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Lance Reinheimer

Above, Lance Reinheimer with a portrait of William K. Vanderbilt II Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

The Public Relations Professionals of Long Island (PRPLI) will honor Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, at its 29th annual awards dinner on May 8, at Westbury Manor in Westbury. Reinheimer will receive the Long Island Achievement Award for communications.

Reinheimer, who has held his current post for more than eight years, has maintained an active, lifelong commitment to community service.

Continuing that commitment at the Vanderbilt, he instituted special, free museum events for families of first responders, active military personnel and veterans, children with special needs and for students in high-needs school districts. His background in budgeting, accounting and finance helped pave the way for the museum’s now-strong balance sheet.

“This award recognizes the success that the staff and trustees have had in communicating the cultural and historical significance of this singular American family, estate and museum – to our region and the wider world,” Reinheimer said. “Our greatly expanded social-media efforts have generated wider awareness of our public programming, children’s workshops, and special events. Other gratifying benefits are increased attendance and rising levels of membership and support.”

Other PRPLI honors to be given that evening include the Jack Rettaliata Lifetime Achievement Award to Julie Gross Gelfand, director of public relations and communications for Marcum LLP Accountants and Advisors; the Howard M. Blankman Outstanding Mentor Award to Kali Chan, director of medicine media relations for Stony Brook Medicine, Stony Brook University; the Outstanding Media Award to Elizabeth Hashagen, morning co-anchor for News 12 Long Island; and the Rising Star Award to Kevin Wilkinson of Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., advertising and public relations. 

A scene from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

By David Luces

The Star Wars film series is well known for its depiction of the galaxy and space technology. For the many fans of the franchise, the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will give them the opportunity to journey back in time to explore the Star Wars galaxy once again as part of a special event, Worlds Far, Far Away, on Saturday, May 4 — also known as Star Wars Day.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the museum, said the event will merge entertainment and education by showing participants that technology and planets shown in the films are not far from becoming a reality in the future. “The film series has been very popular, it’s something that spans generations,” Reinheimer said.

“I remember myself going to the theater to see the first Star Wars film. Not only is this an educational event, but it is also a tribute to the film series and will be appealing to a lot of people,” he added.

The evening will feature a Star Wars-themed lecture that will take the audience on a tour of the planets and famous locations seen throughout the franchise. After the presentation, guests will be divided into the light and dark sides of the Force and will compete during the event to win prizes by answering trivia questions.

“Our purpose is to develop programs that will spark interest and bring people not only to the planetarium but the rest of the museum’s grounds as well,” the executive director said.       

Astronomy educators Matt Garber and Charlie Eder will be leading the lecture and act as “droids” as they take the audience on a tour of the Star Wars galaxy. “We will be talking about the science behind the spaceships in the films as well as showing them important locations,” said Garber. Though it seems that technology shown in these films will be hard to attain, he said it may well be a possibility in the future.

The astronomer said the event is timely as the franchise is widely popular and the teaser trailer for the next film, “Episode 9: Rise of Skywalker,” was recently released. Ultimately he hopes they can get the younger crowd in the audience interested in astronomy. “It would be great to capitalize on that — when you’re younger you sometimes dream about going into space.”

Reinheimer agreed, adding that everyone remembers their first visit to a planetarium and he hopes the upcoming event will renew their interest. The executive director said as time goes by, the Vanderbilt estate, which was built in the 1940s, has become more important. He also said the planetarium holds a special place in space history as it was built in 1971, during the height of the space race with the Soviet Union.

“We try to promote these events and get the word out that there is a true gem right in our backyard,” he said.

Visitors are encouraged to come 30 minutes before each showtime to enjoy the activities in the decorated planetarium lobby. Guests are also encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Star Wars character.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Reichert Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will present Worlds Far, Far Away on Saturday, May 4 at 7, 8 and 9 p.m.

*This information has been updated from original article – Tickets are $20 for adult members; $25 for adult non-members; $14 for members ages 15 and under; and $16 for non-members ages 15 and under at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

For more information, please call 631-854-5579.

The Vanderbilt Mansion's library is ready for the holidays

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s holiday centerpiece is the mansion of William and Rosamond Vanderbilt, decorated each year by local designers and garden clubs. Their creative touch brings additional charm and magic to the spectacular, 24-room, Spanish-Revival house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

An elegant dining room table setting

Visitors can see the captivating results during guided tours now through Dec. 30 as lighted trees, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, poinsettias, garlands, toys and elegantly wrapped faux gifts fill the rooms.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt’s director of curatorial affairs, and her staff decorated the Windsor Guest Room, Lancaster Room, Breakfast Nook and Northport Porch.

