High Style in the Gilded Age: Southampton 1870-1930

3 Janet Hoyt and the SH Summer School of Art c 1905

Once the Long Island Rail Road was extended to Southampton in 1870, the town changed from a sleepy agricultural area to a fashionable vacation area for the wealthy. Summer “cottages” began to be built, with a pretense of rural simplicity. But, inevitably, country charm began to give way to city polish. Gilded Age excess moved in and beach picnics gave way to elaborate formal balls. Ladies arrived for the summer with trunkloads of gowns for social engagements, and the social season became just as elaborate as in the city.

Then, a younger generation began to take over, and moved away from excess and formality. By the 1920s, the flapper was a modern girl who liked cocktails and cigarettes and had no time for corsets and formality.

The women in the Southampton Historical Museum’s latest exhibit were Southampton’s trendsetters, admired by all and lavishly written about in the society columns.

You’ll meet the Cyder triplets, who made their society debut in 1900. They became the talk of New York, appearing on magazine covers and in much ink in New York social columns. The Cryder oceanfront summer house is now gone, but their presence is memorialized by Cryder Lane.

Grace Clarke Newton was an accomplished poet and a member the East End equestrian set where her husband, Richard Newton Jr, was Master of the Suffolk Hounds. After her premature death, Richard, a well known artist, illustrated Poems in Passing, a collection of her poetry.

Main pic is the Southampton Summer School of Art, 1905. Janet “Nettie” Hoyt was credited in 1887 as the force responsible for “starting the fashion of cottage life at Southampton.” She lured William Merritt Chase to Shinnecock Hills to start a school, where his students set up their easels.



As a young woman, Ruth Wales summered in Southampton before she fell in love with Henry Francis du Pont and became the mistress of Winterthur, the magnificent du Pont home in Delaware that became a world-renowned museum of American furniture. She and Henry were married in June 1916. Ruth and Henry built Chestertown House in Southampton on Meadow Lane.

A reception for “High Style in the Gilded Age: Southampton 1870-1930” is this Saturday, August 17, from 4 to 6PM, at the Rogers Mansion, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton. RSVP by calling (631) 283-2494 or emailing ggangi@southamptonhistory.org. The exhibit will be open through August 8, 2020, Wednesdays to Saturdays, 11AM to 4PM. Fee is $5 adults, free for members and children 17 and under.