Popular Living History Tours Return: It’s 1939 in Vanderbilt Mansion

Beginning Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 25

Members of the Living History cast: Florence Lucker (left), Peter Reganato, Beverly Pokorny, Ellen Mason
Vanderbilt Museum photo

The Vanderbilt’s popular Living History tours will return on Memorial Day weekend, on Saturday, May 25. Tours run through Sunday, September 1.

Tours will be given every Saturday and Sunday at regular intervals between 12:00 and 3:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased only at the door and the price includes general admission and a guided tour. Adults $18, seniors (age 62 plus)/students with ID $17, children age 12 and under $15.

This summer it’s 1939 in the Mansion. Guides in costume as family members and household staff tell stories of the Vanderbilt family and its famous guests.

Over the years, Rosamond and William Vanderbilt’s guests included William’s sister Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, aviator Charles Lindbergh, publisher Conde Nast and jeweler Pierre Cartier.

Among the characters portrayed by the Mansion guides will be Mayor LaGuardia; Millicent Hearst (wife of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst); Whitney Warren of Warren & Wetmore Architects, who designed the Vanderbilt Mansion and Grand Central Terminal; the Duchess of Windsor; and William Vanderbilt’s siblings, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan and Harold Vanderbilt, an expert on contract bridge and winner of the America’s Cup.

Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs, said, “The guides will highlight some of the major events of 1939, including the New York World’s Fair. NBC did its first television broadcast, of a Princeton-Columbia football game. Joe Louis won the first heavyweight boxing title, the first Superman comic book was published, and the movies that opened included Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

“Among the surprising economic facts of that year – a gallon of gas cost 10 cents; a loaf of bread was 8 cents; the average new house cost $3,800; and the average annual wage was $1,730.”

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