“Most of these garden clubs and designers have been decorating the mansion for more than 20 seasons,” Gress, said. “We look forward to seeing them each year, and to how they use their creative skills to bring elegant holiday charm to the house.”

Designers Mary Schlotter and Krishtia McCord put finishing touches on their botanical dress

Centerport designers Mary Schlotter and her daughter Krishtia McCord — who operate Harbor Homestead & Co. — created a spectacular botanical dress that is displayed in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom. 

“The challenge was to use natural materials for the skirt,” McCord said. “We used dried birch-branch tips and wove in strings of tiny clear lights.” 

“We wanted to give the dress some sparkle,” Schlotter added. “So, we asked friends and family to share their grandmothers’ and mothers’ clip-on earrings and brooches and added them to the skirt. We made a botanical necklace using lamb’s ear leaves and hydrangea petals and accented it with pearls.” 

They also fashioned a long flowing sash with wide, white birch bark-print ribbon and combined the same ribbon design with greenery to decorate the nearby mantelpiece. 

The mother/daughter team made its first botanical dress for the Vanderbilt two years ago. “We like to use materials that will break down and not harm the Earth. We never use floral foam because it takes many years to break down. Instead, like many floral designers, we use chicken wire and thin tape.”

The library fireplace

The two designers used antique chandelier crystals and other glass objects to decorate the fireplace mantel in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s stunning mirrored dressing room, where their original botanical dress is displayed.

Lorri Toth, who made the velvet top of Schlotter and McCord’s first botanical dress, created the dove-gray velvet top for the new dress. Toth, who worked in New York City fashion houses, now has her own design business, Couture Creations, in Huntington Village, and makes lots of wedding dresses, Schlotter said. 

This year’s mansion decorators also include the Dix Hills Garden Club (dining room), Honey Hills Garden Club (Sonja Henie Guest Room), Nathan Hale Garden Club (Organ Room and Yellow Guest Room), Asharoken Garden Club (Portuguese Sitting Room), Three Village Garden Club (William Vanderbilt’s bedroom), Harbor Homestead & Co. (Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom and dressing room), Centerport Garden Club (library), Hydrangea Home of Northport (holiday floral centerpiece) and volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Suffolk County. Museum guide Ellen Mason contributed her family’s vintage electric train set and accompanying buildings for display around the base of the tree in the library.

The Organ Room in the mansion is ready for visitors.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, said “We’re grateful to these generous volunteers who give their time and talent to create an atmosphere of enchanting holiday grandeur and sophisticated living.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. General admission is $8 adults, $7 students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under.  

Guided tours of the mansion are given on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (and Wednesday to Sunday, Dec. 26 to 30 during school vacation) at regular intervals between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. for an additional $6. 

Special Twilight Tours will be given on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27 and 28, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This event is a treat for visitors, and the only time of the year the Vanderbilt family’s private living quarters can be seen at night. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under. 

For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

All photos from Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

The Vanderbilts and Huntingtons, with the Sikorsky seaplane behind them, are greeted by press photographers at the airport in Mendoza, Argentina. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum
Update: This event is sold out!

By Sabrina Petroski

Dance the night away at the eighth annual Summer Fiesta at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport! The year’s most important fundraiser for the museum, the gala event will be held in the Vanderbilt Mansion’s Spanish Revival courtyard on Saturday, July 21 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. and feature an evening of wine, food, music and, of course, dancing. 

“We want it to be a wonderful evening for the attendees, and we also want to showcase the museum and have them see why it’s important to support the museum and the work that we’re doing here,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the museum, in a recent phone interview. “Thirdly, we want to raise funds for our programs and to be able to expand our education programs.”  

 According to the museum’s Director of Development Sue Madlinger, this year’s gala is a salute to William K. Vanderbilt II, his wife Rosamund and friends Edie and Robert Huntington who flew around the Caribbean, Central America and the perimeter of South America in Vanderbilt’s Sikorsky S-43 seaplane, from Jan. 18 to Feb. 11, 1937, “which was a major feat in it’s day. Each year we try to bring Mr. Vanderbilt’s history into our events, and all the great things he did for [the museum], for Long Island, and all the adventures that he went on,” she said.

