Enter someone’s home and you instantly know them better. A home shows who someone really is and my tour at Lyndhurst Mansion did exactly this for me in regards to William Paulding and George Merritt. The home showed who they were, who they wanted to be, and who they became. Join me as we peer into their lives and learn the stories that are thankfully kept alive every single day at Lyndhurst Mansion.
The original owner, William Paulding, former New York City Mayor commissioned the building of Lyndhurst because he wanted an escape from the city, according to my guide, Heinz. He didn’t want the home to be showy, he just wanted a retreat. However, it is the 19th century—whatever was fashionable in Europe was what every American needed, even the humble ones—so the home was built with gothic architecture. The home was not necessarily very ornate—the ceilings and furniture were rather plain.
The room I found most interesting from Paulding’s time was the parlor, which was mainly the woman’s room. Men, at the time, had the opportunity to converse in many settings but women did not have that luxury. The parlor was their space, where they were free to speak as friends do.
The home changed greatly when it passed into new hands. George Merritt, the second owner, was the opposite of William Paulding in many ways. While Paulding just wanted a retreat, Heinz explained that Merritt wanted his home to show his wealth. He expanded the home, adding a wing.
He also had stained glass placed in the windows. Interestingly, the stained glass Merritt commissioned is one of the greatest mysteries of Lyndhurst—no one is sure who actually designed it. It is thought to be a Tiffany’s piece, but there is no confirmation.
The finest addition to the home though is the art viewing gallery on the second floor. The gallery hung state of the art pieces, ones that you would expect to see the Met and not in a home. Merritt was trying to show the world that he deserved respect for his wealth. He wanted people to be in awe of him and the art gallery made people see him in that light.
It is strange to think that two men that wanted such different things could both find it in the same home. William Paulding did have his country retreat with sprawling views of the river. George Merritt also had his ostentatious show of wealth through Lyndhurst. And now, as the home sits with guests coming through every day, both stories lie in the walls, just waiting for someone to take an interest and hear.