Larry Hart got the idea to decorate his mansion with spackle squeezed out of cake-frosting tubes from a book on Versailles. “As I looked at those pictures,” he said, “it just struck me that it [Versailles] looked like a giant wedding cake.” As Joyce Wadler recently described it in The New York Times, ornate plasterwork swirls throughout the Hartland Mansion, slathered on the ceilings, mirrors, pillars and angels.

 

Wadler gives us a tour of the mansion, all the while sporting an ironic New York attitude:

A house with 32 chandeliers, twin spiral staircases and so much rococo plasterwork that Marie Antoinette, were she planning a weekend in Vegas, would say, “The heck with the Bellagio, I want to stay with the Hart family in that rundown neighborhood where Liberace used to live,” may not be for… More…

Nothing sums up the Victorians’ freakish attitudes on sex as the notion that they were aroused by cabinetry. The author Matthew Sweet has shown that this fanciful story actually began with an English tourist in the United States. In 1837, a pompous Captain Frederick Marryat visited a seminary for young ladies in Niagara Falls, where he was astonished to discover the piano legs sheathed in “modest little trousers.” These covers, a local guide confided, were necessary to preserve the “utmost purity of ideas” amongst the impressionable young girls. On another occasion, a Yankee girl told Marryat that even saying the word leg was considered too risqué in America; “limb” was preferred at a pinch. Captain Marryat dutifully recorded these factoids in A Diary in America.

There are no other records of this conservative New York habit; possibly the piano legs were really covered at the seminary to keep off dust…. More…