Entertainment for the gala includes Latin music by the world-renowned band, Los Cintron, with performances by flamenco dancer Juana Cala. The Cintron brothers are known as the greatest Gypsy Kings tribute band, and the group’s guitars, vocals and melodies evoke the traditional sounds of Andalusia and their beloved Spain. Food will be catered by Sangria 71 restaurant in Commack and feature hors d’oeuvres, a five-foot paella and dinner. On the menu will be chicken, salmon, fish and skirt steak plus margaritas, sangria, wine and beer. 

The funds raised from the gala will go toward expanding and modernizing the Vanderbilt Learning Center within the Carriage House. “We have an aggressive plan to upgrade [the Carriage House] architecturally, to maintain the historic features of the building but to bring in modern elements and flexibility so that we can continue the education program in a way that children are used to learning,” said Reinheimer. 

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, the associate director of the museum, says the museum is looking for more sponsors, as well as corporate support to continue working on making the educational programs more attractive for children of all ages. 

Tickets are $135 for nonmembers, $125 for members. In the event of rain, the Summer Fiesta will be moved to the Celebration Tent. Guests are asked to follow a formal dress code, with cobblestone-friendly shoes. For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

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Newest show, Laser Beyoncé, premieres June 30

Summer is a great time to enjoy spectacular, laser light musical entertainment shows at the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum. The venue will bring back audience laser show favorites like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon, and will premiere its newest one-hour show, Laser Beyoncé, on Saturday, June 30, at 7 p.m.

Beyoncé, one of the most awarded and best-selling artists of all time, is acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos and live shows. Laser Beyoncé captures the fun and energy of the singer’s concerts in beautiful laser light imagery with some of her most popular songs including “Formation,” “Irreplaceable,” “Independent Women Part 1,” “Naughty Girl,” “Halo,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” “If I Were a Boy,” “Crazy in Love,” “XO,” “Single Ladies,” “Love on Top,” “Freedom,” “Survivor” and “Run the World.”

‘Our educational and entertainment programs attract a diverse audience to one of the finest planetariums in the country,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum. Dave Bush, technical and production coordinator for the planetarium, added, “We present award-winning, world-renowned, full-dome productions, as well as live presentations with an astronomy educator that show off the amazing capabilities of our domed theater’s cutting-edge technology. The Reichert Planetarium boats the highest level of laser programming available.”

Live presentations also include Long Island Skies on Fridays at 8 p.m. and Night Sky, Live! on Saturdays at 8 p.m. The planetarium also presents shows that feature jaw-dropping journeys to the outer reaches of the solar system. The 60-foot domed theater features a Konica-Minolta star projector, full-dome video and surround sound for an exciting, immersive audience experience.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. For show schedules, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

A scene from last year’s performance of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

By Sabrina Petroski

Come join the fun as the most beautiful words in the English language are given new life! In celebration of its 30th anniversary, The Carriage House Players will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet” for its annual Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport. The festival opens on June 29.

With a modern twist on two of the Bard’s most famous plays, performances will be held under the stars in the central courtyard of William K. Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest mansion, one of the last remaining Gold Coast estates on the North Shore.

The festival was the brainchild of Frederic De Feis, who ran the productions through the Arena Players until his retirement. Upon his leave, De Feis passed the reins to longtime company member and protégé, Evan Donnellan.

“[The festival] started because Fred was looking for a space to perform Shakespeare outdoors,” said Donnellan. “He found the Vanderbilt courtyard and decided to use the space because of its atmosphere and architecture, which lends itself particularly well to Shakespeare.” As executive director, Donnellan, who was part of the company for 22 years, decided to rename the troupe The Carriage House Players to “better reflect our space” as they perform in the Vanderbilt Carriage House on the museum’s grounds.

“The Carriage House Players add a delightful dimension to the Vanderbilt Museum’s creative programming throughout the year,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, in a recent email. “Every July and August, their annual Shakespeare productions are a very popular summer attraction. Their shows, presented on our outdoor stage, are enhanced by the graceful backdrop of the estate’s century-old Spanish Revival architecture.”

Jacob Wright and Michael Limone in rehearsal for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

“The Shakespeare Festival has been a main event for Long Island for three decades now and we are proud to continue the tradition,” added Donnellan who said the group chose “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” because the timeless story of love gone awry, complete with mischievous fairies and bumbling actors, will create a hilarious evening of theater filled with charm, magic and grand romantic gestures. The play will be directed by company member Christine Boehm, who has previously graced the stage as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and has directed recent productions of “The Woman in Black” and “Precious Little.” 

