Ruth Livingston Mills, wife of noted financier and philanthropist Ogden Mills, inherited the house – then a measly little 25-room Greek Revival structure – and had the prestigious New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White remodel and enlarge their upstate home over the 1895-96 season. What resulted was the classic mansion that one sees today, comprising 65 rooms and 14 bathrooms. The Millses’ daughter, Gladys Mills Phipps, donated the getaway and 192 adjoining acres to the State of New York in the late 1930s.
The current holiday finery at the Mills Mansion includes sumptuous Edwardian-era decorations in an over-the-top display, including both a tall center-hallway tree, as well as a smaller one in the grandmother’s boudoir, where actual gift-giving took place during the quarter-century when the family used the home for the winter holidays before taking to their Palm Beach digs more permanently.
The December whodunits are a fun way of exploring the house at a more leisurely and curious pace than the regular house tours, which also include actors playing members of the Mills family and their entourage, lounging about in dinner wear. Suffice it to say that it’s all fun, and a reminder of those days when the board game Clue included a Colonel Mustard and not his contemporary version (some dude named Jack). The games take time, and the whole kit and caboodle makes for a fun Sunday afternoon.
The Mills Mansion is located off Route 9 in Staatsburgh, just south of Rhinebeck. For further information, and maybe a few helpful clues, call (845) 889-8851 or visit www.staatsburgh.org.