Historic Site hosts annual Christmas open house

Published 1:13 pm Thursday, November 23, 2017

BATH — The most historically significant houses in North Carolina’s oldest town will be welcoming visitors with Christmas past on Dec. 9.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Bonner House and Palmer-Marsh House will be open to the public for tours, led by costumed guides and accompanied by live music at both locations.

Every year, the houses are put on Christmas display; decoration comes courtesy of the Historic Bath Garden Club, members of which have been cutting greenery in preparation for making wreaths and arrangements that will grace doors, mantelpieces, tabletops, porch rails and more.

NATURE’S OWN: Yarrow, dried hydrangea, ivy and pine cones make up this festive holiday arrangement at the Bonner House. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

One difference in this year’s decorations is that the garden club will be decorating with more attention to period detail, according to Erica Smith, assistant manager of Historic Bath site. The circa-1830 Bonner House hails from the Victorian period, while the circa-1744 Palmer-Marsh House was built during the Colonial era.

“A traditional colonial Christmas looks a lot different from a Victorian Christmas,” Smith said. “This year, we are attempting to show the difference between the two periods.”

In previous years, both houses were decorated with the same style — with natural greenery augmented by splashes of color in flowers and fruit. However, during the Colonial era, fruit was a precious commodity.

“Fruits were expensive. You’re not going to pay that money to decorate with fruit, you’re going to eat the fruit,” Smith said.

ON THE SCHEDULE: A list of how many wreaths to make and where they would be placed held a prominent place at the Bonner House. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

Colonial-era Christmas decorations were simpler; during the Victorian era, more traditional decorations were coming into fashion.

“This year we’re hoping to show people that all these Christmas traditions that we love this much, they’re not as old as we think,” Smith said. “Before they came along, this was how (Christmas) was celebrated, so we’re trying to bridge that learning gap.”

At noon at the Bonner House, there will be an open-hearth cooking demonstration; another will show how to make apple cider with an apple press — just the way cooking was done in the mid-19th century.

“They would have kept their best for Christmas because Christmas would have been a big deal,” Smith said, adding that there is one major difference between holiday cooking today and back then. “

The prep time is going to be way longer,” she laughed.

A BATH CHRISTMAS: Bath’s Palmer-Marsh House will be on display in all its holiday glory courtesy of the Historic Bath Garden Club. Bath Historic Site will host an open house Dec. 9, featuring it and the Bonner House. (Kevin Scott Cutler/Daily News)

In addition to ginger snaps and cider for visitors, there are several other events children may enjoy. Children can make a holiday craft at the Visitor Center and Historic Site staff will be hosting two readings of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Bonner House, in keeping with the introduction of Santa Claus to the Christmas tradition during the Victorian period, according to Smith.

For more information about this event, or about “A Walk Through Christmas Past,” a special, ticketed afterhours tour of Palmer-Marsh and Bonner houses on Dec. 2, call 252-923-3971.

BASE GREENERY: Bill Lenhardt, who has made natural wreaths since his Philadelphia childhood, helped members of the Historic Bath Garden Club piece together boxwood to form the base of natural wreaths during a past Christmas season. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)