Beautiful Brides in Gorgeous Gowns (1915 – 1940)
To showcase the Friends of the Hermitage’s gorgeous collection of early 20th century wedding dresses, an exhibition was opened in June 2018. This highly anticipated display celebrated American brides from the eras between the two world wars. Along with bridal gowns, the formal ensembles of wedding party members and guests are displayed on elegant mannequins throughout the Hermitage.
July 2015 – July 2018
Presented in the Hermitage summer kitchen, an 1888 stone building that was recently open to the public after thirty years, Phyllis Wickham curated an exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of renowned architectural historian Claire K. Tholl.
Claire Tholl (1926-1995) was an architectural historian, cartographer, researcher, writer, and illustrator who employed her many skills and talents in her quest to uncover the stories, and survey under a grant, the oldest Dutch sandstone houses and other structures in Bergen and Rockland counties. Eventually, over 200 buildings were accepted on the National Register of Historic Places. This exhibition highlighted Tholl’s illustrated maps of area towns, her historic preservation work, and the struggles and obstacles historic societies and preservationists face today to save historic stone houses.
A Roaring Twenties Christmas
November 2017 – January 2018
Time has moved on at the Hermitage for its 2017 Holiday Display! Thoroughly Victorian as it stands (though with 18th century roots), our historic house museum has been interpreted for the 1890’s from its reproduction wallpaper and carpets, to its furnishings and their placements. Yet, the house was lived in by four generations of the Rosencrantz family until 1970. In the 1920’s, Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz and her Aunt Bess were operating a successful home-based tea room business. Our staff commemorated the 100th anniversary of its opening in May 2017, with a display, including lovely costumes from c. 1917, in the front parlor where the tea room operated.
Year after year of Victorian or Edwardian-themed holiday displays in the museum with resplendent costumed mannequins was appropriate and fulfilling to produce and see – but – venturing into 1917 had been suddenly, a bit – liberating! Thoughts of continuing with a holiday costume display for the ‘teens’ era evolved after combing through our magnificent collection of 1920’s evening dresses during a storage project. “These dresses need to be seen and our holiday display is the perfect venue!” was the thought. Paired with this inspiration was the fact that in recent months, we had the good fortune to be the recipients of a donation of wonderful old store mannequins in excellent condition as had our colleagues at the Schoolhouse Museum. With loans of these (and other mannequins) from them, we had a good number of figures to showcase our 1920’s costumes in full style – as people from the era – not merely as garments on dress forms.
Four of the selected dresses were deemed worthy to be representative of the ‘flapper’ style. In the 1920’s, the term, “flapper”, was used to describe young, free-living Western women who essentially rejected social mores practiced prior to WWI. Their look was typified by short, bobbed hair, made-up faces with often plucked eyebrows, and short skirts on dresses worn over a boyish frame. Drinking and smoking cigarettes further defined the lifestyle. The four donated mannequins were ideally suited to display the flapper figures but many hours were spent adjusting their painted faces with false eyelashes to be more like that of a flapper’s made-up face. Of course, not every young woman in the 1920’s was a flapper (few were) and the other figures in the display represent a couple of older women, a young gentleman in black tie and tails, and four children – stationed throughout the house – all in glorious 1920’s costumes from the Hermitage collection. Last, but not least, a working woman – the cook for the evening’s festivities – is stationed in the kitchen. She wears an authentic house dress and apron from c. 1925.
The entire house was decorated for a holiday season dinner party with many objects added to bring the Victorian decor into the 1920’s. Notable among such items, is a 1925 “Freshman Masterpiece” radio from which the visitor can magically hear music of the 1920’s! It truly was the bee’s knees!
April 2015 – September 2015
In celebration of her 130th birthday, Victoria Harty curated an exhibition that explored the life and legacy of Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz and the shifting landscape of New Jersey between the 1880s and 1970s.
Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz was the last member of her family to reside at The Hermitage. Upon her death, she willed her home to the State of New Jersey to be used as a museum and park. During the mid-1940s and through the 1960s, Miss Rosencrantz assumed the arduous task to preserve her home, a ground-breaking and difficult mission for a woman during that time. The exhibition embraced her childhood at The Hermitage and her “gentleman farmer” family, travels to New England, the Tea Room she her aunt ran for 14 years, and later difficult years as the sole surviving family member. The exhibition was supported by the Museum’s vast collection of costume, artifacts, and ephemera. The exhibit also included visual material about the establishment of the Friends of The Hermitage, a non-profit organization that was instrumental in saving and preserving the Gothic Revival house and their continuation to sustain the Museum for the public.