COLONIAL CHRISTMAS: Bath offers glimpse of holidays past

Published 8:03 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2014

KEVIN SCOTT CUTLER | DAILY NEWS HOLIDAY FEAST: Historic interpreter Robin Suggs prepares a colonial style feast during Saturday's Christmas open house hosted by Historic Bath State Historic Site.

HOLIDAY FEAST: Historic interpreter Robin Suggs prepares a colonial style feast during Saturday’s Christmas open house hosted by Historic Bath State Historic Site.

BATH — A longtime Beaufort County Christmas tradition was observed Saturday when Historic Bath State Historic Site hosted its holiday open house.

The site’s visitor center, Van Der Veer House, Palmer-Marsh House and Bonner House and kitchen were decked out in their holiday finery for the event, which was moved this year from Sunday to Saturday. Visitors also dropped by the Glebe House and St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Planning for the open house began six months ago, and members of the Historic Bath Garden Club and other volunteers descended on the site last week to decorate for the occasion., according to site manager Leigh Swain.

Several special visitors dropped by, as well. Those attending included Susan Kluttz, secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources; Karin Cochran, chief deputy secretary of cultural resources; and Keith Hardison, division director of state historic sites.

This was the first time in over 20 years a secretary of the department of cultural resources attended a Christmas open house at Historic Bath, Swain noted.

“It was wonderful to have Secretary Kluttz with us,” Swain said. “The last time was when Secretary Betty McCain was present to officially reopen the Palmer-Marsh House in 1993 after fire forced it closure for more than three years.”

The distinguished guests and folks from throughout Beaufort County and surrounding areas were treated to the sights and sounds of the Christmas season, colonial style. The site’s homes were festive with greenery, fresh fruits and dried flowers, and adding to the occasion was period music performed in the entry hall of the Palmer-Marsh House by Don Shiffler and Lorraine Hale Robinson of the AdHoc Players. Impromptu Christmas caroling featuring members of the Harvest Church youth group from Washington was held on the porch of the Bonner House.

Historic staff and volunteers, some dressed in period costumes, greeted guests and offered free tours of the homes. Even Santa dropped by, posing for photos with children at the Van Der Veer house. The chance to create a fragrant pomander, press apple cider and decorate a gingerbread man completed the day.

As an added bonus, the Bath High School Preservation Gallery was open to the public, showcasing an exhibition of art work created by students from Bath Elementary School. That exhibit is scheduled to remain through the holidays.

A poignant footnote to the day was a low-key ceremony honoring the late Bea Latham, former Historic Bath assistant manager who passed away last December on the day of the open house. A bench in her memory was dedicated Saturday morning in a garden near the Palmer-Marsh House, according to Swain.

During the dedication ceremony, Swain remarked on Latham’s love of history and her special interest in developing history programs geared for children.Latham’s contributions to the site through her hard work and creativity sparked the memorial.

“The Historic Bath Commission and site staff thought a fitting tribute to her would be to place this bench between the house where she greeted people every Christmas open house for 14 years and the Palmer-Marsh cemetery since she loved the language of tombstones,” Swain said.

For more on the holiday decorations at Historic Bath State Site, see this week’s Homes Feature of the Washington Daily News.