A Christmas tour, one decade at a time

December 03, 2006|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

The Carroll County Farm Museum will offer a taste of an old-time Christmas at its "Christmas Crossings" holiday tour. The tour will take visitors through the holiday from 1850 to 1910.

"It's a journey through the decades, a basic education back to a time when you didn't have Wal-Mart and you had to be creative and use what you had," said Dottie Freeman, museum administrator.

Each room on the first level of the 1850s-era farmhouse is decorated to depict a different decade.

The main entry hall is decorated with burgundy swags going up the banister, interspersed with handmade tapestry bags filled with ivy and peacock feathers. A small poinsettia tree stands outside the parlor door.

Entering the parlor, the visitor meets the farmhouse owners.

The husband sits in front of the Victrola, choosing a record (Brahms) to put on, while his wife stands across the room placing a bit of greenery on a small table.

"The Victrola in 1910 was as popular back then as the iPod is today," said Pat Brodowski, the museum's historian.

A full-sized Christmas tree is decorated with bright and colorful ornaments and lights, as well as popcorn and tinsel. An early toy train sits on the floor.

"Our research showed that we have the same artifacts that are in the pictures we found of the kinds of trees, the decorations, the toys, the things they did," Brodowski said.

Going back another 10 years, the study shows a vastly different decorating theme - the simplicity of pure white - on the tree, the mantel and window sills.

"It was a new millennium for them and people didn't want the gaudy Victorian style anymore," Brodowski said. "They wanted a more sophisticated, elegant look."

In keeping with the German population in Carroll at the time, the tree is adorned with Scherrenschnitte, white cut paper snowflake ornaments. Frosted tree branches are arranged on the faux white marble mantel.

Across the brightly painted yellow hall, the master bedroom, circa 1890, shows that Queen Victoria still reigned.

An elegantly decorated tree has both candles and, for the first time, electric lights, on it.

The paper ornaments feature period lithographs of rosy-cheeked girls, while the heavy glass spheres are some of the earliest made.

The children's bedroom, from the 1880s, features a handmade dollhouse donated by the Westminster Senior and Community Center. "It's so neat and beautifully made," said curator Tori Fowler.

The small child's tree is decorated with mittens, a doll's dress and candles.

Across the hall from the bedrooms, a large display case is filled with toys and artifacts from the six decades. A 1902 Sears catalog, metal ice skates, antique dolls, puzzles and pictures offer a time tunnel of holiday memories.

Christmas dinner in the 1870s was an extravagant affair, served in several "removes," according to the tour's accompanying booklet. One course would be served, then removed from the table before the next dish was brought out.

The dining room table is filled with a turkey, oysters, cakes and pies, set around the best china and a live centerpiece. The sideboard holds more desserts.

"Every year we try to have new food," said Sharon Martin, the museum's events coordinator.

Also in the dining room is a table-top tree covered in marzipan and fruit-shaped ornaments, paper cones filled with treats, paper pictures and oil lamps with floating wicks.

The china closet holds antique Christmas cards of animals and insects and other scenes.

The kitchen, set in 1860, shows the wood burning stove, and fresh foods and spices that would be used for the multicourse dinner.

The tour booklet includes recipes, traditions and stories from Carroll County through the early decades featured in each room.

Outside the farmhouse, the festive holiday tour includes visits from Santa Claus in the log cabin, mule-drawn wagon rides, music, artisan demonstrations of late 1800s-era crafts, and a gift shop.

Luminaries will light the path to the farmhouse Saturday night.

"The Sleigh Bell Cafe is open as a fundraiser for the museum board," Freeman said. "The store is all decorated. The museum is one stop shopping - you can eat, you can shop and get ideas for decorating all in one place."

"Christmas Crossings" is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Dec. 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at 500 S. Center St., Westminster. Santa Claus will be available from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $2.50; children 6 and younger with a paying adult are admitted free. Information: 410-386-3880.

ellie.baublitz@baltsun.com

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