"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Sunday, September 25, 2016

America's Gilded Age

The Driehaus Museum, Chicago
 One of the most interesting places we visited in Chicago was an unbelievable example of America's Gilded Age: the Driehaus Museum.
You can visit the website to read all about this extraordinary example of historical restoration and preservation (done with private money I might add, something that is rarely if ever seen in Canada). I thought I'd share a few of the highlights of our tour (and if you go please take a tour from one of the very knowledgeable guides, so informative and fun).
The Gilded Age embraced the  Aesthetics Movement, an appreciation for the fine arts and crafts available at the time to decorate a home, and basically "more is more" was the decorating motto of the day.
It was overwhelming to take in the many details and layers of fine arts and crafts presented in each room, and equally astounding to learn that over 90% of the interiors are original.


The Dining Room

Window treatments in the dining room.
Shutters layered with draperies.

Gorgeous lamp with flower vessels.

Mantel detail.
 I loved the tiled walls, I've never seen anything like it in my life.

Tile detail.

Statue shown to perfection with a tile backdrop.

Walls decorated right up to the decorated ceilings.

Fireplace tile detail.
 How's this for a staircase from which to make an entrance?
 The statuary all over the entire house is gorgeous.




 The fireplaces are all coal burning and perfectly preserved.  The original owner had lost two homes to fire and then built this mansion as fireproof as possible, basically each room is a box of iron and brick then encased in the entire house which is bricked up and covered in stone.  Quite amazing!
 This window, below, is actually in the servants quarters at the back of the mansion.  I wanted to remember the grille detail on the outside of the window as I'm thinking of installing something similar on our own house... I just have to find the right craftsman.  That wouldn't have been a problem during the Gilded Age.
 The fabrics on the walls and the draperies were so opulent and cozy, the colours feminine yet dark:
Learning about this time in history was just fascinating and even though a home like this is absolutely over-the-top I still found it inspiring.  
We'll be going back for another visit when we head to Chicago again, I'd love to see this house during the winter months.
*I apologize for the quality of the photos, my camera inconveniently broke while we were visiting Chicago and I had to use my iPhone.*

Have you been to the Driehaus Museum?
xoxDani

23 comments:

  1. Golly, no inch has been spared from the overly decorated look that so perfectly defines the Gilded Age.

    Although my tastes veer towards the more austere and spare, I agree with you about the craftsmanship involved in creating the decorative details of the overall look. You can really see how skilled these artisans were in their particular craft. I mourn the loss of good craftsmen. Just finding a decent carpenter or painter is a pain nowadays.

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    1. CD it's so true, I've been looking for someone to create some iron railings and window grilles for my house and I'm having a very difficult time.
      This house is overwhelming in detail and layers, it's quite dark inside but so cozy and beautiful, which is why I'd love to see it in winter. xo

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  2. I've never been because I turn into a mindless idiot in museums and don't like them. So thanks for the tour! The Gilded Age is my favorite time in America's history. I'm not a major traveler but I actually am interested in going to China because it kind of seems that China is in its own Gilded Age right now. If that's a stupid parallel, I'm open to be corrected.

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    1. Stephen Andrew you might like the Driehaus because it's quite small and the tour guides are so enthusiastic, you can tour around and just be amazed at the opulence. It doesn't take long and then you can go have a drink as a reward!
      Of course my favourite part of any museum is La Boutique, and I did some serious damage at the Driehaus shop, so many gorgeous things. My hubs takes a more academic approach at any museum, reads everything etc, and will often notice I've "disappeared"... he knows to head to la boutique to find me. ;)
      I think a trip to China would be very interesting right now. Our PM was there last week, he's really working on the relationship which isn't necessarily a positive thing for many Canadians, lots of people feel that the human rights record should be a bit better before we work on the friendship. Not sure how I feel about it, I think our influence is a good thing but maybe won't have the impact I think it will. xo

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    2. China is in its Omnipresent Age at the moment. I think their gilded age was probably over a century ago at least, perhaps under Empress Dowager CiXi maybe?

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    3. Haha yeah I realize I should have elaborated a bit on my comparison. I mean as China moves through this time of new tycoons and new fortunes, how is the country changing and then what will the family legacies mean for the world generations to come? In the way American Gilded Age money had such a giant cultural reach in terms of universities, environmental agdendas, aka the noble things people do when they have so much money they're driven to share and improve the world. I think it's such a pivotal point in world history that it's the closest anyone could ever have to visiting America's Gilded Age.

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    4. Stephen Andrew I know what you mean and I know very little about China but one thing I do know is that Americans have been so generous with their private money when it comes to culture and social investment. The Driehaus Museum for example is completely private, all private money spent on a 5 year meticulous restoration, unbelievable. We don't see that sort of dedication here in Canada when it comes to preservation and culture, it's all government funding with the bureaucrat meddling and disinterest rather than passion.
      Not all tycoons do the noble thing with their money that's for sure, and I think Americans are very special for their vision and their generosity.

