We had a marvelous time celebrating Christmastide with all of our friends and neighbors this year! Over 400 guests came through our doors to visit with the Croghans, enjoy music and dancing in the Grand Parlor, tour the house and the kitchen, shop in the book sale and the Museum Store, and celebrate the spirit of the season! A grand time was had by all, and here are some stories and pictures to prove it!
On Friday evening, Locust Grove was honored to host Yeoman Warder Robert Brown of the Tower of London. Yeoman Warder Brown regaled guests in the auditorium with ghost stories from the tour before touring the house and greeting the cast. His visit to Louisville was hosted by the Society of the Cincinnati, of which William Croghan was a member. Jamie E. as Owen Gwathmey greeted Yeoman Warder Brown and members of the Society in the dining room, where he showed off “Major Croghan’s portrait and the china with their emblem designed by Pierre L’Enfant. We had fun with the steamboats too, sharing that Captain Shere had gone upriver: Where no man had gone before. Then we let them know the name of his ship was of course: The Enterprise.”
Out in the kitchen, hearth cook Melissa made drinking chocolate, baked apples, cider, and gingerbread to conjure up historical smells for our guests!
As with most of our interpretation events, Christmastide takes place in the year 1816, and guests are invited to inquire about current events, fashions, traditions, and other topics from that year. Sharron H., as Fanny Fitzhugh, found that even discussing something as mundane as the weather can be interesting for guests and interpreters alike. Sharron recalls that a group of guests “came in asking, “What’s this about a year without a summer?” And Ted and I started sharing stories we’d heard about how cold it had been in New England with late frosts and freezing temps well into the summer and how just plain cold it had been that year. We talked about how we had heard that crops across Europe were lost to freezes and floods and how we feared there would be famine if it went on too long. When one of the guests asked if we knew what was causing this, we said we had no idea, but we wondered if the rumors of “end times” could be true. First there was the massive earthquakes in 1811/1812 and the tales of how the Mississippi flowed backwards for a time. Then there was the recent comet that came and just hung in the sky for weeks. Now this weird weather…It all started when the steamboat’s first trip UP the river. Maybe God was trying to tell us we were getting too big for our britches!”
Our cast of costumed interpreters includes several younger members, all of whom have their own unique perspective on life in 1816. As Laura B. (Barbara Cosby) introduced a group of younger guests to her dolls, one of them inquired if she had ever heard of Barbie! Laura as Barbara was then able to talk with these guests about how she acquired her playthings while they acquainted her with 21st century ideas such as plastic and Target! Laura and Jocelyn H/ (Eloise Bullitt) also played period games such as Game of Goose with guests of all ages, demonstrating that fun can be had in any century!
Several of our guests of all ages joined in the dancing and proved to be quick studies, especially this little guest, who conceded to dance as long as her mom joined her. Hannah S. as Elizabeth Taylor was one of the dancers, and she remarked that “my favorite moment was when we got to dance with that sweet little tiny who danced with her mom. The smile on her face when we all clapped for her at the end was just magical.”
In the parlor, Mia S. as Lucy Croghan received guests to her home and shared some of the trials of raising six sons. Mia recalls that she told many guests to tell her if they found her sons playing cards, and was gratified when a young guest, after coming across the Croghan sons playing Speculation in the Farm Office raced back to the parlor to report the clandestine card-playing.
Christmastide has always included music, but this year musical accompaniment for dancing was provided by Tammy B. as Mrs. Richard Taylor on the violin, with carols sung by Hannah S. and Sara R., as Elizabeth Taylor and Mary Ann Cosby. We were incredibly fortunate to have them share their talents with us, as mentioned by Brian Cushing: “Our wonderful musical interpreters scrambled when we found out that our long time musicians were no longer available and the vocals by Hannah and Sara and the violin music from Tammy that resulted was not only breathtakingly beautiful and enchanting but one of the most authentic feeling musical interpretations that has ever happened there. A visitor from another historic site remarked to me what a truly authentic salon/parlor experience it was.”
Jason H. (Judge Fortunatus Cosby) also had words of praise for our musicians, declaring that “the highlight for me was our two vocalists singing their duets. They drew so many people into the grand parlor and got so many compliments from the crowd. While Mr. Cosby was as effusive as always, they did TRULY sound angelic.Tammy was so terrific that we kept entreating her to come back up and play. She was much in demand!”
If you don’t believe our eye-and-ear witnesses, here’s a short clip of these talented ladies!
And here is Tammy fiddling to accompany the dancing!
Our mischievous gardener Sarah hung mistletoe from the banister, and many couples were caught underneath, turning Christmastide into “Kissmastide”!
Christmastide is structured as a family party, when the Croghans, and their relations, friends and neighbors come together to celebrate the season and the end of another year. We always want our guests to feel just as welcome to take part in this family celebration. Janice S. as Ann Clark Gwathmey remarked that “The house really felt like home and we really felt like one big family. Our greetings to each other were warm and heartfelt. Our conversations to each other and to the guests were genuine and our laughter was contagious!” We hope all you felt this same spirit! Much cheer to all of you in the coming weeks!