Published: September 28, 2021
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
NORWALK, CONN. – It was a perfect late summer day on September 19 as the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum (LMMM) hosted its 14th annual Old-Fashioned Flea Market on the grounds in Mathews Park after a year’s absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Clear, sunny skies and comfortable strolling temperatures greeted shoppers from the event’s opening at 10 am until its close at 4 pm. And making it more than just a scenic stroll were about 70 vendors hailing from Norwalk and nearby Connecticut and Westchester, N.Y., towns set up around the grounds with all manner of merchandise ranging from the craft-y, household surplus and a smattering of antiques, books and vintage decorative arts. In all, it was a memorable day of old friends reconnecting, making new ones and ambling through the scenic grounds of the National Historic Landmark.
The mansion itself is a draw at other times in the year. Regarded as one of the earliest and most significant Second Empire-style country houses in America, it was built by financier and railroad magnate LeGrand Lockwood from 1864 to 1868. Its striking architecture was a precursor to later examples in Newport, R.I., and Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, and its interiors exemplify the splendor of the Victorian era.
Lockwood’s finances took a nosedive in 1869 and when he died three years later, the estate, which was then known as “Elm Park,” was foreclosed upon and sold to a prominent New York importer, Charles Mathews and his wife Rebecca. They lived there until 1938 and in 1941 the estate was sold to the city of Norwalk and designated as a public park. Interestingly, the interior spaces feature a mix of furnishings and decorative arts from both the Lockwood and Mathews families – including a butler’s pantry where pieces of the dinner services of each family have their own shelves.
Overseen by Susan Gilgore, PhD, LMMM’s executive director, with the help of staff and volunteers, including Melissa Feliciano Erickson, manager of museum services, and Charles Hill, building, events and education coordinator, the Flea Market is an annual crowd-pleaser that incorporates the mansion’s glamour and style with an old-fashioned outdoor bazaar. “It was a great turnout with close to 2,000 visitors, and 200 people took a tour of the mansion’s exhibit, “Health, Healing and Addiction in Nineteenth Century America,” said Susan Gilgore. “LMMM’s Flea Market returns every year by popular demand. Communities all across the region love it, and it’s a wonderful event for people of all ages who like to stroll in a beautiful park looking for treasures, learn about vintage and antique cars and walk through this iconic mansion without having to schedule a guided tour.”
The market layout follows the park’s meandering pathways with vendors set up under pop-up canopies or with simple tabletop displays of their merchandise. In front of the mansion itself is a grouping of tables comprising the museum’s “White Elephant” boutique. Committee member Rose Carroll is in charge of pricing the various items – porcelain, tablewares, household tools and gadgets and such – that are donated by friends of the museum for its annual sale. She said there was a wealth of material this time around, owing to the fact that the event was cancelled in 2020 and added that she spent about 25 hours pricing the items. She brought a nice selection of houseplants, including coleus and spider plants, that were finding eager buyers on one of the last days of summer, and they were being offered for donations. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the White Elephant table go to the museum.
Civic betterment is also the guiding principle for Norwalk resident and local Eagle’s Club Helga Garnett, who was set nearby with a table attractively covered with large baskets containing pinecones covered in various colors of wax, which can be used as fire-starters for one’s fireplace. She said people bring her pinecones and candle stubs, which she transforms into the fire-starters, melting the candles in a crockpot and then dipping in the pine cones to coat them. Her proceeds from these and also from donations collected from a large selection of plants she was offering are given to local charitable causes, this year earmarked for cancer.
A couple of food trucks were on hand in the parking areas to make sure shoppers maintained their stamina. Said this year’s show chair, Steve Balser, who was also set up among the vendors doing business as Old Horizons Antiques, “What a wonderful day for a grand picnic on the lawns in Mathews Park with the majestic Lockwood-Mathews Mansion as the centerpiece.”
Adding glamor and style to the day’s activities was a concours of antique and vintage automobiles arrayed in front of the mansion, including a 1911 Hupmobile, a 1931 Ford Model A, two 1926 Ford Model Ts and a 1983 Ferrari with a special built body. Later, a 1930 Woodie Wagon joined the car display. With them was a vintage dressed group of friends of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, including Connecticut Seaport Car Club members Parker and Gwen Ackley, Mark and Karen Milosky, Lissa Seeberger and Peggie and Don Morey.
Said Gwen Ackley, “For my husband Parker and myself, our drive to and from the event at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion was a milestone for our 1911 Hupmobile Model 20 Roadster. Driving more than 14 miles to attend, it was the longest excursion that the 110-year-old car has been driven since being completely apart. Afterwards, our friends Mark and Karen Milosky followed us in their Model A during the return ride through Westport, Conn.
“The weather for the fundraiser could not be better, with clear skies and comfortable temperatures, especially for our group attired in period dress. There was a large turnout of vendors and spectators on the lawns surrounding the stately mansion. Many stopped by to admire the antique cars, taking photos and politely asking questions. Even young children were interested in seeing what the cars looked like inside, being held up to view the interiors by their parents.”
“It was a great day to hang out with our car club friends in our vintage outfits and admire the beautiful architecture of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum,” said car club member Lissa Seeberger. “Several people commented that we all fit right into its antique porch, where we cooled off in the shade.”
For additional information, www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com or 203-838-9799.
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