“With an aesthetic largely inspired by the Celtic Punk movement popularized in the 1980s with through lines discussing politics, pride in the working class and, most importantly, drinking, our ‘Midsummer’ will focus on the text’s most largely identified theme as the title suggests — a dream,” said Boehm. 

After “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” The Players will present Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, “Hamlet.” Donnellan says “the classic tale of revenge, loss, and the thirst for power, complete with glorious sword fights and ghostly visitors, will transport audiences back in time and put them right in the head of the Danish prince as he struggles to determine what is wrong and what is right.” Directed by company member, Jordan Hue, who directed “Macbeth” and “Much Ado About Nothing” at previous festivals, the show will be performed in the more classical tradition but with an emphasis on neo-futurism.   

For Donnellan, his hope is that this festival will appeal to wide audiences and introduce new theatergoers to the Bard’s genius. “Our goal is for audiences to embrace the old with the new while focusing on Shakespeare’s gorgeous prose and powerful storytelling.” 

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, will host “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from June 29 through July 29 followed by “Hamlet” from Aug. 5 through Sept. 2. Shows are held at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and 7 p.m. on Sundays, weather permitting. Running time is approximately 2 hours. Guests are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy a picnic on the grounds before the performances. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the door. For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

STATELY ELEGANCE: The beautiful landscape at the entrance to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium welcomes visitors.

Throughout the summer, visitors to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will see the spectacular results of its first Gardeners Showcase.

A call went out at the beginning of the year inviting local nurseries and garden designers to “bring back the gardens.” In May, local nurseries, landscapers and garden designers used their artistry to transform 10 gardens on the grounds of the 43-acre waterfront estate of William K. Vanderbilt, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the last remaining Gold Coast estates on the North Shore of Long Island. 

“I am grateful for the enthusiastic response from the landscaping and gardening community to volunteer their talents to beautify this historic estate,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum.

The new gardens were established at the main entrance gates, in front of the planetarium, the mansion courtyard, the Wishing Well and back terrace using boxwoods, yews, perennials, herbs, annuals, topiaries, grasses and more. Existing gardens, including the ones with water features, were spruced up as well. 

JUST TROTTING ALONG: Above, a topiary/sensory garden designed by members of the Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program and Gro Girl Horticultural Therapy is located in front of the Planetarium.

One of the more popular gardens is the sensory garden located in front of the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. A collaboration between Gro Girl Horticultural Therapy and Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP (Job Security Through Equine Partnership), it features a topiary horse as well as rosemary, lavender, marigolds and lamb’s ear. The garden also recycles Christmas trees (with branches removed) to construct teepee-like structures for climbing, flowering vines. The goal of the garden is “to arouse the senses and to evoke positive feelings.”

“These floral artisans, as well as our own veteran corps of accomplished volunteer gardeners, have invested their time, labor and resources. Their enhancements will be enjoyed by more than 30,000 visitors this summer. We hope to continue this collaboration for many years,” Reinheimer said. 

Showcase participants include Gro Girl Horticultural Therapy of Greenlawn, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program of Islandia, Sacred Gardens of Center Moriches, Dina Yando Landscape & Perennial Garden Design/North Service Nursery of Centerport, Landscapes by Bob Dohne of Greenlawn, Carlstrom Landscapes of Rocky Point, Mossy Pine Garden & Landscape Design of Greenlawn, Centerport Garden Club, Joe deGroot Designs of Centerport, Mother Earth’s Landscape & Nursery of East Northport and Vanderbilt Volunteer Gardeners. Each group is identified by signage at its Garden Showcase site. The event will run through Sept. 30. 

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. To see the gardens, visitors pay only general admission: $8 adults; $7 seniors/students (age 62-plus or student ID); $5 children age 12 and under; children age 2 and under, free. For hours and more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

Interior designers, garden clubs deck the elegant halls

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s holiday centerpiece is the mansion of William and Rosamond Vanderbilt, decorated each year by local designers and garden clubs. Their creative touch brings additional charm and magic to the spectacular, 24-room, Spanish-Revival house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can see the captivating results from now through January. The decorators create magic in the rooms with lighted trees, boughs, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, garlands and elegantly wrapped faux gifts.