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  3. Hi Dani and Stephen, I hear you both about China. In approx. Aug/sept 2001, I was asked to attend a lengthy government forum/meeting with about 4 other Australian consumer advocate lawyers and quite a few Chinese government officials and lawyers as the Chinese government wanted to set up consumer rights laws in China. We explained in detail and at length the various rights consumers & individuals have in Australian law. I think it went well but I didn't get the chance to follow up as I was heavily pregnant with our first child and I'm sure afflicted with baby brain ( a real thing with me unfortunately. Yes, I was a giant ball on legs in the regulation black pregnancy suits I wore to work back then). I wonder what the Chinese took from it and what got transported back to China in terms of consumer & human rights. The meeting was not publicized or promoted in the media to my knowledge so I'm hoping that it was helpful to the Chinese in some way. Den xxx
    Ps apologies if this doesn't make sense as our first born now 14, is in Spain on a school trip and I'm up at all hours just in case she contacts us using one of the zillion methods ( damn you SMS, email, viber, what's app, FaceTime, insta and Facebook ). Why can't people just call like we used to?

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    1. Den that's so interesting and I hope your efforts made a difference way back in 2001. I can relate to the baby brain, sometimes I think I still have it. ;) Our youngest is now 14 so I sympathize greatly, I would be up at all hours just waiting for a sign, though with everything you have to check it sounds as if you won't rest until she gets home. I hope her trip is safe and fun! xo

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  4. Loved this tour! Do you remember the movie, "The Age of Innocence"? I still love watching it to study the clothes, all of which were completely authentic to the time period. If you haven't already, the next time you visit New York, you must go see The Merchant's House Museum (http://merchantshouse.org). It is the only 19th century family home in New York that is perfectly preserved inside and out, along with many of the original furnishings and personal effects of the family that originally lived there.

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    1. Louise me too love that movie. That museum is top of my list on our next trip to NYC, I remember reading about it but I had forgotten so I'll make note of it, thanks Louise! xo

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  5. i have not been but would love to go dani. reading about the gilded age was my favorite part of US history. have you read Empty Mansions? omg, it's so good. if you haven't you've got to asap! xo

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    1. Janet I haven't read it or even heard of it so thanks so much for the tip, it sounds wonderful. xo

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    2. dani, this book will blow your mind. xo

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  6. Chicago was such a surprise for me and I would choose to go there again rather than New york for example. I think the gilded age is underplayed culturally a lot and the Camelot years are seen as a sort of golden age but actually it was socially tumultuous we forget and the beginning of a social division to make up for the economic unity that tipped some sort of balance. I will put this on my list to visit if I get a chance to go to the windy city x

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    1. Naomi me too, me too! I must have said it a dozen times when we were in Chicago, I would rather be there than NYC, something about it, so stylish but really in a league of its own and so American.
      I need to read more about The Gilded Age in America, I haven't studied American history enough which is weird because I find it so fascinating. Please go you will LOVE it. xo

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  7. Dani, thank you for the tour! I do love the Gilded Age, and have read quite a lot about it, it was really dovetailing in with the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK. Chicago was really quite a centre for wealth, and with that comes the interesting art movements being celebrated to their fullest.
    I hope you can find someone to make those grills for your window. There must be a blacksmith somewhere you can commission? xx

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    1. Heidi I found one and he has a great reputation but he shut down his business as he was working all hours which drove his wife to the edge, they have 5 little kids or something so he's taken a 9 to 5 job, understandable really.
      I thought of you many times in Chicago because it seems it would be a designer/architect's dream hols. xo

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  8. Thank you for those pictures and ideas for next time. I was in Chicago for a 48-hour girls' trip this past weekend, and I am ashamed to say we did not get past the Magnificent Mile . . . not even down to the Art Institute. We did have quite a few lovely cocktails and stopped for lunch at Ralph Lauren based on your recommendations. Did a lot of window shopping in the luxe stores but came home with some more moderately priced bargains from J.Crew.

    Museums, architecture, and river tour will have to await the next trip!

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    1. Hex I thought of emailing you with this link but I think it's the sort of thing you might do with your hubs or a smaller group at any rate. It's not inexpensive, I think it was $25 for each of us so a group would have to have a special interest in design and architecture in order to spend an afternoon here, especially on a quick weekend trip.
      The Art Institute too is a full day!
      SO happy you went to the RL Grill for lunch, did you go into the store? Terrific window shopping along that street, we spent quite a bit of time in the Brooks Brothers store because my hubs was buying new shirts. Sounds like you had fun with your friends! xo

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  9. What a beautiful place. It would be lovely in the winter too. Light can so change a space. I'm glad you trip was lovely. I need to return to Chicago posthaste!

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    1. Jen you would love it 11/10! I would like to see it in the winter because I think too our tour guide said the original family used it as their winter home and went to Cape Cod in the summer. Which makes sense because it was so layered and cozy, it seemed designed for tucking in from the cold.
      You'll have to head to Chicago next year with your hubs. xo

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  10. How did I miss this post?
    It looks amazing...you must have had a fabulous holiday!

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