Monday, September 14, 2015

Montauk

On our way to Wisconsin this June to meet with Cryslyn, we stopped at Montauk, the mansion of Iowa's 13th governor, William Larrabee.  The mansion, near Clermont, Iowa, was built in 1874 and cost about $20,000 to construct.
In front of the house are four bronze statues portraying Generals Grant, Dodge, and Sherman, and Admiral Farragut.  There are outbuildings for stables and cattle.  The governor had peacocks, chickens, turkeys, and the first Swiss cattle imported to Iowa.   
There is no admission fee, and guests are ushered in every 15 minutes.  The first docent showed us the sitting room and the music room, and told us about the governor and his family.  The governor collected canes (some of which you can see above).  He also was very concerned about the possibility of a fire, so he kept extinguishers in every room, and made sure every room had two doors.

The sitting room is shown above.  The revolving bookcase caught our eye.  We also noticed a portrait of the governor (not shown).  He had a gun accident when he was 15, and lost his right eye, so most portraits show the left side of his face.
The family was very musically talented.  Our guide let me try out the piano in the music room, and Charity tried the piano in the sitting room.  It was definitely a highlight to play these instruments!  One thing we noticed though was how short the Larrabees must have been!  Especially with the piano in the sitting room, there wasn't much leg room.  Indeed, if I recall correctly, our guide confirmed that Mrs. Larrabee was under 5 feet tall.

Mrs. Larrabee's maiden name was Anna Matilda Applebaum.  She married William Larrabee in 1861, and they had 7 children: Charles, Augusta, Julia, Anna, William, Frederic, and Helen.
The Larrabees enjoyed travel, and visited Europe and Palestine.  Some of the items in the music room were souvenirs they brought back from their journeys.

After we had spent about 15 minutes with the first guide, she passed us on the the second guide, who showed us the upstairs.
The first bedroom shown above is Miss Anna's.  She never married, and lived in the house until she died in 1965 at the age of 96.  Each of the bedrooms is equipped with a sink.  The guide told us that everyone in the family was expected to come to meals presentably dressed, with shoes shined.  The second room is that of the governor and his wife.   
Throughout the house are many beautiful portraits of family members and public figures.  The oldest painting in the house is Stormy Weather, by Pieter Molyn (ca. 1670).
The first room above is the children's room.  The second room is Augusta's.  She attended art school in New York, and was a gifted artist.  She married Victor Dolliver of Fort Dodge (depicted in her painting on the easel), but died 7 months later of the "grippe," at the age of 33.

After touring the upstairs, we were passed on to our third and final guide.  The photo below left shows Montauk, which was surrounded by about 100,000 trees Larrabee planted on his 160 acres.  The trees grew so much that they obstructed Mrs. Larrabee's view.  Consequently, one time when Governor Larrabee was on a business trip, Mrs. Larrabee ordered several of the governor's beloved trees cut down.  Of course, the governor wasn't pleased, but he would be pleased to know that many of his trees remain today on the 40 acres on which Montauk still sits.  
The next room we visited was Governor Larrabee's office.  He had a very neat desk with slots for everything to help him stay organized.  The governor was known for his atrocious handwriting.  It was so bad that a friend wrote asking him to get a secretary to write his letters for him.  In about 1878, Governor Larrabee purchased a typewriter, shown above.

The governor  was a Republican.  He wrote a book entitled The Railroad Question.  He fought against high freight rates, and believed in taxpayer-funded education, the rights of labor to unionize, progressive income tax, and free trade.  

At the age of 70, Larrabee decided to learn Spanish for a trip to Cuba, so he would not have to rely on an interpreter.  He studied with a language phone, which was an Edison-style phonograph with a recorded set of Spanish lessons. 

William Larrabee supported Theodore Roosevelt in the election of 1912, asking from his deathbed to be taken to the polling place.   (Wilson, Taft, Roosevelt, and Debs were the candidates.)  Larrabee died at the age of 80.
I realized we needed to leave to get to our next destination on time, so we quickly glanced at the kitchen and dining room, and left.

We very much enjoyed our tour, and I would recommend visiting Montauk.  A visit should last about 45 minutes,so be sure to have at least that much time on your hands to learn about the governor and his mansion.  Thanks very much to the very kind and informational ladies who guided us through Montauk.

28 comments:

  1. A wonderful testament to the Governor's diligence and hard work! It is a lovely mansion and just the kind of preserved historical place I love to visit! I think it is also great to be able to visit it for free.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Free admission is always awesome in my book.

      Delete
  2. A fantastic place and worth visiting.... Love from Europe

    ReplyDelete
  3. More interesting goodies from my Bethany! Love seeing historical properties of the past like this. The only question I have is what is the grippe? I need to look that one up. ;)
    Thx for sharing & wishing you a great week. Xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The grippe is influenza...I wouldn't have known offhand either.

      Have a great week as well!

      Delete
    2. Ah - got it. Thanks for the info! ;)

      Delete
  4. Hello Bethany!:) I had to smile when I saw your post, because this house reminds me so much of my mother- in- law's house as it was 50 yrs ago, especially the library, where I would sit for hours. I love the high arched wooden doors and the solid looking furniture, especially the beds,and it's exterier is also beautiful and impressive. Very interesting family, and visit.
    Regards.
    Altogether an interesting family

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like your mother-in-law had a very neat house!

      Delete
  5. Bethany, I really enjoyed the tour of the governor's mansion. What a wonderful place to visit.
    Have a lovely day... :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. First (Free Admission) how cool is that! - Second what a fabulous home. The furnishings are just amazing and beautiful. Lastly I think it's so neat that they allowed you to play the pianos. - I would certainly visit this place given the opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a fun place to tour. Your images are great and I felt like I was right there with you. It's a lot of fun visiting these types of places and getting a history lesson, too!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I tried to leave a comment, but not sure it took...anyway, I was here and I enjoyed!

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a grand place! This looks like a fun tour. :) It's wonderful that the the admission is free and that they let you and Charity play the pianos! And a revolving bookcase...were there any secret rooms behind it? >.>

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now *that* would have been neat! Not that I know of; it was a freestanding bookcase, not built into the wall like some neat ones in tv shows are! :D

      Delete
  10. Thanks too for sharing your tour and an interesting part of history. I wish I could have heard you and Charity play the pianos, and think it is very special that you were allowed to do so! xx

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a wonderful place to visit. The house is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Bethany, Wow, I could write a long comment on this post but I'll try to keep it concise. :-) First of all, thanks for all the pictures. Almost as good as being there in person. Montauk should go onto a "must see" list for anyone who loves antiques. The most impressive item to me is the desk with fold-out wings that the Governor used. And can you imagine a trip to Cuba in those days? Now, in more current times, I hope you will tell me there is a YouTube somewhere with you playing the piano. I've got to hear it! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't believe there is. It's very difficult for me to play through a song without making a mistake. In real life it doesn't matter as much, since people only hear it once, but on Youtube, people could listen to the same mistake over and over!

      Delete