Decorating the mansion this year were the Asharoken, Dix Hills, Centerport, Honey Hills, Nathan Hale and Three Village (Old Field, Setauket and Stony Brook) garden clubs; Harbor Homestead & Co. Design of Centerport; and gardeners from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Stephanie Gress, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, said “Most of these garden clubs and designers have been decorating the mansion for more than 20 seasons. “We look forward to seeing them each year, and to how they use their creative skills to bring elegant holiday charm to the house.” Gress and the curatorial staff decorated the Windsor Guest Room, Breakfast Hallway, Lancaster Room and Northport Porch.

Christine Lagana and a group of friends from the Dix Hills Garden Club decorated the large tree in the mansion library and placed gifts beneath it. They also added garland and ornaments as well as white poinsettias and red ribbons to the mantelpiece over the large fireplace and artful groups of large, mirrored ornaments on side tables.

Mary Schlotter and her daughter, Krishtia McCord — who operate the Centerport design firm Harbor Homestead & Co. — decorated Rosamond Vanderbilt’s mirrored dressing room and the arcade that connects the nursery wing with the front entrance of the mansion. They decorated a live tree in the Sundial Garden off the arcade and hung icicles and silver-sprayed vines, harvested locally, from the arcade ceiling beams.

For Mrs. Vanderbilt’s dressing room, using a dress-form mannequin, they created a skirt with green boughs. “Our friend, dress designer Lorri Kessler-Toth of Couture Creations, created a fitted turquoise-blue velvet cover for the dress-form torso,” Schlotter said. “We added a necklace of chandelier crystals and a pendant and embellished the skirt with teal ornaments, champagne ribbon and filigreed poinsettia leaves. This is a dressing room, so we created a Christmas dress.”

Schlotter and McCord added chandelier crystals and champagne poinsettia leaves to the bough that decorates the mantelpiece on the marble fireplace. The crystals on the mantel complement those that hang from the sconces in the mirrored, hexagonal dressing room.

The Asharoken Garden Club, returning after many years, decorated Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom with colors that reflect her love of pearls, Gress said, including copper, cream and gold. The Centerport club embellished the guest room of Sonja Henie (three-time Olympic skating champion, movie star, and family friend) and William Vanderbilt’s bedroom. The wreaths, garlands and large golden ornaments in Mr. Vanderbilt’s room were highlighted by pots of elegant red amaryllis, a stunning seasonal flower. They also placed garland and tall, thin trees, hung with ornaments, on the mantelpiece.

The Nathan Hale club, which decorated the Organ Room, clipped old-fashioned candles with brass holders and wax-catchers on the branches of the tree. Members added garland and cherubs to the carved mantelpiece and placed arrangements of gold-sprayed pine cones and scallop and whelk shells on tables.

In the Portuguese Sitting Room, in the original wing of the mansion, the Honey Hill club placed Tiffany packages beneath the tree and added small holiday touches around the room. The Cornell Cooperative Extension gardeners worked outside, adding flourishes to the mansion windows with live wreaths, trimmed with flowers, fruits and ribbons. “These generous volunteers use their time and talent to create an atmosphere of charming holiday grandeur and sophisticated living,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum. “We’re grateful to them for bringing magic to this historic house.”

Visiting the Vanderbilt Museum:

Now that the Vanderbilt mansion and its halls are decked elegantly for the season, the public is invited to see the home at its most magical time. Guided tours of the decorated Vanderbilt mansion continue each Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday at 12:30, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. — and on Tuesday, Dec. 26, through Saturday, Dec. 30. (Visitors pay the general admission fee plus $6 per person for a tour.)

Special Twilight Tours will be given for two days only: Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 27 and 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors (62 and older) and $5 for children 12 and under.

The Vanderbilt Museum and Reichert Planetarium will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 26 to 30 and will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

 

Kathleen Kane of the Dix Hills Garden Club places an ornament high on the large tree in the Vanderbilt Library. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Interior designers and garden clubs deck the elegant halls of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Centerport each year, and hundreds of visitors see the results beginning the day after Thanksgiving. The decorators create enchanted rooms with lighted trees, boughs, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons and elegantly wrapped faux gifts.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the museum, said, “These generous volunteers use their time and talent to create an atmosphere of charming holiday grandeur and sophisticated living. We’re grateful to them for bringing magic to this historic house.”

Stephanie Gress, the museum’s director of curatorial affairs, said “Most of these garden clubs and designers have been decorating the mansion for more than 20 years. We look forward to seeing them each year, and to how they use their creative skills to bring elegant holiday charm to the house.”

