Blog Round-Up: The Best of 2012

Lindsey Howald Patton —  January 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

The Driehaus Museum blog is a space we envision as stretching beyond our walls; a place we get to share the things we’re interested in or excited about, from preservation to historic Chicago, architecture, the Gilded Age, or American and European decorative arts. Last year we covered Gilded Age social customs and the “servant problem”; took a deeper look at the objects from our collection and zeroed in on features of our historic building’s architecture; and answered some of our visitors’ most pressing questions. In order of popularity, here are the top 10 Driehaus Museum Blog posts of 2012.

1. Below America’s Stairs: Domestic Servants in the Gilded Age

The cast of Downton Abbey's domestic servants. From the Driehaus Museum blog,

The servant system in America’s Gilded Age, when newly wealthy titans of business were constructing households on par with aristocratic Europe and taking out ads for the staff to keep them up, is one of the more fascinating historical topics we explored this year. Both the summer and holiday versions of our new living historyHelp Wanted: The Servants’ Tour, which took visitors through the hidden staircases of the Driehaus Museum’s former servants’ quarters, sold out in 2012. This blog post helped disassociate the American system from the English one; for although the former was inspired by the latter, American culture reigned supreme and helped shorten the life of that very system the wealthy needed to keep up with the Vanderbilts.

2. The Grammar of Ornament

A page from The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones. From the Driehaus Museum blog.

Owen Jones’s late 19th-century design book, The Grammar of Ornament, opened us up to motifs from all over the world. It is a quintessential piece of the Aesthetic Movement, known for its proliferation of decoration and eclecticism.

3. The Ship of Dreams

Newspaper report of Titanic sinking. From the Driehaus Museum Blog,

On the centennial anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s tragic 1912 sinking, this post was another exploration of the cultural currents at work. The Gilded Age, with its rising industry, technology, and wealth, was an era of hope. But the early 20th century, which would have this terrible tragedy as well as World War I in store, both of which would soon be followed by the Great Depression, became known as a time of deflated optimism in American history, whose youth were known as the Lost Generation.

4. You Asked: Didn’t This Building Used to be Black?

The Samuel M. Nickerson Mansion. Driehaus Museum blog.

From our FAQ series, a heroic tale of the restoration of the Driehaus Museum’s exterior.

5. It was Colonel Mustard with the Candlestick…

The largest private conservatory in Chicago at the Edward Uihlein House at 2041 West Pierce Avenue (Frommann & Jebsen, 1877, now demolished). From the Driehaus Museum Blog.

A look at the trend of adding conservatories to late 19th- and early 20th-century domestic architecture.

6. Gatsby’s House

Driehaus Museum Blog,

After reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brilliant The Great Gatsby, I was struck by how neat a critique it was of the dark side of the Gilded Age’s wealth, which was scorned as much as it was a source of awe and fascination. Although the book dealt with a different time period, they used the grand Gilded Age mansions of Newport as a set for the 1974 film. (Includes a clip from the film as well.)

7. 119 Years Since 1893: A Visit to Jackson Park and A Tour of the World’s Fair: Decorative Objects from the 1893 Columbian Exposition

Statue of the Republic by Daniel Chester French in Jackson Park, Chicago. From the Driehaus Museum Blog.

This pair of world’s fair-themed posts were published at different times, but are complementary to one another. The first takes a look at some of the reconstructed or restored parts of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition you can still visit down in Jackson Park today. The second explores objects in the Driehaus Museum’s collection that first debuted at that same fair.

8.[Featured Designer] John Gardner Low


The reception room at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

The gorgeous ceramic tiles from the Chelsea, MA firm J. & J. G. Low Art Tile Works are some of the most stunning elements of the interior design of the Driehaus Museum. This post provides a brief history of how John Low got into the business and the firm’s process, along with photos of examples from our interiors and collection.

9. Becca Brown, Young Preservationist

Becca Brown, Young Preservationist. From the Driehaus Museum Blog.

From our series of profiles of Driehaus Museum members, young Becca Brown was our readers’ favorite.

10. [From the Collection] Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche, from the studio of Orazio Andreoni. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

This post takes an in-depth look at a Venetian sculpture with a popular mythical subject.

Lindsey Howald Patton

Lindsey Howald Patton

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