Excellent tour of beautiful old summer home built in the 1860's. Saved from the wrecking ball 50 years ago this mansion shows off incredible wood-working, marble and painted... read more
The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is regarded as one of the earliest and...
The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is regarded as one of the earliest and finest surviving Second Empire Style country houses ever built in the United States. The 62-room mansion was built by banker-railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood, who in 1864 began construction of his estate on the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Connecticut. Designed by European-trained, New York-based architect Detlef Lienau, the mansion, which was completed in 1868 at a cost of over $2,000,000.00 in 1868 currency, is considered his most significant surviving work. American craftsmen, along with many immigrant artisans, were employed in the construction of the house. Following Mr. Lockwood's financial reversal in 1869 and his untimely death in 1872, his wife, Ann Louisa Benedict Lockwood, lost the house in foreclosure to the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad in 1874. At the time, Mrs. Lockwood owed one remaining mortgage payment of $90,000 - Mr. Lockwood had paid off $310,000 of his mortgage which he took out following the tragic financial disaster of Black Friday in 1869.
After remaining unoccupied for two years, the mansion was purchased in 1876 by Charles Drelincourt Mathews, a wealthy provisions merchant who retired at an early age. The purchase price from the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad astonished many. The house, not even a decade old, along with its numerous outbuildings within the 30-acre compound, was sold for a fraction of its value: $90,000.00 - the last payment owed by Mrs. Lockwood. However, much work had to be done in order to occupy the now unfurnished mansion and the grounds, never completed, were commissioned to Fredrick Law Olmstead. Charles and Rebecca had 4 children: Lillie, Florence, Charles Thompson, and Harold. Lillie and Harold both married, had children, and summered at the Mansion; Florence and Charles never married and lived at their townhouse at 812 Fifth Avenue in NYC in the winter or when not traveling throughout Europe. Charles Thompson Mathews, a world-renowned scholar in the field of architecture, won an international competition for the design and construction of the Lady Chapel at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC in 1899. His two books on the subject were used as textbooks at Ivy League schools such as Columbia, Harvard, and Yale. Following his death in 1934, Miss Florence Mathews made Norwalk her full-time residence and passed away in her father's mansion in 1938.
The house was first leased and subsequently sold to the City of Norwalk for "park purposes." Years of neglect along with use by City Offices and storage of heavy machinery severely deteriorated the once beautiful home. When the City announced their plans for demolition in the early 1960s in order to build a new City Hall near the mansion, 16 taxpayers, later incorporated into "The Common Interest Group", sued the City of Norwalk and following a lengthy court battle, the Mansion was saved in 1965. In 1971, the Mansion was officially declared a National Historic Landmark. Today, the Museum is being lovingly restored back to its original grandeur by a non-profit organization and is a cultural gem which highlights the lives, styles and technology of the Victorian Era.
Tours are offered early April through early January, Wednesday-Sunday. Tours are conducted on the hour at 12, 1, 2, and 3 p.m. Admission: $10 Adults, $8 Seniors, $6 Students 8-18, and Free for Children under the age of 8.