This event for 2009 runs from 12/11 throughout the month of December.
I’m on staff at the Webb-Deane-Stevens museum in Wethersfield, CT. The museum is a small complex of three 18th century houses. The Webb House, built in 1752 by merchant/trader Joseph Webb, is the centerpiece, famous for 220 years as the place where George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau planned the campaign that ended the Revolutionary War. When I lead guided tours, I get to say, “George Washington slept here”, and mean it. He stayed for 5 days in 1781. Next door, the Silas Deane house, built in the late 1760’s, was the home of the controversial diplomat who accompanied Benjamin Franklin to Paris to solicit French military and financial assistance against the British. On the other side of Webb, the 1780’s Isaac Stevens house, which illustrates American life following the War for Independence, completes our little historic neighborhood.
This December, the WDS has teamed with the Wethersfield Historical Society, right across the street, to present a tour of historic Christmas decorations. The beginnings of the American Christmas that we celebrate today are represented in the Stevens House, while an elaborate Colonial Revival Christmas (early 20th century) is brought to life in the Webb House.
The Webb House has long been known as Hospitality House. The pineapple has long been known as a symbol of hospitality, and a fresh pineapple graces the newel post of the main staircase in the center of the building. Another pineapple crowns the top of a lemon topiary in the center hall.
Rochambeau and Washington did not know in advance that the they would clinch their victory at Yorktown, but that is what actually happened. Wallace Nutting, who restored this house in 1915, had a series of murals painted on the walls of this room to represent the conference that took place in this building and various scenes from the battle itself. Today we refer to it as the “Yorktown Parlor”. For the month of December, however, the Revolution takes a back seat to Christmas.
Electric tree lights came into common use during the 1920’s and 30’s. Gift giving became more widespread at this time. Typical wrappings consisted of white tissue paper and ribbon ties. During this time, manufacturers began producing patterned paper, usually floral prints. No Santas or Rudolphs yet.
Across the center hall is an elegant dessert buffet. Jordan Almond and rock candy topiaries, nut trees, cookies, candies, tiered cakes, plum pudding, port, creme de menthe……..Hostesses in this era prided themselves on the magnificence of their table.
Upstairs (or upchamber, as the Webb’s would have it) :
Remember making paper chains? Under the 7 foot tree is a collection of antique toys.