggled with this disease as a child and her mother and her brother were long-time sufferers as well.

When adding the sleeping porch in the 1920s, carpenters had inadvertently compromised the structural soundness of the north pavilion by cutting into the rafters. Eventually, the ceiling began to sag and workers inserted a metal I-beam in the middle of the north pavilion to hold up the ceiling. Restoration carpenters removed the sleeping porch and the I-beam in 1987.

The mansion with sleeping porch. Hand-tinted gelatin silver print, c. 1925. Bard College, Montgomery Place Collection.

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