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Take a Time-Machine Trip to 1936

Two More Tours: Sundays, August 30 and September 6, 2015

Vanderbilt Mansion Living History tours are a way to travel back in time, and to meet some of Willie and Rose Vanderbilt’s famous summer guests.

Living History tour tickets: $10 for adults, $9 for Senior (age 62+ or Student with school ID and $5 for children under age 12.

Vanderbilt Museum Living History actors, from left, Rick Outcault, Florence Lucker, Ellen Mason, Jim Ryan, Beverly Pokorny, Mary McKell and Carmen Collins.
Vanderbilt Museum Living History actors, from left, Rick Outcault, Florence Lucker, Ellen Mason, Jim Ryan, Beverly Pokorny, Mary McKell and Carmen Collins.

Featured guests are golf champion Sam Snead, played by Jim Ryan, and renowned writer Dorothy Parker, portrayed by Carmen Collins. Other cast members include Florence Lucker, Rick Outcault, Mary McKell, Beverly Pokorny, Susan Bowe and Ellen Mason.

Renowned Vanderbilt Family Summer Guests

Sam Snead was one of golf’s giants, and his 82 career PGA Tour victories is still the all-time record. He played the course at Mr. Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest estate on June 19, 1936.  His score card (from the archival collection) shows that he shot a 57 that day. When interviewed by a local newspaper in 1995, he fondly recalled his visit with the Vanderbilts and said the course was not an easy one to play. He said that Vanderbilt was a very nice man and he had an “old fashioned picnic dinner here that included big bowls of fresh strawberries.”

The accomplished poet and writer Dorothy Parker, a friend of Gloria Vanderbilt, was a drama critic for The New Yorker. She was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, an informal gathering of writers who lunched at the Algonquin Hotel. The group – which included Robert Benchley, Harpo Marx, George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber –was known for its scathing wit and intellectual commentary.

The year 1936 was important in Vanderbilt history. Rosamund and Willie Vanderbilt completed their mansion with the construction of the Library and the Memorial Wing, which honored their son, William Kissam Vanderbilt III, who had died in an auto accident. Mr. Vanderbilt also added the 32-foot whale shark to his wild-animals dioramas in his Habitat. In December of that year, the Vanderbilts’ friend The Prince of Wales – who in January had become King Edward VIII upon the death of his father, King Edward V – would abdicate the British throne to marry the American Wallis Simpson.

For more than a decade, Living History tours have been a highlight of museum’s summer events. Museum staff member-actors, in costume and in character as household servants and famous guests, take visitors through the sprawling 24-room, Spanish-Revival waterfront mansion and regale them with stories about the family, its guests and its adventures.

The stories are based on the oral histories of people who lived nearby and worked on the Mansion staff as teenagers. Some stories also come from Mr. Vanderbilt’s personal journals and letters, and the privately-published books of his world travels and extensive sea journeys.

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