The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum will reopen for its 45th season on April 8 at noon with docent-guided tours and a packed calendar of events for children and adults.
The opening will commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial with the unveiling of the exhibition, "Mansion Fragments: Innovations in Architecture, Design, and Technology from the Civil War Era," featuring several objects deemed revolutionary in mid-to-late-19th century and drawn from the museum's permanent collection.
During the Civil War, the mansion was being built with the most advanced construction methods and manufacturing techniques of the day, including cutting edge technology such as gas lighting, indoor plumbing with running hot and cold water, a ventilation system and an early burglar alarm system. Most of the objects and architectural elements that will be part of the exhibit have never been seen by the public.
The mansion's 40th anniversary as a National Historic Landmark will also be celebrated on April 8 with an evening reception for members and guests from 7 to 9 p.m.
"To be designated a National Historic Landmark implies exceptional value of the site to the nation," said Sheldon R. Gerarden, Lockwood-Mathews president and executive director.
"At this time we celebrate this treasure of excellence with 40 years of outstanding stewardship and enthusiastic visitor experience."
Throughout the season, a team of knowledgeable guides will introduce children and adults to the mansion's grand-scale design and Civil War era technology. Tours will take place Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. Tour prices are $10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 for children 8 to 18.
Viewed as America's first castle, Lockwood-Mathews is known around the world as one the finest examples of Gilded Age architecture. Built as a summer residence by railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood, a treasurer of the New York Stock Exchange and renowned art collector, the mansion was later inhabited by the Mathews. This well-to-do New York dynasty took full-time residence in the 30-acre Norwalk estate from the late 19th century through the Great Depression.
"The opening this year will commemorate the Civil War, a pivotal period in American history, as well as celebrate the mansion's 40th anniversary as a National Historic Landmark," said Patsy Brescia, LMMM chairman of the Board of Trustees. "We look forward to seeing the entire Fairfield County community take part in this momentous occasion."
The new season also features "Europe vs USA," oil paintings by artist Carlos Rios on display from April 8 to May 5.
LMMM is in its fourth year of rotating art exhibits in the Billiards' Room of the mansion. Rios opens the season with his exhibition of oil paintings depicting his extensive travels both here and abroad. Born in Colombia, Rios studied at Academia Superior de Arte and Bellas Artes. Following his immigration to the United States in 1965, he continued his studies at the Paier College of Art in Connecticut. Rios' talent was quickly recognized by members of the United States art community. Since his arrival in the United States nearly 30 years ago, he has won numerous awards, held solo exhibitions throughout the U.S., and his original paintings and prints now hang in galleries and private collections worldwide.
Rios works in oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel; his style and taste is eclectic, ranging from impressionistic to contemporary often with a focus on landscapes and outdoor scenes. He also demonstrates talents as a photographer and is recognized as an expert in frame design. His work was featured in such films as "The Terminator," "Blind Justice" and on television's hit series "Growing Pains."
Coordinated by Gail Ingis-Claus, LMMM's art director, exhibitions rotate approximately every six weeks. Following Rios in May, the Mansion will be presenting its first juried show exhibiting artwork from the Fairfield County Arts Association.
The mansion's Victorian era splendor and the completion of the library and Music Room furniture restoration will also be celebrated this season.
Small pieces of the original 1867 embossed, engraved and printed wall covering by Paul Balin, Paris, which was almost entirely destroyed by water damage in the 1950s, were used to reproduce the wallpaper. The wall covering's creation and installation was made possible by a generous contribution from the Meloy Foundation.
A suite of newly restored rosewood seating furniture by the Herter Brothers, circa 1868, will be exhibited in the Music Room. The restoration was made possible by a generous contribution from the Valle Weber Fay Memorial Fund. Tom Frank, of the Baggot-Frank-Lockwood Conservation Studios, Narragansett, R.I., donated his time and expertise in the rehabilitation of the inlaid and carved rosewood chair frames, while Paul Hazlett III Upholstery restored the original tufting and re-covered them in muslin and lavender satin fabric.
The LMMM Lecture Series opens April 13, at 11 a.m. with "The Greatest Crisis in United States History: The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the Civil War," a lecture by Steven S. Berizzi. Admission is $20 for members; $25 non-members. Lunch and a tour of the first floor of the Mansion is included
This talk will provide a brief and highly selective overview of the Civil War era from the "causation sequence" of the 1850s to the controversial post-war period known as Reconstruction, when the nation struggled to transform Lincoln's promise of a "new birth of freedom" into reality. Berizzi's lecture will give the audience an overview of four years of fierce fighting that cost more than 620,000 American lives. He will examine Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency in 1860, the secession winter of 1860-1861, the outbreak of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, and the Union's triumph, which was marred by the assassination of President Lincoln on April 14, 1865.
Steven S. Berizzi was born in New York City and raised in Greenwich. He practiced law in the Connecticut courts from 1989 until 2001. In 2002, he joined the faculty of Norwalk Community College, where he is now associate professor of history and political science.
For more information about LMMM's new season, visit www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com.