'A Taste of Christmas Past'

Jenifer Bussa of Glastonbury, dressed in 1860s period clothing, sits Saturday in the secondary parlor next to a Christmas tree decorated with a patriotic theme while tatting, a form of lace making, during the holiday open house at the Smith-Harris House in East Lyme.
Jenifer Bussa of Glastonbury, dressed in 1860s period clothing, sits Saturday in the secondary parlor next to a Christmas tree decorated with a patriotic theme while tatting, a form of lace making, during the holiday open house at the Smith-Harris House in East Lyme. Dana Jensen/The Day

East Lyme - Inside the Smith-Harris House Saturday, Christmas trees peeked out from corners of rooms, garlands decorated the mantle and cinnamon squares lay on the dining room table ready for visitors.

The historic house on Society Road is hosting "A Taste of Christmas Past" this weekend. Visitors to the holiday event toured 19th century style rooms, glanced at decorations and tasted delicacies in this year's theme of colonial-era Williamsburg, Va. The house also offered Saturday evening performances of "The Christmas Adventures of Mr. C. Dickens."

Gary Lakowsky, chairman of the Smith-Harris House Commission, said he wanted people to enjoy the museum and learn about history. The holiday event is an opportunity for people "to just enjoy and slow down" in the "hustle and bustle" of life, he said.

The Smith-Harris House is a museum depicting the time period from 1845 to 1860, said commission Vice Chairman Georgia Lee Littlefield.

The town originally purchased the house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Thomas Avery House, in the 1950s, and it became a museum in the 1970s.

The rooms this weekend feature festive decorations including a Santa Claus suit hanging in the dressing room, a basket of small wrapped presents beside a bed and a tree adorned with wooden ornaments and teddy bears.

In the house's sitting room Saturday, a lady in colonial period dress was working on handiwork.

"You always had your hands busy," Jenifer Bussa, the period actor, explained about the era. She added that families would decorate the houses with green trees and holly to keep the house fresh and remind them that spring was coming.

In the nearby barn, members of the Friends of the Smith-Harris House sold wreaths and crafts. The nonprofit organization benefits the Smith-Harris House Commission and its work on the museum. Among their creations were clove-adorned oranges and table pieces of nature scenes that Friends member Gene Medley crafted from remnants - including driftwood and shingles - of Hurricane Sandy.

Fergal O'Toole, a resident of Ledyard visiting the house for the first time, appreciated the work that went into the house.

"It's beautiful through and through," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

Volunteer Suzanne Badagliacco of Niantic helps Carol Peabody of East Lyme carry centerpieces she purchased Saturday at a wreath sale organized by the Friends of Smith-Harris during the holiday open house.
Volunteer Suzanne Badagliacco of Niantic helps Carol Peabody of East Lyme carry centerpieces she purchased Saturday at a wreath sale organized by the Friends of Smith-Harris during the holiday open house. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

IF YOU GO

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today

Where: Smith-Harris House, 33 Society Road, East Lyme

How much: $5 donation

More information: smithharris.org

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