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4.3 out of 5 stars
Gilded Mansions: Grand Architecture and High Society
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I agree with the reviewer in N.C. This is an excellent book. Ive read dozens on this subject (old and new) and Craven's book does the following very well.
a) includes heretofore unpublished photos of homes and people. This is important for the expert who thought he/she had seen it all.
b) the book is beautifully produced. Lush, high grade paper, invitingly formatted.
c) gets all the names and generations right. So many of these books end up confusing names and the generations they belong to. If you are an expert in this subject then you want your Vanderbilts, Burdens, Webbs and Astors correctly named and dated. This adds to the credibility.
d) the bibliography contains books that I did not even know of.

All and all and excellent result !!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a survey book of the material culture of Gilded Age America which manages to conjure a sense of having been there. If you enjoy architecture, art, biography and social history, buy this book, because Mr Craven interweaves all of it into entertaining prose. I love that he associates the period's elaboration of manners, art, furniture, clothes, and architecture, and I think he illuminates both the things and the context that gave rise to them. I love that he incorporates the satire of Charles Dana Gibson and the observations of people like Edith Wharton, Henry James, and Elizabeth Drexel Lehr. I love that he highlights architect Stanford White, and that he selects some worthy houses to explore in greater depth. On the downside, I was disappointed in the too-cursory selection of photos of famous extant houses such as Biltmore, Rosecliff, and Marble House; a few pictures were new to me but most replicate the guidebooks and will be familiar to architecture buffs. There are only five floor plans reproduced. There are some factual and descriptive errors and society apocrypha which, to be fair, occurs in some of my other books about the Gilded Age and it's architecture. Overall, the text rises above it's flaws and includes many beautiful images I've never seen before. Worth buying new, and for me, that's saying something.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was very disappointing and I wavered between 2 and 3 stars. There's nothing new in this book and there is some misinformation, but it's worth looking at for the pictures. I've seen about half in other books, but the other half were new to me and the Gibson cartoons were amusing.

As others have stated, the sheer number of mistakes, grammar errors and typos in this book is shocking. It's as if it weren't edited at all. Names and french phrases, in particular, are misspelled on every third page. I don't know a great deal about architecture, and I even found some mistakes in that area, as well. It was puzzling considering the author's background.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is the most comprehensive account covering the beautiful mansions of the Gilded age.
The text is highly informative and accessible, it puts the properties, their owners, and the architectural details into perspective.
The book is also generously illustrated with hundreds of clear color photographs which depict both the interiors and exteriors in all their glory, also all the photos have captions giving concise information about the illustrations depicted. The bibliography at the end of the book is also helpful.
A highly recommended book for those with special interest in the subject-matter,as well as all those interested in studying fine architecture, or American architectural heritage.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Gilded Mansions: Grand Architecture and High Society by Wayne Craven is NOT a coffee table book. If one is searching for a book whose interior photos are as handsome and elaborate as that of the dust jacket, one needs to breeze by this book. Yes, there are some beautiful photos; yet, virtually none of the color photos are original to this book as I have seen the same photos appear in books on the subject of Newport Rhode Island or the very rich. Yet, there are interesting black & white photos of early Fifth Avenue NY. Again, this is no coffee table book. I did, however, read the book in its' entirety and I found many interesting facts like: the Empire State Building sits on the same site as did, formerly, the Astor mansions. Also, much of the art that has been donated to the Metropolitan Museum came from families reviewed in this book. It will certainly make me read the donor plaques on my next visit to the Metropolitan. Purchase this book as a book to be read over a few weeks as many of the chapters read like the chapter before (though the central characters will change). No, it is not the best book that I've ever read on Gilded Age architecture. Yet, the book stands on its' own merit as a rather concise (perhaps too concise?) tribute to the Gilded Age and those that composed a place and/or time in history that wasn't taught in our high-school or college history classes. Read it to fill-in the gaps of your knowledge of the subject. If you love art, architecture, antiques, good parties, money and social climbers, read it for fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I expected this to be a coffee-table book, but was very pleasantly surprised that it is actually an excellent study of the architectural aspirations of high society at the end of the nineteenth century. The text, although scholarly, was highly readable and the illustrations were excellent. I highly recommend this book to all those who are interested in this period,
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I often read the reviews of others before posting my own, and, I cannot understand anyone panning this book, "Gilded Mansions: Grand Architecture and High Society". It is a grand and glorious homage to the Gilded Age.

It is beautifully presented, quite stunning, with exquisite and informative narrative. Chapters include The Early Mansions, part one and two; Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt: A Petit Chateau on Fifth Avenue; Newport: Vernacular versus Grandeur; Richard Morris Hunt: Biltmore and the Rothschild Factor; The Astor Mansion; Stanford White; Newport Revisited: Rosecliff, Crossways and The Elms.

I cannot agree with some reviewers who have dismissed this book as merely a "once you have seen one you have seen them all" Gilded Age book. It is a splendid book that transports the reader with a subtle ambiance.

If you love the Gilded Age, the history of New York and or Newport, or love the architecture and great architects such as Stanford White, you will love this book. Truly a labor of love from author Wayne Craven.
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on June 15, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I agree with the majority of reviews that it was a very interesting read. Anyone interested in this age and the architecture will enjoy this book.
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19 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I rated this book one star because the program required a rating. I'd rather have rated it no stars. I've read some poorly written books in my day; but this book was at the top of the list. Time after time I found really inexcusable errors and even text that was at odds with captions under illustrations on the same page. I was appalled by the sheer amount of misinformation that anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of Gilded Age architecture would recognize. What I find so annoying is that this book was written by someone who should have known better and was published by a reputable company. To be fair, there were some interesting photographs and an occational bit of new information. But for the most part it was a rehash of common knowledge that anyone could have accessed. Quite frankly I found almost nothing in this book that would have warranted purchasing it. I'm sorry I did.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the best books on the Gilded Age Ive seen . Lively and interesting text . Lots of color pics too .
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