Rococo Fireplace

First Floor

Work & Commerce Gallery - The East Parlor

Like many of the fireplaces in Philipse Manor Hall, this one has seen many changes and combines several architectural. The original overmantel likely dates to the time of Frederick Philipse II, who built this addition to the house in the 1740s. The Ionic columns flanking the fireplace (and the doors) were popular in the 1730s and '40s in Europe as part of the Palladian style which emphasized Classical themes. This is also reflected in the carved oak leaf and acorn motif behind the carved face of a female figure - likely meant to represent Diana (or Artemis), goddess of the hunt, reflected by the crossed quivers and arrows behind her.

However, there are Rococo elements in the overmantel as well, notably the floral wood carvings flanking the overmantel and the cutwork woodwork around what would have originally been a mirror. It is unclear when these carvings date to - some 19th century popular illustrations of this room show them in place, but a 1899 photograph does not. If they were original, the fireplace may have been constructed or remodeled by Frederick Philipse III in the Rococo style to match the installation of the Rococo papier mâché ceiling.

The fireplace minus its Rococo elements! From "Some Colonial Homesteads and Their Stories" by Marion Harlan, 1899. The spikes in front of the fireplace may have been part of a barrier installed when the house was used as Yonkers City Hall.

As you can see from the 1899 image, the fireplace was not always tiled. It was bricked closed and bore a French stone mantel and sides of bluish stone before the 1911 restoration of the property. At the time, it was believed that the stone had come from a quarry owned by William W. Woodworth, who owned the house prior to 1868. According to scholar Edward Hagaman Hall,

“This incongruity has been removed, the fireplace opened, and imported Dutch tiles of a conventional pattern in blue on a white background inserted.”
The East Parlor fireplace as illustrated in Edward Hagaman Hall's book, "Philipse Manor Hall," published in 1912.

Recent research, however, has brought this account into question.

In the 2005 report Philipse Manor Hall: A Historical Architectural Context and Stylist Analysis, architectural historian J. Ritchie Garrison questions the accepted history of the original stone mantel. Garrison uncovered in Marion Harlan's Some Colonial Homesteads and Their Stories, published in 1899, dark photographs of the room’s overmantel (pictured above), which was identified as being in the French Louis XIV style. Garrison notes that the style was “more popular in the United Provinces [the Dutch Republic] and on the Continent than in England.” Garrison posed the possibility that, even as subjects of an English colony, the Philipses may have had access to French stone.

As wealthy international traders, they would have had access to materials the average English colonist would not, and the means to import them. A piece of the blue stone which may have been part of the mantel was found during the archeological dig in 2021, conducted prior to the building of the museum’s new wing.