Every year, the Stickley family home is adorned for the holidays in period style, c. 1915, with a focus on Gustav Stickley’s own principles. Utilizing holiday greens, pinecones, and the home’s forest palette, the decorations bring nature indoors and spotlight the Arts and Crafts movement’s emphasis on finding beauty in simplicity of style and materials.
By 1915 , the Christmas tree was a standard part of the American Christmas celebration and you could even light it with a string of electric lights. Illustrator Thomas Nast had introduced the world to the Santa Claus we know and love today, and on city streets you would surely find the familiar bell-ringing, Santa Claus-clad donation collectors.
With the holiday fast approaching, volunteer Julie Peterson shares a behind the scenes look at our annual holiday decorating.
Every year a group of volunteers gather mid-November to decorate the Log House for the holidays. On the appointed day, blue vinyl storage bins are brought down into the Education Room, carried into the Museum, and opened to reveal garlands, candles and other decorations to be placed on window sills and tables.
One of the rewards of this work is being in the museum without other visitors. It is a quiet place and there is time to really study the details and appreciate the unique features of Stickley’s design.
As we hang garlands and wreaths, we are “up close and personal” and can imagine the Stickley family putting candles on their tree and gathering greens from the yard to make wreaths for the doors. The tree is hung with an assortment of ornaments, some old and some new, and a toy train is assembled at the base. Trains were some of the first electric toys and were available around 1900.
We imagine the Stickley girls in their bedroom chatting about holiday parties, singing carols around the piano, and working on Christmas crafts like stringing cranberries, making paper chains and cornucopia cones to fill with candy for hanging on the family’s Christmas tree. We imagine Mrs. Stickley wrapping gifts for her friends and family.
We make the dining room table ready for their holiday visitors with “cookies” made of handmade plaster and salt dough “fruit” (since nothing used in decorating the museum can be organic, a fire hazard or attract bugs) which represent the popular finger foods of the time.
For the outside doors, I made wreaths from natural materials, and I followed Stickley’s own principles by harvesting them locally. Last year, hurricane Sandy, provided many downed pine boughs and rhododendron branches to use in decorating the Log House for the holidays.
Stickley’s magazine The Craftsman published several articles advocating the use of natural decorations: Greenery, holly, and mistletoe at the windows and doors suggest a “hint of immortality by remaining fresh and green throughout the apparent death of the world during winter.” (The Craftsman, December 1911, “Christmas Decorations from Winter’s Garden.”)
In January, we’ll come back to take it all down and put it back into storage for another year.
Photos by Barbara Weiskittel
The Log House will be decorated through January 5, 2014. Tours depart hourly from 12:15 – 3:15 p.m. every Thursday – Sunday. Plan your visit.