South side of the mansion
|Location||295 West Avenue, Norwalk, Connecticut|
|Architectural style||Renaissance, Other|
|NRHP Reference #||70000836|
|Added to NRHP||December 30, 1970|
|Designated NHL||December 30, 1970|
The Lockwood–Mathews Mansion is a Second Empire style country house, now a museum, at 295 West Avenue in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was featured in the movies The Stepford Wives and House of Dark Shadows.
It has been described as "one of the earliest and finest surviving Second Empire style country houses ever built in the United States." "The Museum's mission is to conserve the building while creating educational programs on the material, artistic and social culture of the Victorian era," according to the museum organization's Web site. Built in 1864-68, it is an early example of the style used by wealthy New York City elites such as the Vanderbilts in building their Gilded Age mansions later in the 19th century, and set a new standard for opulence.
A master plan for renovating the mansion was expected to be completed in 2007. Plans for renovation work at the museum include adding an elevator, and systems for heating, air conditioning, and sprinklers. Renovation costs are likely to total about $6 million, museum officials said in May 2007, before the master plan was complete.
In a decades-long Christmastime tradition, interior decorators deck out about a dozen rooms in the mansion with holiday decorations. An annual "community celebration" is held in December with Christmas music, refreshments and a Santa Claus. In 2007, 10 interior decorators volunteered their services and materials for the event.
The mansion, at 295 West Ave., sits in Mathews Park, where the Stepping Stones Museum for Children is also located.
The estate, then called "Elm Park," was built by LeGrand Lockwood, who made his fortune in banking and the railroad industry. Construction began in 1864 just west of the Norwalk River in Norwalk and was completed four years later. Designed by European-trained, New York-based architect Detlef Lienau, the mansion "is considered his most significant surviving work," according to the association. Both American and immigrant artisans worked to construct and decorate the house. Prominent New York decorating firms, including Herter Brothers and Leon Marcotte were contracted to furnish the mansion's interiors. Financial reversals in 1869 and Lockwood's death in 1872 resulted in loss of the estate by Lockwood's heirs. In 1874 the family lost the mansion and grounds through foreclosure. Charles D. Mathews, described in his New York Times obituary as "a very wealthy retired New-York provision dealer", and his wife, Rebecca Thompson Mathews, bought the property in 1876. The mansion was a residence and suburban retreat for the Mathews family, with their Thompson and Martin relatives, until the death of Charles's daughter Florence in 1938.
In 1941 the estate was sold to the City of Norwalk, which designated it a public park. In the 1950s, the building was threatened with demolition, but local preservationists succeeded in saving it. They formed Lockwood–Mathews Mansion Museum, Inc. to run the site, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
The museum has hosted an annual antique show since 1978. In 2006 the show was held the last weekend in October and attracted dealers from Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as Connecticut.
In the 2000s, statues and furniture that had originally been in the mansion were bought and placed back in it. Two marble statues, sculpted in 1859 by Joseph Mozier, an American artist, and bought by LeGrand Lockwood, were purchased for $185,000. A $165,000 sofa original to the home was also acquired and brought back to it.
Paramount Pictures paid the museum $400,000 to paint the central rotunda of the house, which was used as a filming location for the second version of The Stepford Wives. The studio also left behind some large paintings (in essence, theatrical pastiches), which serve to emphasize the dramatic size of the rotunda. As a result, the walls look fresh and decorated, and will remain protected until further funds become available for proper, curatorial restoration of the original damaged surfaces.
The city had planned in 1959 "to build a city hall in the park and tear down the mansion to make way for it." Considerable controversy and claims of bad faith ensued. The Junior League of Stamford-Norwalk eventually led a restoration, supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Institute of Architects, the National Park Service, and the Connecticut Historical Commission.:6
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Connecticut
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Fairfield County, Connecticut
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Lockwood–Mathews Mansion". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- Marilyn Larew (February 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Lockwood–Mathews Mansion / Elmenworth / Elm Park" (pdf). National Park Service.. PDF (1.38 MiB)
- http://www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.org/3.html "History" Web page of the Lockwood–Mathews Mansion Museum Web site, accessed July 27, 2006.
- Breslow, Matt, "Mansion director out of work after filing complaint", news article in The Advocate of Stamford, Norwalk edition, page 1, March 26, 2007
- Stelloh, Tom, "Museum will get an upgrade", article in The Advocate (Stamford) of Stamford (Norwalk Edition), pp A7, A8, May 15, 2007
- DeLoma, Jamie, "Designers get mansion ready for the holidays", article in The Advocate of Stamford, pp 1, A4, Norwalk edition, November 29, 2007
- "Antiques show will benefit museum" in "Area briefs" feature, The Advocate of Stamford, October 25, 2006, page A18, Stamford edition, "... the 29th annual Lockwood–Mathews Antiques Show ..." Remember, if the 29th was held in 2006, the first would have been held in 1978; counting must be done the way we count centuries such as the "first century" from the years 1 to 100 AD.
- Constance Luyster (March 4, 1970). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Lockwood–Mathews Mansion / Elm Park House" (PDF). National Park Service. and Accompanying five photos, exterior, from 1969
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- Official website
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. CT-265, "Lockwood–Mathews House, Veterans' Memorial Park, Southeast, Norwalk, Fairfield County, CT", 36 photos, 17 data pages, 1 photo caption page