The Gilded Butler

DSCN1350_2A few years ago, I decided to challenge myself.  I took a small idea and spent a year building it from something very small, and transformed it into a book.  That book then grew to be a bigger project that caused me to realize just how amazed I was with the past. The focus of the book (series) is time travel and the consequences of such a capability.  While spending counteless nights working on the transcript, I found myself spending more time hung up on the past than living in the present.  At that point, I understood my fixation was not so much an obsession, but a fascination with other lives in different eras and how the slightest curveball could offset someone’s path drastically.  As I allowed my mind to dwell in different times, I discovered my love for the Gilded Age and the 1920s- specifically with the lives of those who lived beyond common man’s reach.

The mission of this site is to explore some of North America’s most precious monuments to the Gilded Age and Roaring Twenties- the homes of the rich, powerful, and historical figures that helped shape our history.

The name “Gilded Butler” emerged when I became frustrated over the title of this page.  I wanted something grand, mysterious, or even vague.  My mind kept going to gold, chandeliers, and fine China.  While thats all wonderful, none carried much knowledge.  So the more I thought and voiced ideas, a blend of words finally came to mind.  The Gilded Butler-  Essentially, those two words are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  by definition, Gilded often refers to something painted in gold leaf.  A Butler serves those of high rank.  While they seem to be polar opposites, they are also one in the same.  A butler often is the golden figure in the household.  His value is not in material, but in secrets and knowledge.  No one knows more about the house and the occupants than the one silently waiting on their every need.  In a way, there is no one more valuable, and no one more deadly.  Who is more powerful-  The man who owns the silver platter, or the one who serves with it?

-Matthew J. Niewenhous

(All photos are taken by me unless noted)

11 thoughts on “The Gilded Butler

  1. Matthew – Have fun in your ventures; I’m enjoying your stories and have shared your site with my Facebook friends…Great stuff! Mike and I have been to the Biltmore, so I look forward to reading your perspective on that one as well.

    • Hey!! Thank you- I appreciate it. The Biltmore and Bellevue Ave are the locations I’m most excited about. You’ll be seeing some of Canada soon when I post about my great grandfather- maybe your old friend will make a cameo on his boat!

  2. I find this site to be extremely interesting and admire you for your undertaking the task of bringing the past back to ilfe. The Gilded Age is a fascinating time in America’s history and I cannot wait to see how you bring it back to life for those of us who are enamored of this time. I hope you publish lots of pictures – Good Luck and Good Writing!

    • Thank you! I appreciate the positive words. I enjoy researching and spending time in these houses. I won’t post about a house that I have not physically been in and photographed. I think it makes it a little more exciting to present it if I have actually walked around the grounds and spent time in the rooms. My first post, Shadow Lawn Mansion (and Guggenheim Mansion) are both mansions on my college campus. I spent almost every day for four years inside these buildings. That is where my appreciation for that era originated.

  3. I’ve had this site bookmarked for quite a while and visit it often hoping to see new content/photos. I’m never disappointed. Bravo!

  4. Hello — I found your website while doing research on Nathan F. Barrett, a landscape architect who may have worked for Martin Maloney. I’m trying to find some local documentation, because, as you confirm, Ballingarry has been torn down. I wonder if you have ever come across any mention of N.F. Barrett? He worked on many of the seaside estates in New Jersey, so I’m not surprised to see his name linked to Maloney. But I’m trying to create a database of all of Barrett’s projects, and would really like to have some definitive evidence that he did indeed work for Maloney!

    Thanks in advance for any information that you might have!

    Gail Sansbury, PhD

    PS About me — I’m a retired planning history and american studies teacher, and I’m doing research on Nathan Barrett because a local historical society has some drawings of his plan for their suburban community — and they sparked our interest in learning more about Barrett.

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