However, it's at Christmas time that these homes really shine. Especially when the curator has done their research and knows how to decorate authentically.
I thought for today's posting I would show you a few photos that I took of decorated Victorian homes which may help to put you in a Christmas mood. I have made the attempt myself to bring a bit of Christmas past into my own house, and a few of those pictures are here as well.
I'm not going to go into too much depth here into the history of each decoration, but I would like to present a snippet of Christmas past to whet the appetite.
A show and tell of sorts. I hope you enjoy it.
Let's begin with the Crocker House Museum in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, run by Kim Parr. Ms. Parr is well-known locally (and not so locally) for her social history knowledge of the mid-to-late Victorian era. A number of years ago she was the 'house lead' at Greenfield Village's Firestone Farm and also began their mourning program at the Adams House which still runs annually over Memorial Weekend. Kim is now in charge of the Crocker House Museum, an Italianate home built in 1869, where she continuously keeps the house's history at the community forefront by holding historical teas, having guest speakers, and, of course, shows the house as it would have looked 'dressed' in mourning. Christmas, however, brightens the place like no other season. In fact, Kim has each room showing a different Christmas scene:
|The 1869 Crocker House in Mt. Clemens, Michigan|
|From the sitting room with the large tree...|
|...to the parlor with the feather tree.|
|And the dining room is set for a feast!|
Next I'd like to bring you to my favorite place of solace, Greenfield Village. Being an internationally known open-air museum - on par with Colonial Williamsburg - you know the curators have done their research, and it shows.
|This is the doorway to the 1822 home of Noah Webster and his wife Rebecca|
|The front porch of the 1860's Susquehanna House|
|Here is the fireplace mantel in the parlor of the 1860 Susquehanna Plantation, originally located in Maryland. Christmas can't be far away.|
|What a magnificent spread of food for the Holiday visitors!|
|Here is a closer look at the extravagance that a wealthy family can share with their family and friends.|
|Welcome to the home of Henry Ford|
|Welcome to Christmas 1876|
|Look at all of these wonderful desserts!|
|The Ford sitting room fireplace mantel is probably my favorite decorative mantel in all of Greenfield Village.|
|The Eagle Tavern is a fine place to dine on food one would have eaten had they lived in Michigan in 1850. Each dish is prepared according to the season of the year. Notice the snow flurries - helping to give us that Christmas-y feeling!|
|My daughter wait patiently for her fare.|
|Our friend, Mrs. Cutcher, studies the menu while deciding what she would like. The Eagle Tavern truly gives one that feeling of being "there" - back in the mid-19th century.|
|Welcome to the home of the Adams Family (no! Not THAT Adams family!), built in Saline, Michigan in 1833|
|The ladies of the Adams House prepare for the family coming to celebrate Christmas|
|What a fine Christmas Tree the Adams set up. During the mid-19th century, decorating the Christmas Tree was also called "Dressing the Tree."|
|Here we are at Firestone Farm, originally built in 1828 and updated in 1882, all decked out for Christmas!|
|The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...On a cold December's day, sitting near the hearth of the fireplace is the only place to be!|
|A finer Christmas dinner you shan't find elsewhere.|
|And the dining room table is bedecked with the delectable delights of homemade desserts!|
|Now we're at the home of the grandparents of Thomas Edison, built in sections beginning in 1833. For Christmas they show the year 1915.|
|Holiday greenery criss-crosses the sitting room ceiling.|
|A festive atmosphere reigns in the Edison home. Note the feather tree on the table, still popular after the turn of the 20th century.|
|Look at the dessert table!!|
|The 1870's boarding house of Sarah Jordan also celebrates Christmas for her customers who are far from home.|
|Wait - what's that? Why, it's another feather tree!|
|Over at the Wright Brother's House, the porch is decorated with roping and people!|
|And on the inside of the Wright Home, the Christmas Tree is beautifully decorated as it was in ca1903|
Let's head to a more rural part of Michigan, out near Jackson in a little area known as Waterloo, where Christmas is held at an 1880's farming complex once owned by the Realy family.
Every year a few of us that do living history will "take over" the farmhouse and bring the past to life for the visitors that tour the home. We'll practice a combination of 1st and 3rd person as the folks walk through and that seems to draw them into our time-travel experience.
|Welcome to the 1880 Realy Farm House in Waterloo, Michigan|
|A peak in the front window shows the Realy's are preparing for Christmas|
|Here is the inside of the above window scene|
|Like many homes in the 19th century, a feather tree - made of real goose feathers - adds the perfect Victorian touch.|
|Here we are, ready to become the ghosts of Christmas past. Note the roping on the door behind.|
|The front door of a replica 1840's log cabin. Yes, pioneers did what they could to celebrate the Christmas Holiday, even a little greenery on the door.|
|Christmas in a log cabin gives as cozy a Christmas look as one could have!|
I have always loved the look and feel of the Victorian Christmas and envied not only the historical home curators that were given the opportunity to decorate in such a way, but our ancestors who actually lived 'back then." So I studied their manner and style and tried to replicate it in my own 1944 bungalow. Crazy, huh? Well, I believe I made it work. But, at first it was a more subtle version of higher-end mall decor. Then I began to pay closer attention to what I saw in these historic homes rather than what the stores told me was Victorian.
So I began to find and purchase more period-correct decorations - some replicas and a few originals.
It just takes a little at a time and patience, you know?
So here are a few Christmas photos in my own home:
|Here is a close up of our fireplace mantel.|
|Fruit was a welcome gift at Christmas, and apples, oranges, pears, even pineapples were a big treat for our Victorian ancestors.|
|For some reason, candles and oil lamps seem to present the perfect Christmas lighting, adding greatly to the whole ambiance of the room. A feather tree tops off the period look.|
|Here you go! Candle and oil lamp lit!|
|The decor is very colonial in nature on the Independence Hall replica facade.|
|A Christmas greens lot is set up outside the museum front. As you can see, all is very traditional to a Victorian style greenery while the building behind retains its colonial spirit.|
|The Village staff have done a fine job to help those that would like to decorate their own home in a Victorian manner|
I hope you enjoyed this little journey through Christmas Past. I have been very bless'd to have a wife who shares my historical passions and allows me to not only visit the past (and joins me while doing so!), but to bring it to our own home.
And if I gave you any ideas on decorating your home in a period style, well, then my little plan worked!