Grey Towers
Milford, Pennsylvania - May 23, 2010
We took pictures of Grey Towers in Milford, Pennsylvania. Completed in 1886, Grey Towers was the summer estate of Gifford Pinchot, twice governor of Pennsylvania. At a time when pristine lands were abundant in America, he came up with what perhaps seemed an absurd idea -- conserving nature. He founded the USDA Forest Service. And because of him the US now has all the national parks she has today.

Gifford Pinchot was a wealthy man. He inherited his wealth from his father, James Pinchot, who was immensely successful in the wallpaper business. Grey Towers shows off that wealth. The 43-room, three-floor mansion is situated on a high elevation on the northern tip of the Poconos with majestic views all around. The rooms’ walls are either paneled or ornately decorated. Just about every window presents a dramatic view of the 300 acre garden surrounding it.

There were about 30 visitors when we went there. According to the tour guide at the nearby Columns Museum that we visited earlier, Grey Towers ranks among the world’s top historical attractions and is not to be missed. We couldn’t disagree. And all that for only a $6 admission.

While walking around from room to room, a fellow visitor occasionally talked either to herself or to me -- I couldn’t tell which -- about things she noticed. The house didn’t originally have closets, she mused, so this closet must have been added later. These picture books on pedestals explain features of the room, she told me -- or to herself. The Roosevelt Mansion in Poughkeepsie in comparison was a house you can actually live in, she told me. (This time I was sure she was talking to me because she asked me if I was the one from Middletown. Before the tour started, we were asked by the tour guide where we were from.) The Grey Towers with its opulence, she said, showed “conspicuous consumption” that was prevalent among the rich during that time.

Back when America was largely unexplored, people came to start a new life. A peasant in the Old World packed what belongings he had, boarded a ship, and sailed for the wilderness of forests, trees, and rivers in the New World, not knowing what the future held and knowing only that hard work was what would put a roof above his head. Once settled he'd either work as a laborer or wheel and deal on anything he could get his hands on -- shipping, farming, mining, carpentry, or wallpapers -- so he could perhaps make a fortune that he could pass on to his succeeding generations.

Today, we view the lifestyles of the country’s rich sometimes with wonder and sometimes with contempt. The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Fitzgeralds, and others are perhaps nothing more than spoiled brats to many of us. But love them or hate them, the lives they lead today are exactly what their forefathers had in mind for them when they came to America a generation or two ago.

Click on a picture to enlarge.
Front door.
Second floor.
Sitting room on the second floor. Vi took this picture.
Study on the second floor. Vi took this picture.
Dining room on the second floor.
I'm not sure what this room is on the second floor.
Stairs leading up to the attic.
Another study in the bedroom on the second floor.
Library on the ground floor.
Vi is viewing the picturebook that shows information about the room.
Vi took this picture.
Approach to Grey Towers.
Grey Towers.
View of the Poconos.
Steel bench. Vi took this picture.
Garden. Vi took this picture.
The building on the left is called the “Letter Box, a small cottage intended both as an archive for his papers and an office for his political staff when he [Gifford Pinchot] was in residence.” (
Reflecting pool.
The house is “built in the style of a French ch?teau to reflect the Pinchot family's French origins.” (
Side door.
Cody by the “Finger Bowl” where guests picked on and passed around floating food.
Vi chatting with another visitor. The woman told me earlier the house showed the “conspicuous consumption” of the times.
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