Miss Florence Mathews

Born on Christmas Day, 1855, in New York, Miss Florence Mathews was 21 years old when her father, in 1876, purchased the famous estate of the late LeGrand Lockwood.

Florence Mathews at the Mansion, 1876

Having lived with her brother, Charles Thompson Mathews, a well-known architect in his time, Miss Florence enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, sailing to Europe almost every year and socializing with notable celebrities of the time. At the same time, she enjoyed the simpler things in life such as relaxing at her summer home in Norwalk, which she called "The Elms," "Elm Park," or, more simply, the "Norwalk House." From May until early December, Miss Florence entertained numerous members of her family, along with guests that included friends, distant relatives, and others. The Mathews Estate, as it was called by the locals, required a large staff to run for the months that the house was kept open. A Superintendent of the Estate managed the working staff, which included a head gardener, five gardener's assistants, two stablemen, one maintenance man, two full-time laundresses, one scullery maid, two cooks, one butler, a personal nurse for Miss Mathews, a valet, a coachman, a page-boy to run errands, and two full-time maids. The Superintendent made sure that all aspects of day-to-day activities went as smoothly as possible, and that any problems were solved quickly and efficiently.

Florence Mathews, 1930

With the death of her brother Charles in January of 1934, Miss Mathews no longer desired to reside in the more modern Fifth Avenue Townhouse that her brother had designed, and decided instead to make her permanent residence at the Norwalk House. While the average Depression-era family had difficulty in affording a small bag of coal and enough food to feed the family each day, Miss Mathews maintained a staff of more than ten people, kept the furnaces (which burned one ton of coal per-day) running all winter, and continued the lavish lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.

By August of 1938, Miss Florence's health had dramatically declined. Although she had spent almost all her life battling illness, and was often referred to as "an invalid," her health was now at its lowest point. While recovering from a difficult battle with Rheumatic Fever, she suffered a heart attack on August 9. The heart attack was not fatal, and she seemed to be on the mend, but in the early hours of August 16, 1938, Miss Florence Mathews passed away while sleeping peacefully in the house she loved for so long. She was 82 years old.