Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Thursday, 13 March 2014 00:00
Inside the warm and cozy Koenig Center of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, listeners learned about winters 100 years ago. Monica Randall introduced her talk on Winter Dreams with a quote from one of the listeners. “Of snow, the gentleman said, ‘I don’t want to see another snowflake.’”
“People are getting depressed with all the snowfall recently, but, they are not doing stuff like this,” she commented as she showed slides of the magic and enchantment of the winter season as it was celebrated during the last century. The Victorians regarded winter as a time for gala ice skating parties, winter carnivals and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Her program also featured her personal dreams of the Gold Coast era, garlanded in snow as she took “selfies” at Chelsea in Muttontown; at Old Westbury Gardens and at Lake Mahopac’s Hotel on the Mountain.
Randall recently loaned many items from her collection of antique clothing, including winter furs, for an exhibit at the North Shore Historical Museum in Glen Cove, clothes she rescued from oblivion.
She said in the 1950s and 60s, she and her little sister visited Gold Coast estates as they were being demolished. Once they saw the bulldozers shut down at 5 p.m. they knew they could freely explore the mansions. In the third floor of the houses they discovered steamer trunks with old gowns in them, and dresses that cost thousands, such as ones made by famous designer Charles Worth of Paris.
“We found three metal steamer trunks with winter clothes. It was like discovering King Tut’s Tomb. There were unusual furs like moose, Russian sable, ermine and Chinchilla,” said Randall.
The sisters “rescued” the clothing with the goal of starting a museum.
The costumes Randall has rescued have not been left in their trunks. Dressed in a red silk opera cape she took photographs of herself at Westbury Gardens and later in another costume at Lake Mahopac’s Mohonk Mountain House. There they have horse drawn carriages and an ice sleigh that are available for guests to use, she said.
Randall is the author of three books, including The Mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast: Revised
and Expanded. The hardcover is currently selling on Amazon for $373.14. She also authored Winfield: Living in the Shadow of the Woodworths; and Phantoms of the Hudson Valley: The Glorious Estates of a Lost Era.
Philip Blocklyn, OBHS executive director, who previously was a bookseller of old and rare books said, “Her Mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast was out of print, and whenever I got a copy, it was bought right away. It was hard to find and someone recently paid $100 for a copy.”