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May 13, 2013

Families honor moms in style at Hyde Hall

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Mother’s Day was celebrated at historic Hyde Hall on Saturday with dozens of families treating their mothers to high tea at the historic mansion.

The event, which was free and open to the public, included serenades by local singing group, Ah Cappella! as well as mansion tours, tea and cakes, a hat-making station, and croquet on the lawn.

“This is a wonderful event,” said Christina Lawrence of Saranac Lake, who brought her mother to the event.

“My brother and I were looking at the things we could do, browsing local attractions and events, when we saw this event and thought it would be nice to take her to Hyde Hall,” Lawrence said. “It is beautiful.”

Lawrence’s mother, Sandy Gothard, was enthralled.

“This is what I like to do,” she said. “We love to tour historic houses. This is a fabulous event.”

The Mother’s Day Tea at Hyde Hall has been held annually for more than 20 years. The picturesque estate sits upon a bluff overlooking Glimmerglass Lake and is a National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site. It is a part of Glimmerglass State Park.

“I am playing mother,” said Felicia Blum, Hyde Hall board member, who was serving tea. “This is my grandmother’s tea set.”

Blum served tea for visitors in the formal drawing room, with its lofty ceilings featuring ornate architectural accents, period furniture and reproductions of the art collected by the Clarke family.

Shirley and Keith Schue came from Cherry Valley to spend the afternoon at Hyde Hall.

“This is such a beautiful place,” Shirley Schue said. “I really love it. It is a lovely piece of history.”

Hyde Hall was built from  1817 to  1834 by George Clarke as the centerpiece of his 120,000-acre estate in New York. It is said to be one of the largest domestic homes built between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Restoration efforts are ongoing.

“We are very excited to have the chandeliers in the formal dining room completely restored,” said Jonathan Maney, executive director of Hyde Hall Inc. “These chandeliers are typical of the innovations of George Clarke. He was really ahead of his time. These chandeliers burn five parts alcohol and one part turpentine. In a time when most people of his station were burning whale oil, this is pretty significant.”

Maney said he was able to find a local artisan who had the knowledge to restore the pair of ornate lighting fixtures in the formal dining room.

“I always look for local people to use when we have something that needs to be restored,” Maney said. “We have a wonderful community of artisans here who are very talented.”

Because Hyde Hall stayed in the Clarke family until it was acquired by a public trust and the New York State Parks in 1963, much of the original contents of the house are available for study and accession. According to Maney, there are more than 100 boxes of documentation that George Clarke, the builder of Hyde Hall, kept as records of his estate.

“Our purpose here is to make Hyde Hall a destination,” Maney said. “We are interpreting the history of New York, and the history of the United States, through the lives of the Clarke family. It is a personal way to see history and, as we restore the mansion, we are able to show how real people lived during the early days of the country.”

With events such as the Mother’s Day Tea, Maney said he and and the board of directors hope to make connections to the community that will last for future generations.