Gilded Age

The Gilded Age, the era from approximately 1865 to 1918, is one of the most dynamic and complex periods in American history. Over the span of nearly fifty years, American cities – Chicago, Boston, and New York among others in the North and West – underwent rapid economic growth, which exploded into a spectrum of extreme wealth and destitution. New York, however, stood in the very center of this staggering polarization. In its very richness and variety, the city represented the nation’s single most desirable social stratum. Two inconceivably powerful classes divided New York society. The old moneyed “Knickerbocker” descendants of Anglo-Dutch families, and the nouveau riche of self-appointed barons. In the mid- to late-1870s, new moneyed industrial families – the Vanderbilts, Astors, Fricks, Goulds, Whitneys, Morgans, Carnegies, and Rockefellers – entrenched New York with a new sense of economic vitality. Millionaires seized unprecedented opportunities to build immense fortunes through commerce and enterprise. Above all, they possessed a civic pride and duty to higher knowledge of arts and culture, reinforcing a strong commitment to America’s future heritage. This commitment rightfully positioned New York with the status of European capitals of Paris and London. Through commissioning decorative arts, paintings, and architecture, industrial magnets asserted their prestige and power to secure access and status in high society. Though they lacked the European pedigree, the nouveau riche modeled their lifestyles on the etiquette and image of the French aristocracy– particularly of Louis XV and Louis XVI. These European aspirations gave rise to a material economy, which resulted in waves of conspicuous consumption. This curated section calls attention to well- and lesser-known Gilded Age mansions and interiors to document the varying levels of conspicuous consumption in major cities across America. This section features a range of iconic architects – active in Newport, Rhode Island, Chicago, Boston, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Detroit, and New York – whom together brought the spectacle of Gilded Age glamor to life.


Morris Hunt

Trumbauer , ...



Chalfin, ...

Snook, ...



& Son

Carrère, ...


Morris Hunt

Morris Hunt

Morris Hunt

& Willard

Morris Hunt

Morris Hunt, ...

Morris Hunt

B. Schmidt