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A 'Grand Holiday' showcased at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

Need a break from the holiday whirlwind? Try leaving the 21st century behind and stepping into the Victorian age -- in a setting that will be a balm for the soul and a feast for the eyes at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum.

That's the advise of Susan Gilgore, executive director of the National Historic Landmark that hosts "A Grand Holiday at the Mansion: From Victorian to Modern." It runs through Sunday, Dec. 29.

Gilgore said to picture this: Victorian children's toys -- such as train sets, toy soldiers, rocking horses, dolls, ball games, cloth-peg dolls and paper windmills -- throughout the mansion museum, along with numerous decorated trees and a holiday table laden with silver, crystal and fine china.

The Norwalk mansion's period rooms will be decorated to "tell a story" and show changing traditions from the 1850s through the 1890s, when the popularity of indoor Christmas trees boomed, thanks in part to Britain's Queen Victoria, who embraced the German tradition.

On view will be examples from the period, from small tabletop trees with edibles and handmade ornaments, to opulently adorned trees that stood on the floor and almost reached the ceiling, Gilgore said.

"The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is an extraordinary and incomparable treasury of art, architecture and history that blends the grandeur of America's past with a commitment to the future of our communities," Gilgore writes in her Website message to visitors, noting that the mansion was built for renowned financier and railroad baron LeGrand Lockwood between 1864 and 1868. "The museum will enchant you with its unparalleled Gilded Age architecture and furnishings, its old-world craftsmanship and innovative 19th-century technology.

"LeGrand Lockwood's country estate with its legacy of excellence, which he, and later the Mathews family left to Norwalk and the nation, is now part of our American heritage."

Although a charming place to visit throughout the year, the mansion is especially magical at the holidays, Gilgore said.

The Grand Staircase, designed by Herter Brothers and considered a masterpiece of domestic Victorian architecture, will feature handcrafted silk garlands by Danna DiElsi, owner of the Silk Touch in Norwalk.

Also as a special treat this year, the museum will re-create a room from the 1930s, reflecting the decorations and gift-giving traditions during Florence Mathews' era.

The holiday exhibit, curated by Raechel Guest, runs through Dec. 29. Wednesday-Sunday tours are planned at noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is at 295 West Ave. For more information, call 203-838-9799 or visit www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com

More Information

On Sunday, Dec. 15, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion will host "a festive family event and several hours of entertainment, all in the spirit of an old-fashioned community celebration" in league with the Norwalk Public Library and Matthew Surapine Studio. It will take place from noon to 4 p.m.
Admission will be reduced for all. General admission tickets, $5 each, will include refreshments, visits with Santa Claus (12:15-1:15 p.m.) storytelling (1:15-2:15 p.m.) and family entertainment (2:30-3:15 p.m.).
A Teddy Bear and Doll Victorian Tea is slated for 3:15-4 p.m.; tickets are $10. Children are encouraged to dress up, bring a favorite bear, doll or toy and "practice good etiquette." A tea party bingo will bring the event to a close. Seating is limited; reservations are required by Saturday, Dec. 7.
Phyllis A.S. Boros