By LINDSAY CAREY
The Barnes Museum first opened its doors to the public during Hospitality Night in 1974. This year’s Downtown Merchants Association Hospitality Night on Friday, Dec. 5 will mark the 40th anniversary of the old Barnes family home being a museum.
“Bradley knew what he had acquired was a vast amount of history under one roof,” said Barnes Museum curator Marie Secondo. “When they first opened the doors, people were coming in droves, because curiosity had really bitten everybody in town. There was a little bit of mystery involved in the house with Bradley, because he didn’t go out much in his later years and had nurses taking care of him.”
Hospitality Night initiates the holiday tours every year at the Barnes Museum, which continue until the second week in January. For Hospitality Night, the Barnes Museum will have the Southington Chamber Singers there and will be serving hot apple cider donated from the Southington Shop Rite.
Secondo said that she began decorating during in early fall, because Hospitality Night typically attracts 500 to 1,000 people to the Barnes Museum.
This year, she employed newspaper clippings as a theme for the holiday décor to illustrate the changes with the house over the years. Secondo said she has been slowly making her way through decorating each of the 17 rooms in the house and every inch in between.
Some of the rooms have their own themes for the holidays. Secondo made sure the holiday décor in the dressing room is feminine and placed pictures of the women of the Barnes home on the Christmas tree in the room. From women in the Bradley family to curators and volunteers of the museum, the room celebrates the women who have impacted the house.
Barnes’s room will reflect his interest in automobiles. Secondo is having a rare chromo lithograph poster, which dates back to 1904, restored to be put on display for Hospitality Night. The poster features Goodrich Tires depicts a beautiful mythological looking model named Gwendolyn.
“This will mark our yearlong celebration,” said Secondo about Hospitality Night. “The whole year will be full of surprises.”
She has already planned some exciting events for the anniversary year including an old car show on June 13 exhibiting cars from Barnes’ days.
The Barnes Museum will host its first Vintage Motor Car Show, which will features automobiles from the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. Secondo said the Barnes garage is filled with automobile memorabilia.
“Bradley was at that ripe age where he was driving a horse and buggy and then old enough to own his own automobile,” said Secondo.
A main attraction will be Barnes’ car, the 1912 Pope Hartford roadster, which is currently worth $2 million and on display in West Hartford. Secondo said she is hoping to be able to bring it back home to Southington and have it parked on the front lawn of the Barnes Museum.
The car show will be broadcast on NESN TV’s “Crusin New England’s” with Paul Mennett, who already came to the museum this fall to film a promotional clip.
Other events this year at the Barnes Museum will include a Victorian Garden Party, Antiques Appraisal Night, and for the first time a Living Museum production in the fall.
Secondo said that actors will be representing a few members of the Barnes family and will be guiding guests through the house telling their stories based on the 52 family journals from the house.
“As you come in, you’ll be greeted by Bradley’s grandmother and then as you proceed through all the rooms there will be different people portraying different members of the family,” said Secondo.
Hospitality Night is on Friday, Dec. 5 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Following the event, on Saturday, Dec. 6 there will be an open house at the museum and then the 11th annual tea tasting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 11. Guests are invited to taste a different tea in each room, play old games, and enjoy food from Smokin with Chris.