Monday, December 19, 2011

Having a Historic Christmas in My Own Home

Yes, the candles are real and are lit on our tree. We cut our tree down ourselves at a Christmas tree farm so we know it's fresh. I have been doing this for over 25 years and can honestly say it is truly a beautiful sight to behold.
Well, I got my house all decked out for Christmas. Since it is a modern bungalow, built in 1944, decorating in a period style can be rather difficult. But, in 1999 we added on a large room in the back, and it was based off several designs from certain homes located inside of Greenfield Village. We are not rich or well-to-do even, but over the last eleven years or so we have collected numerous antique furniture pieces; items bought at very good prices through friends, acquaintances, or even on a lucky buy, and have furnished this room to give a fairly accurate mid-19th century appearance. Needless to say, this period atmosphere has spilled over into Christmas time.
Well, as you know, I enjoy visiting museums - besides Greenfield Village I also frequent Crossroads Village, Waterloo Farms, Crocker House Museum, Charlton Park, and any number of other historically accurate localities. And I photograph nearly every nook and cranny - inside and out - of these beautiful historic places. I do the same thing at Christmas, for I enjoy the period feeling one gets when inside these old structures no matter what the season. And I try to take a little bit from each locale and blend the ideas together as I decorate my back room in order to keep it unique to me and my family.
It seems to work.
The other evening we hosted a number of our living history friends for our annual "A Christmas Carol" party. No one dresses in their period clothing for this gathering; we come together as friends with mutual interests, share snacks and drinks, and then settle down to watch one of the many filmed versions of this greatest Christmas movie of all time. This year happened to be the 1951 Alistair Sim version from 1951.
Anyhow, quite a few friends showed up  and a few comments were made by a couple of the guests: the first comment was over-hearing one guest speak on the phone to his son about how he was at a party, sitting in an authentic room from the 1860's. Now, I must note that this gentleman works at Greenfield Village as a historic presenter.
Another guest, also a worker at Greenfield, mentioned to me directly that he felt like he was at work, "only I can touch and sit on this stuff. We're not allowed to at the Village."
A third guest, who visits my wife and I often, upon seeing my decorations noted how accurate they were as well. This friend is the director and curator at Crocker House Museum as well as being a former master presenter at the, ahem, Village of Greenfield.
Comments like this coming from these kinds of folks is quite a high honor for me. I was on such a high upon hearing this!
If you have (hopefully) read my two most recent postings on my Christmas time-travel adventures:
(Christmas at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit
Ghosts of Christmas Past), you will know how hard I strive to bring Christmas of long ago back to life. Every year I think I get a little closer...
I took a few photos and I thought I would share with you Christmas at my house.
I hope you enjoy them:

Opposite the Christmas tree shown at the top of this post is the sitting area of our Gathering Room/Parlor. My wife will sit here for hours - literally - and spin  wool into yarn on her spinning wheel
This is where I come to "get away" from it all when modern society gets to me and I haven't the time (or energy) to go to Greenfield Village

Most of what you see in this room are actual mid-19th century antiques - some a little older, some a little newer - but all close to the era of which I strive to replicate. Except the fireplace...I'll explain that shortly...

This particular picture was not taken at my house (tho' I wish it were!); this was taken at the Waterloo Farm in 2010. I love the way they decorated the fireplace mantle very traditionally. I tried to replicate this look on my own fireplace...

...what do you think? Close? Now, my fireplace is not a real one, this is obvious. Since we don't have one at all in our home my mother bought us this heater/faux fireplace. Even though it's not real, it certainly gives a fine appearance, don't you think?

Even though I'm showing this with the lit candles, we do have electric lights on our tree as well. We only light the candles once during the season, and they stay lit only for around 15 minutes or so. The rest of the time we have 21st century period-correct tiny electric lights.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour of Christmas at my home. I do wish you the merriest of Christmas's!!



Barb said...

I've always wanted at least one period room in my home, and I love your parlour. Very nicely decorated, and great wallpaper!

Barb said...

I've always wanted one period room in my home and your Parlour looks great! I love the wallpaper, collecting antiques that others give you is the way to go.

Merry Christmas!

Pamela@ The Sampler Makers Farmhouse said...

Wow, I could look at these pictures for an hour! They are so nostalgically relaxing! Merry Christmas to You and Your family

Richard Cottrell said...

Your home, especially your special room, is delightful. Sounds as though you had a beautiful time. I have candles on my tree, never have lite them all at once. Have wanted to, hard to do when it is 10 foot tall. But I lite a few when I give tours to show people. I keep a bucket of water, beside the tree, just in case, just like they did back then. merry Christmas, Richard from My Old Historic House.

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

Just lovely!

Civil Folks said...


Your beautiful room is very well appointed. We love the tree and miss ours.

We have a collection of the German tin candle cups that are very old and used to light the tree with beeswax candles. As you said, only for a few minutes, with fire extinguishers at hand!

Merrie Christmas to you and your kin.

Pam of Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Ken,

I can see why your friends were so impressed and in awe of your home! You and your wife have captured the time period so beautifully. It helps, I'm sure, that you have immersed yourselves in every little detail from the time period. It really does show!

One of the biggest thing that roots a house in the proper time period is the lighting, and I see you've done a great job with the kerosene lamps and low lighting in your room! Of course, the antique furniture and other items go a long way, and I love the pictures hanging from the cords.

Marry Christmas to you and you beautiful family! Thank you for the Christmas Tour!


Historical Ken said...

Thank you all for the kind comments. I feel a bit odd about posting these photos only because I am hoping it doesn't come off in the wrong way. I guess it's just that when I am able to replicate history I get excited and want to share!
So, again, thank you all!!