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New England Historic Homes Celebrate Christmas |

New England Historic Homes Celebrate Christmas

Holiday decorations in the Sitting Room at Glenview, Hudson River Museum, George Ross photo, courtesy Hudson River Museum.

Hudson River Museum Welcomes Holiday Season With Gilded Age Splendor

YONKERS, N.Y. — This season, the six period rooms of Glenview, the museum’s Gilded Age home on the National Register of Historic Places, are decked out for the holidays in full Victorian splendor through December 30. The library, parlor, great hall, sitting room, dining room and the billiard room are decorated with garlands, baubles, and trees in every room. Each room is defined by a specific color scheme. For example, the parlor is characterized by teal, royal blue and chartreuse hues that play off the stuffed peacock that sits by the mantelpiece. In the library and sitting room, trees feature traditional elements such as ribbons, flowers and German-glass ornaments — a holiday norm by the 1870s — while the rainbow-colored ornaments that bedeck the tree in the Great Hall boast a contemporary flair. This year’s decorations are generously supported by Jan Adelson.

The dining room is decorated with an elaborate Victorian Christmas table setting designed by interior designer Debra Blair. Inspired by the snow-covered land and the river beyond, the theme is “Winter Wonderland” and will feature layers of porcelain dinnerware, utensils and three to four wine glasses at each setting. The holiday meal would start with soup, followed by fish, a sorbet palate cleanser and finally the main course — traditionally a roast of game or beef — with a different, specific utensil, plate, glass and wine selection for each course. Blair is a trustee of the Hudson River Museum and founder and principal of Debra Blair Design, which provides a full range of design services for both residential and commercial clients, including the executive offices of Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette; the Adelson Galleries; and the new Members Reading Room at the New York Society Library.

In addition to these festive decorations, Darren Scala, owner of D. Thomas Fine Miniatures, has curated delightful miniature holiday decor in Nybelwyck Hall, a 24-room dollhouse located in the billiard room of Glenview. His arrangement includes a della Robbia-inspired wreath, garland, and topiaries created by Scala with Sharon Harbison and Donald Morcone, which surround the front door.

New this year are minuscule holiday sweets, such as Linzer tarts created by Jeanie Anderson for Maya Miniatures, and a yule log by Malena Sullivan for The Clay Kitchen as well as an assortment of holiday gifts from Scala’s personal collection, including three Jack-in-the-Box; a gift box with knitted baby clothes; a toy doll; and a small red door from which the all’s resident Elf, Paddy, who lives under the grand staircase, can work his Christmas magic.

The museum shop has been transformed for the holidays with a wide selection of ornaments ranging from glass globes to felt animals, Christmas stockings, snow globes and festive figurines of all sizes from plush snowmen to toy wooden soldiers. There is also a wide selection of handmade jewelry, with select pieces made exclusively for the Hudson River Museum; items for the home, including eco-friendly bamboo tableware; children’s toys; space-themed gifts; art supplies; and books and museum publications.

The Hudson River Museum is at 511 Warburton Avenue. For information, or 914-963-4550.


Sarah Grote photo.

The Night Before Christmas At Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

NORWALK, CONN. — The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum kicks off the Holiday season with a new exhibition entitled, “A Magical Christmas Eve at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum,” which will continue through January 6.

During Queen Victoria’s reign, Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree in England, a tradition that became very popular in the United States in the 1850s. For the past 30 years, visitors from all across the region have come to the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum to learn about this holiday tradition and immerse in its splendor and beauty.

The exhibition starts with an overview of this holiday celebration, decade by decade, from the 1850s to the 1930s. The Dining Room will display a Christmas Eve feast, and throughout the Museum, displays of tabletop as well as tall, lavishly decorated trees will welcome visitors to one of the most cherished holiday destinations in New England.

During the 1860s, gift-giving made its way into American homes, and presents were placed among the branches of small, tabletop Christmas trees, wrapped in brown paper or cloth along with mostly homemade ornaments, including gingerbread cookies, nuts and candied fruits that children were encouraged to pull off the tree and eat on Christmas Day. Preparations for the celebration, including food and decorations, were activities involving the whole family.

By the 1870s, however, the tree grew larger and taller, store-bought glass decorations embellished the branches, and gifts were placed under the beautifully adorned trees on Christmas Eve.

General admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for children and young adults, ages 8-18.

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is a National Historic Landmark at 295 West Avenue. For more information, or 203-838-9799.


Photo courtesy of Historic New England.

A Victorian Christmas At Historic New England’s Eustis Estate

MILTON, MASS. — Explore the beautiful 1878 Eustis Estate mansion and its lavish decorations during “A Victorian Christmas.” There are bright lights, an enormous tree, garlands and mantelpieces adorned with holiday decorations inspired by nature, and beautiful floral arrangements done by area garden clubs. Through January 6, you can visit Thursdays through Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. There are also a number of Sunday evening receptions planned.

