In Victorian Style: Guild adds holiday touches to Wright Mansion
By JEANEATTE RICKER
Those who are fascinated by the romanticized old-fashioned Victorian Christmas can step back in time to revel in the 19th century Christmas decorations currently in the Wright Mansion at Lyme Historical Village.
The beauty of the Victorian Christmas can be viewed by the public during the annual Candlelight Lantern Tours held in the village from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 27 and Dec. 28. Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for children ages six to 12 and free to children ages five and younger.
“The Christmas decorations are as correct as we can do as Victorians would have done,” said Carolyn Huffman, Elmore, Victorian Guild coordinator. She commented that in those days people decorated more than the average person would have done now.
Guild members will be dressed as Victorian guides, and as one tours the home, Christmas traditions from Victorian times and around the world will be learned.
This is the 11th year that the Victorian Guild has decorated the mansion, said Huffman. Previously members had decorated the Rutherford B. Hayes Home at Spiegel Grove in Fremont. The decorations are all-hand made by guild members, stored and re-used each year in different arrangements.
Christmas decorating is completed for the Victorian Dinner hosted there in early December by the Lyme Village Association, which is dedicated to preserving local history.
The purpose of the Victorian Guild is for education about Victorian times, but the passion for their creativity is obvious everywhere. “We kind of go as we decorate,” said Jan Jordan, Bellevue, who has been a Victorian Guild member for many years.
A different theme is used in each area every year, which keeps it interesting for members. The library is decorated in a patriotic theme. The West parlor has a wedding theme. “Christmas time was a popular time to have weddings when all the family was together,” said Huffman. Hand-blown glass ornaments are on the tree there for the first time. This type of ornament was first imported from Germany in the mid-1880’s, Huffman said.
The East parlor is decorated with white glittering, handmade ornaments where a winter garden surrounds the fairy tree. The Victorian people were really enthralled with the super-natural, fairies, sprites, goblins,” according to Huffman. “It was a form of entertainment to go to your friends’ homes to see their winter garden,” she said. Huffman explained about the multi-levels of miniature gardens surrounding the Christmas tree decorated in white: papier mache or beaded icicles; tiny crocheted baskets, wax flowers, paper folded snowflakes or pipe cleaner baskets dipped in alum and water, which creates sparkle as it dries.
All were made by the Victorian Guild during their weekly meetings at the mansion where inspiration and creativity flow together. “I really have learned a lot,” said Linda Kerr, Bellevue. Donna Warner, Milan, is a newer member, after being a long-time volunteer.
The Victorian fire extinguisher, a mop in a bucket of water, is placed beside the tree to put out any fires started by the burning candles on the tree.
All rooms, upstairs and down are beautifully decorated, even the upstairs sitting room in the wide hallway which was used as a reception area for close friends. It features life sized mannequins dressed in period clothing and a swag of Ohio buckeyes. The Victorians loved using natural materials.
Research and education comes from many venues. Antique magazines popular in Victorian Times, Godeys Ladies Book, Peterson’s Magazine and St. Nicholas Magazine are good resource material.
The guild members work hard and enjoy it, but are seeking new volunteers to join their group. “There is no charge to belong and there is a lot of comradery between us,” said Huffman.