Preservation Magazine, Summer 2019

A Forgotten Marble Bench Becomes the Centerpiece of Lyndhurst's Restored Seating Area

The restored outdoor seating area at Lyndhurst.

photo by: Lane Coder

Lyndhurst's outdoor seating area now appears much as it did at the turn of the 20th century.

Early in the 20th century, Helen Gould and the Gould family enjoyed the verdant surroundings of their Gothic Revival home, Lyndhurst, from an elegant seating area on the Tarrytown, New York, property’s front lawn. It consisted of a marble panel-back bench, two smaller benches, a fountain adorned with a bronze statue, and several other lawn ornaments.

When Lyndhurst, now a National Trust Historic Site, began a multi-year, multimillion-dollar landscape restoration this past spring, re-establishing the seating area was one of the first tasks. Lyndhurst Assistant Director and Collections Manager Krystyn Hastings-Silver and her team used historic photographs to determine where each piece had been located during the early 20th-century period they intended to re-create. But many of these items had deteriorated over time, and little remained of the original panel-back bench.

A 19th-century Carrara marble bench on the property provided a solution. For decades it had sat hidden in a lilac hedge, accumulating dirt, mold, and lichen. Though Hastings-Silver had known of its existence, it wasn’t until the landscape restoration began that she realized how well it would evoke the spirit of the original. B&H Art-in-Architecture, a New York–based stone and wood restoration and conservation firm, cleaned the bench and two of the property’s smaller benches from the same period. B&H gently blasted them with calcium carbonate particles over multiple visits, completing its work in late April. The seating area is now reassembled, including the fountain, two urns, and a sundial from the original layout.

“The bench allows visitors to engage with the landscape, environment, and history in a real-time manner,” says Hastings-Silver. “We [looked at] the style and intent that the family had and tried to replicate that with the objects they left for us to steward.”

Nicholas Som is a former assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He enjoys museums of all kinds, Philadelphia sports, and tracking down great restaurants.

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