Volunteer Designers, Garden Clubs Create Magic in the Mansion

Come for a Guided Holiday Tour through December 30

Vanderbilt Mansion Library
Vanderbilt Museum photo

The halls of the Vanderbilt Mansion are decked in their holiday finery. From the stately library to the dining room to the bedrooms, the grand house is filled with lighted trees, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, poinsettias, garlands, and elegantly wrapped faux gifts. Visitors will find the decorated Mansion a portal to holidays past.

These embellishments, which add to the charm and magic of the mansion, are the creative work of designers and garden clubs that volunteer their time to decorate the mansion each year. The spectacular, 24-room, Spanish-Revival house, former summer home of Rosamond and William K. Vanderbilt II, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Vanderbilt Mansion and Estate are home to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum.

Visitors can see the captivating results from now through December 30. Guides take guests on tours of the Mansion on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (and Thursday-Monday, December 26-30 during school vacation) at regular intervals between 11:15 am and 4:00 pm.

Special Twilight Tours of the Mansion will be given on Friday and Saturday, December 27-28, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.  Space on tours is limited and tickets are available online ONLY.

Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors (student ID, or age 62 plus) and $6 for children 12 and under.

Purchase Tickets


These tours are a treat for visitors, and the only time of the year the Vanderbilt family’s private living quarters can be seen at night. Hot chocolate and cookies are included.

Mary Schlotter (right) and her daughter, Krishtia McCord, decorate the Vanderbilt dining table
Vanderbilt Museum photo

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, said “We’re grateful each year to these creative and generous volunteers who use their artistic skills to bring enchanting holiday grandeur to this grand house.”

Participants and the rooms they decorated:

  • Dix Hills Garden Club – Sonia Henie Room
  • Honey Hills Garden Club – Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Room
  • Nathan Hale Garden Club – Organ Room
  • Asharoken Garden Club – Mr. Vanderbilt’s Room
  • Three Village Garden Club – Upstairs Yellow Guestroom
  • Harbor Homestead & Co. – Dining Room
  • Centerport Garden Club – Portuguese Sitting Room
  • Volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Suffolk County – Outdoor Decorations
  • Felicia Greenberg of Table Art and Event Designs – Floral sculptures in the Library, Mr. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom, and Upstairs Yellow Guestroom
  • Vanderbilt Staff – Killian Taylor- Northport Porch, Entrance Foyer, and Breakfast Hallway, Maryann Zakshevsky – Arcade
  • Ethan Allen – Memorial Wing Lobby

Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs, said, ‘The garden clubs and decorators have been with us for many years, and this year we welcomed two new designers. Ethan Allen created the ‘Enchanted Flight of the Cardinals’ installation for us in the Memorial Wing lobby, and Felicia Greenberg contributed her magnificent silk floral sculptures. Our visitors will be delighted with the 2019 holiday season décor.”

Centerport designers Mary Schlotter and her daughter Krishtia McCord – who operate Harbor Homestead & Co. – brought back the festive holiday dresses they created and displayed in the Mansion during the past two years. This year, the dresses adorn Rosamond Vanderbilt’s luxurious, mirrored dressing room. The duo also decorated the dining room.

“Our dining room design was inspired by ‘Downton Abbey’,” Schlotter said. “The room and furniture are dark, but the single window has a beautiful view of Northport Bay and Long Island Sound. We decided to set the table in simple whites and silver – two silver candelabras flanked by compotes arranged with white magnolia, amaryllis, pinecones, and magnolia leaves. In the center of the table is a silver pheasant. We folded the napkins in a bishop’s miter form to give the place settings a royal feel. We think [Downtown Abbey butler] Mr. Carson would approve.”

One sideboard is set for dinner, she said, the other for dessert and spirits: “The sparkling glasses, and the silver and white design touches catch the light and give a sense that Christmas dinner is about to be served.”

Two decorated and lighted trees complete the Estate decorations. At the entrance, the lighted 15-foot spruce near the arc of six Carthaginian columns is the gift of J.G. Brands Christmas Tree Sales, Inc., of Bellerose, Queens. The other, the centerpiece of the Mansion Courtyard, is a massive, 35-foot spruce donated by Keri and John Hollander of Centereach, L.I. The Hollanders purchased the live tree as their first family Christmas tree 30 years ago.

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