It’s time for a Gothic Revival-Revival! Do you have a tendency toward romanticism and flights of fancy? Are you fond of pointed arches, deep carvings, curvaceous tracery? Are you a secret lover of vampire literature, television and cinema? Guess what: YOU’RE GOTH! No, I don’t mean you have to go out and get body piercings and buy lots of black clothes! I mean you should look at this gorgeous, influential movement in American design.
In Tarrytown, New York (in the southern part of Westchester County,a little north of New York City) is Lyndhurst Castle, one of the finest, extravagantly beautiful OPEN TO THE PUBLIC examples of Gothic Revival architecture and interiors in America.
In the mid 18th century, with the rise of Romanticism, an increased interest and awareness of the Middle Ages among some influential connoisseurs created a more appreciative approach to selected medieval arts, beginning with church architecture, the tomb monuments of nobility, stained glass, and late Gothic illuminated manuscripts. The movement quickly swept through Europe, finally taking deep root in America, becoming the style of choice for the newly wealthy industrialist class, and infamous robber barons!
Lyndhurst was designed in 1838 by Andrew Jackson Davis, for William Paulding, a former mayor of New York and merchant. The house, as it stands today, was further formed by the Merrit Family and the famous railroad tycoon, Jay Gould.
In person, Lyndhurst Castle is both more impressive, and less daunting than the photography suggests. Many children grew up in Lyndhurst, and the little nursery rooms,( quite near to the Master Bedroom) are on display, complete with a pair of old fashioned little girl's button up boots. Within sight of the main house, is a perfect play house called Rose Cottage.
The rooms are large and filled with beautiful detail of the Gothic Revival period, but not heavy or oppressive. Though spacious, the brilliant architecture of A.J. Davis manages to keep it on a human scale. Faux finishes became quite the fashion out of Europe in the later Gothic period, and Lyndhurst is filled with the finest examples I've ever seen of faux limestone and marble, and other forms of decorative painted surfaces. Really, the only word is INCREDIBLE! This is decorative painting elevated to the level of fine art.
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Hey, did you know that Lyndhurst Mansion was used as the house set for the classic TV series from the late 60’s-early 70’s “Dark Shadows”? I was strangely drawn to watch it, but my Mom wouldn’t let me because it gave me nightmares! Boo Hoo!!
But really, Lyndhurst is no vampire’s lair, nor maker of nightmares. It’s much more like something from a fairy tale, an enchanted castle from a little girls’ favorite story book.
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I can’t resist including this heartbreakingly beautiful painting by my favorite artist of the Gothic Revival era, Sir Edward Burne-Jones. This piece is NOT at Lyndhurst. It’s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I’m showing it here, because it embodies so much of the dreamy romantic quality of the Gothic Revival movement…and I LOVE IT!
American Gothic Revival Rocks On…..!
Like the iconic painting “American Gothic” (1930) by Grant Wood,(titled for the pointed arch window depicted in the farm house) Gothic Revival just keeps on going!
Is Gothic Revival still relevant? Yes it is, and guess what. Far from being relegated to Grandma’s attic, it’s influences are all around us and have never really gone out of style or usage. They’ve just evolved. You don’t have to be a wealthy robber baron to take part. Here are some examples of Gothic Revival today:
More beautiful fabrics that display the Gothic influence:
Whimsical, dreamy, fanciful; Mackenzie Childs has built a whole sub-category and career on elaborating on these qualities (already present) in Gothic Revival, to create something new and current, built on design of the past. Fabulous!!
Architectural touches from the period you can add to even the most contemporary setting:
Here are some current furnishings that bear the unmistakable influence of the Gothic Revival period:
Walz Craft is wonderful! Any door style you can think of, they’ve got it. And they’re terrific to work with. Their interpretation of a Gothic cabinet door has the beauty and grace of the past, combined with unsurpassed function.
Here are some decorative touches you can use that will add some of the old world beauty of Gothic Revival to your home:
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Lyndhurst is one of five exquisite historical mansion museums in the Lower Westchester area of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY. The Lower Hudson River Valley region is rich with history on display. It’s the best way I know to time travel, and get a shot of inspiration from the past.
So, if you’re coming around, I wouldn’t worry too much about vampires, but you better watch out for a HEADLESS HORSEMAN! I hear he’s still running around these parts!
GO GOTHIC! and HAVE FUN!