By Lisa Capobianco
Magic lanterns, ice skates, ferris wheels and tool chests were just a few of the Barnes’ family favorite things they received as Christmas gifts.
This year the Barnes Museum will feature these antique items, as well as other gifts during the 31st Annual Open House on Friday, Dec. 6 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 1-5 p.m. The museum holiday décor will highlight excerpts from 52 diaries of the Bradley Barnes family while displaying hundreds of artifacts arranged throughout the homestead that dates back to 1836.
“It is fascinating to work here,” said Marie Secondo, the curator of the Barnes Museum who started decorating November 1. “This time of year is just so special.”
Step into the main parlor, where a Christmas tree highlights antique toys that the Barnes family received around the holidays, including a tool chest and ice skates. In a corner lies a Ferris wheel that belonged to Bradley Barnes, the last family member who lived in the home, received at the age of nine as well as a magic lantern he received in 1896. The fireplace in the parlor also displays a picture of Bradley with his mother Alice, as well as antique China dishes with an old image of Southington Park and the former Lewis High School.
“People like to see different things,” said Secondo, who decorated the music room with the family’s instruments, including the banjo, mandolin and drum set.
Other rooms downstairs also have holiday décor, including the goblet room and the living room, which displays a picture of Bradley wearing snow shoes outside his gazebo in January 1948.
Nearly every room in the museum features a Christmas tree, including the bedrooms upstairs. The tree in the room of Leila Barnes, Bradley’s wife, has natural decorations including pine cones, dried roses and milk weed pods. Bradley’s bedroom displays a tree decorated with shrunken and laminated pictures of automobiles.
Secondo said Bradley had a passion for vehicles, and even served on the Board of Directors for the Automobile Club of Hartford, which sent him a Christmas card one year. That card is also displayed on the Christmas tree. On Bradley’s bureau lies a red bow tie which reads, “Season’s Greetings.”
The ladies’ room, which showcases a tree garnished in lace and flower decorations, also highlights Leila’s holiday memoirs. Secondo said one excerpt that stuck out to her was written by Leila in 1938, which read, “Our home all lighted—candles in the windows.” Secondo said the holiday décor in the museum will offer something to everyone in the family, especially the children. This year the Southington Orchard Valley Garden Club will feature a Fairy Wonderland exhibit in the porch of the Museum. The exhibit will feature a Christmas tree decorated with fairies, butterflies, and mini fairy wands, each one showcasing its own intricate details. The tree is also equipped with LED lights, which bring out the purple decorations.
The exhibit also features a doll house with fairies and other small Christmas decorations, which the Garden Club started creating since November. Secondo expressed her gratitude for the work that the club’s members have put into the project, especially since they have contributed to the Barnes Museum such as purchasing gardening tools.
“They are crafty,” Secondo said pointing to the different fairy decorations. “Every one of them is just so unique.”
Secondo said the fairy exhibit will add a different touch to the event, especially for little girls who fell in love with the Fairy House Festival at the museum during this past Apple Harvest Festival.
Marjorie Muzyczka, the president of the Garden Club, worked with dozens of members on the decorations, gathering leftover materials from the Fairy House Festival. Using dried flowers, glitter, wooden heads and art pipe cleaners, members of the Garden Club determined which materials worked well together after trial and error.
“We used whatever we had available,” Muzyczka said.
The museum will remain decorated until January 13, and holiday tours will continue during regular daily tour hours.
Besides the Open House, the Barnes Museum will also host its annual Holiday Tea Tasting Party on Thursday, Dec. 12 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Enjoy tea sandwiches and desserts donated by some of Southington’s finest restaurants while trying a variety of lavish teas in the decorated homestead. Reserve tickets by calling the Museum at (860) 628-5426 or sending an email to Marie Secondo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets cost $10.