The Eustis Estate is a rare surviving example of late Nineteenth Century architecture and design. Designed by Boston architect William Ralph Emerson and built in 1878, the Eustis Estate sits on 80 acres of picturesque landscape at the base of the Blue Hills and is full of stunning, intact architectural and design details. Admission ranges from $8 to $15.

The Eustis Estate is at 1424 Canton Avenue. For additional information, 617-994-6600 or


Decorations in the Joseph Webb House are typical of the early Twentieth Century. Courtesy Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum.

Celebrate Three Centuries of Christmas at Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

WETHERSFIELD, CONN. — Each year, using armloads of greenery and native plants and authentic decorations from days of yore, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum’s “Three Centuries of Christmas” tours show in fascinating detail how the American holiday season has evolved over the past 300 years. Holiday Tours will be offered through January 7, from 10 am to 4 pm, except on Sundays, when tours are 1 to 4 pm. The museum is closed Tuesdays; tour admission is $12.

The historic “Three Centuries of Christmas” view of holidays past begins in the Silas Deane House, circa 1770, where New Year’s Day was the main holiday, rather than Christmas, due to the Puritanical customs that lingered in New England. The house reflects the preparations for the Deane’s “New Years’ Day Calling,” when prominent gentlemen in the community would call on the lady of the household. It was also the day when individuals who owed the family money would meet privately with the master of the house to settle their debts or make a New Year’s resolution to provide goods or services to settle their accounts in the coming year.

The Isaac Stevens House is decorated to depict the holiday celebrations of a middle-class household during the early to mid-1800s, when many of the Christmas traditions known today were adopted in New England. The “best” parlor features a charming tabletop tree decorated with candles, gilded eggshells and edible treats, in keeping with the era. The Stevens House also includes a special exhibit with enlarged color illustrations by Thomas Nast from the museum’s rare 1888 copy of Clement Moore’s An Account of a Visit of St Nicholas. The colorful images tell the tale of how the secular Christmas known today was created in the early Nineteenth Century, which coincides with the museum’s interpretation of Christmas at the Stevens House. At the Joseph Webb House, visitors view decorations typical of the early Twentieth Century, which include Christmas trees, evergreen roping, fresh greens, fruit, and a collection of period ornaments. There is also a special exhibit of iron toys and banks from a private collection.

The Webb-Deane Stevens Museum is at 211 Main Street. For information, 860-529-0612 or


Courtesy Woodlawn Museum, Gardens Park.

Woodlawn’s Historic Black House Serves Holiday High Tea

ELLSWORTH, MAINE — When your out-of-town guests arrive for the holidays, treat them to Holiday High Tea and a tour of the festively decorated Black House. Offered as part of the “Christmas at Woodlawn” celebration, this memorable afternoon is sure to become an annual tradition. Holiday High Tea will be served promptly at 3 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays, December 12, 14, 19 and 21, at 3 pm. Reservations for High Tea are required and can be made at The Black House is open for tours daily, 10 am 4 pm, until December 23.

Woodlawn’s Holiday High Tea is catered by Flexit Café Bakery in Ellsworth. The menu can be seen on the museum’s website. The cost for the high tea is $22 for Woodlawn members and $25 for nonmembers and includes a leisurely stroll through the festively decorated Black House.

Woodlawn is at 19 Black House Drive. For additional information, 207-667-8671.


John Collins photography.

Christmas By Candlelight At Old Sturbridge Village

STURBRIDGE, MASS. — Plans are underway for Old Sturbridge Village’s biggest “Christmas by Candlelight” — the living history museum’s annual celebration of New England holiday traditions scheduled on weekend evenings the first three weeks in December, as well as an additional Thursday evening on December 20.

Old Sturbridge Village will transform an area of the museum into the “North Pole Village,” complete with a Santa Claus experience that has families walking through a super-sized “The Night Before Christmas” storybook illustrated by acclaimed artist Charles Santore. Families can see a model railroad display, including the train set featured in the 2015 major motion picture “Joy,” and make crafts at a Christmas craft workshop.

Now in its 16th year, Christmas by Candlelight will once again transform the historic village into an enchanted winter wonderland for this much-anticipated holiday event that has become a holiday tradition for thousands of families.

Old Sturbridge in winter. John Collins photography.

Highlights of “Christmas by Candlelight” include: New England Christmas traditions brought to life by costumed historians and artisans; regional musical groups and strolling carolers performing holiday classics; an extensive miniature nativity display with more than 500 figures; professional and amateur bakers compete in Village’s gingerbread house contest; visitors sing Christmas carols in a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh (snow permitting); a musical tree lighting ceremony kicks-off each evening’s festivities; and, an outdoor marketplace features holiday snacks, drinks, gifts and a roaring bonfire.

The Bullard Tavern, Oliver Wight Tavern, Museum Store and the Old Sturbridge Inn Reeder Family Lodges will be open for holiday dining, shopping and lodging during Christmas by Candlelight.

Admission to “Christmas by Candlelight” is $28 for adults, $14 for youth ages 4-12; and free for children 3 and younger. To purchase tickets, 1-800-733-1830 or Old Sturbridge Village is at 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road.

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