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‘Living History’: In the Mansion, It’s 1936

‘Living History’ cast members: Ellen Mason, Peter Reganato, Beverly Pokorny and Florence Lucker
Vanderbilt Museum photo

It’s 1936 again in the Vanderbilt Mansion. Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan is enjoying a reunion of her friends in the women’s suffrage movement. In the Vanderbilt’s popular, annual Living History tours, guides dressed as members of the Vanderbilt family and household staff tell stories about the Mansion’s famous residents and their world-renowned visitors.

Living History tours are given Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. Tickets: $8 per person, available only at the door.

For more than a decade, Living History tours have delighted visitors to the elegant 24-room, Spanish-Revival waterfront mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stories told on the tours are based on the oral histories of people who worked for the Vanderbilts as teenagers and young adults. Some stories originated in Mr. Vanderbilt’s books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

This summer it will be 1936 again. “The movie Captains Courageous with Spencer Tracy is playing in the theaters, and Agatha Christie’s new novel, Dumb Witness, is in the bookstores,” said Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs. “Legendary aviator Amelia Earhart is lost at sea in July, and European leaders are faced with threats of German expansion. And the U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp in honor of the women’s voting rights activist and social reformer Susan B. Anthony on the 30th anniversary of her death in 1906.”

The Vanderbilt has been called a “museum of a museum” – the mansion, natural-history and marine collections galleries are preserved exactly as they were when the Vanderbilts lived on the estate.

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