Stories from the Big House

23 December 2015

The Hegeler Carus Mansion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ten drawings from the Hegeler Carus Mansion House Museum collection will be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as part of an exhibit on gilded age furniture from December 15, 2015 through May 1, 2016.
Original George A. Schastey drawing newly
preserved by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
On display in the American Wing through May 2016.
The drawings are part of the original architectural and design plans for the Hegeler Carus Mansion and date from between 1874 when construction began on the Mansion to 1876, when the Hegeler family moved into the home. 

The house museum’s collection includes architectural plans by William W. Boyington, interior and furniture design drawings by William August Fiedler, and textile and furniture design drawings by George Schastey, as well as furniture and artifacts that belonged to three generations of the Hegeler and Carus families that lived in the Mansion from 1876 until 2004. 

“It is truly rare and wonderful that these plans and drawings have survived for over 140 years.” said Kelly Klobucher, Executive Director of the Hegeler Carus Foundation, which operates the Mansion as a house museum. “We are fortunate that the family stored the drawings in the attic. Todd Voelker was director of special projects at Carus Corporation when our organization was in its infancy.  It was he who found the Boyington, Fiedler and Schastey drawings in 1994.  This was very early in the preservation process.  The drawings have been scanned and now we are able to refer to them when working on preservation projects.”

Three newly preserved drawings by George A. Schastey hand at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
“That was a great discovery for those of us working to preserve the Mansion.  The drawings are an invaluable research material which enabled us to rebuild and restore to what Mr. Hegeler requested when the Mansion was designed.  We have referenced the drawings many times over the years,” said John Thorpe, a restoration architect who has been involved in the Mansion’s preservation since the Foundation formed over twenty years ago.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art contacted the Hegeler Carus Foundation about the George Schastey drawings last winter after learning of their existence from Hegeler Carus board member Rolf Achilles.  Achilles is a professor, preservationist, and is a world renowned expert on the decorative arts.  “The exceptional characteristic of the Hegeler Carus Museum is that it is unchanged. The Schastey drawings are extremely rare, as is the Mansion.  Both the drawings and the Mansion are invaluable examples of artistic achievement and should be treasured,” said Achilles.

Hegeler Carus Foundation Board Chair Blouke Carus is the great-grandson
of Edward Hegeler, who commissioned the construction of the Hegeler
Carus Mansion in 1874. He is pictured with Patricia Schastey Reboussin,
the great grand-daughter of George Schastey, the featured designer.
George Schastey operated a successful decorating firm in the late 19th century and catered to the Vanderbilts, Rockafellers and other well known families on the east coast. 

The ten Schastey drawings in the Hegeler Carus Mansion’s museum collection consist of textile designs for window treatments, fireplace surrounds, and small furniture pieces designed for the Hegeler Carus Mansion. 

“We were concerned about moving the original drawings.  Not only are they are exceedingly fragile, they are among the most precious pieces of our history at the Mansion,” said Klobucher.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art sent couriers in June to retrieve the drawings.  They were packed in special boxes and carried to New York in a climate controlled truck along with important pieces of art and artifacts from all over the country.

Preserved drawing of a fireplace surround
and mantle designed for the Hegeler Home
in 1874.
After the Metropolitan Museum of Art received and inspected the drawings, it was decided to have their conservationists clean, stabilize and preserve the artifacts prior to displaying them. 

“The drawings are in better condition now after being in the care of some of the top conservationists in the world at the Met.  We are very grateful to them.  This is not something we would have been able to do on our own,” said Klobucher.

More information on the principle architect and designer of the Hegeler Carus Mansion:

In addition to the Hegeler Carus Mansion, architect W. W. Boyington designed Terrace Hill, the Iowa Governor’s Mansion; Joliet State Penitentiary; Chicago’s Water Tower, the only building to survive the fire of 1871; and also finished the Illinois State Capitol building when architect Alfred Piquenard passed away during the construction.  A prolific architect, according to Boyington’s obituary in the October 17, 1898 Chicago Tribune, “If all of the buildings he had constructed were placed side by side they would reach a distance of thirty miles.”

August Feidler was the principle interior designer of the Hegeler Carus Mansion. He created the unique parquet flooring designs for each room of the Mansion as well as the ornately carved woodwork that can be seen on the decorative mantles, built in furniture and trim on the window and doors throughout the first floor of the Mansion.

Both Boyington and Fiedler were operating businesses in Chicago in the 1870’s due to the increase in work available to architects who were rebuilding Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871.


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