JoAnn Canino chairs the Three Village Garden Club (Old Field, Setauket and Stony Brook), which has decorated a mansion room every year for more than a decade. “The Portuguese Sitting Room is very masculine,” she said. “We wanted to bring out the colors of the rug and of the sculpture of the knight on the horse — teal, turquoise, pinks, blues and greens.” In addition to decorating the tree, club members added boughs, ribbons and ornaments to the centuries-old mantelpiece.

Kathleen Kane of the Dix Hills Garden Club places an ornament high on the large tree in the Vanderbilt Library. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Kathleen Kane of the Dix Hills Garden Club places an ornament high on the large tree in the Vanderbilt Library. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Dix Hills Garden Club decorated the striking paneled library, the grandest room in the 24-room Spanish Revival mansion. “It’s a dark room, with not much natural light coming in,” said Christine Lagana. “So we added a wide deep-red ribbon that winds down from the top of the tree. The ‘pop’ of the red brightens the tree in that dark space.” The club used many gold ornaments and enhanced the mantel of the imposing fireplace with green boughs and gold ornaments. “Since this is a museum, we can’t use glue or nails on the carved wood,” Lagana said. “So we wrapped hidden bricks in dark-green felt and used them to secure the boughs, which are intertwined with golden ribbons. Then we were able to hang ornaments securely from the large length of bough that runs along the mantelpiece.”

From left, Samantha Bendl, Claudia Dowling and Ian Daly of Claudia Dowling Interior Designs in Huntington decorate a Vanderbilt Mansion guest room. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
From left, Samantha Bendl, Claudia Dowling and Ian Daly of Claudia Dowling Interior Designs in Huntington decorate a Vanderbilt Mansion guest room. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Claudia Dowling of Claudia Dowling Interiors in Huntington said, “We’re blessed to help decorate the Vanderbilt Mansion. It’s such a beautiful historic, Long Island treasure. In one of the guest rooms, we used gold and cream and a very traditional tree, in keeping with the original concept of how the Vanderbilt rooms were designed and decorated. We added subtle ‘whisper’ touches in one of the guest rooms — a garland on the mantelpiece and surprise gifts on the club chair.”

Jenny Holmes, vice president of the Nathan Hale Garden Club, and her friends decorated the upstairs Organ Room, a paneled parlor with an Aeolian pipe organ, large fireplace and sofa, and a table for playing cards and board games. “Because Mr. Vanderbilt loved the sea, we created a nautical theme with lots of shells from the beach — including a gold-sprayed horseshoe crab shell — and added pine cones and large magnolia leaves,” Holmes said. “We sprayed the magnolia leaves and shells silver and gold, and made ornaments from shells, adding pearls, glitter and tiny stones. We wanted to make the large room as elegant as possible, and lightened it with silver and gold ribbon and bows. And of course, a large trimmed tree and wrapped presents.”

Mary Schlotter and her daughter, Krishtia McCord — who operate the Centerport design firm Harbor Homestead & Co. — decorated Rosamund Vanderbilt’s mirrored dressing room and the family’s breakfast hallway.

 Mary Schlotter (left) and Krishtia McCord of Harbor Homestead & Co. Design in Centerport create a Christmas dress for Rosamund Vanderbilt in her dressing room. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Mary Schlotter (left) and Krishtia McCord of Harbor Homestead & Co. Design in Centerport create a Christmas dress for Rosamund Vanderbilt in her dressing room. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Using a dress-form mannequin, they added green boughs as a skirt. “Our friend, dress designer Lorri Kessler-Toth of Couture Creations, created a fitted turquoise-blue velvet cover for the dress-form torso,” Schlotter said. “We added a necklace of chandelier crystals and a pendant, and embellished the skirt with teal ornaments, champagne ribbon, and filigreed poinsettia leaves. This is a dressing room, so we created a Christmas dress,” added Schlotter. They also added chandelier crystals and champagne poinsettia leaves to the bough that decorates the mantelpiece on the marble fireplace. The crystals on the mantel complement those that hang from the sconces in the mirrored, hexagonal dressing room.

Finally, The Centerport Garden Club decorated the dining room and Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, and the Honey Hills club decorated Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will give guided tours of the decorated mansion each Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday and each day during the week between Christmas and the New Year through Dec. 30. Special Twilight Tours will be given on Dec. 26 and 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

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