LOWGAP — A Saturday event at the historic Edwards-Franklin House which was designed to show visitors what Christmas was like during the Victorian Era included an unexpected touch of realism: no electricity to the house.
While unplanned, the sponsoring Surry County Historical Society took that development in stride, which only added to the authenticity of recreating a Christmas of the 1800s — providing “a taste of what it was like” then, the group’s Ruth Richards said.
But since the gathering was held during the daytime, no one really seemed to notice that the lights in the 1799 house on Haystack Road were inoperable.
“They’re out,” Annette Ayers, a retired history teacher who is president of the society, confirmed for anyone who might have been wondering.
The only other giveaway was the utility truck sitting on the side of the road near the house where a crew labored frantically.
“They’re working on the transformer,” added Ayers, which seemed a strange statement coming from a woman wearing an elegant dress made from a pattern more than 100 years old.
Soon, though, the electricity was back on, and the only real casualty was the mulled cider to be served along with an array of period foods by Richards and others in the dining room of the 213-year-old house.
“We did plan for it to be heated,” Ayers joked. “We did want the cider warm, but you can still drink it cold.”
Anyone who might have been holding out for the warm version would see their desire fulfilled when the power was restored, and otherwise there were many other enjoyable facets of Saturday’s gathering that was free and open to the public.
It is part of an annual series at the Edwards-Franklin House which highlights long-ago Christmas celebrations. In 2011, the theme was a colonial Christmas. The Victorian Era stressed Saturday is commonly referred to as the period in British history spanning the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).
Music And More
One focal point Saturday was live music by Pamala Branscum of Winston-Salem, who performed Old English ballads and other period songs on the mountain and hammered dulcimer. An appreciative audience crowded into the parlor of the house as Branscum filled the air with lively tunes.
Other noticeable elements of the occasion were native greenery transformed into festive decorations, poinsettias and other adornments scattered throughout.
“During the Victorian Era, everything was more elaborate,” Ayers said of a period characterized by prosperity and refined sensibilities. “They would decorate very lavishly.”
This tended to translate into colorful, ornate — and expensive — holiday trappings on the part of homeowners which were meant to show “they had made it (wealth-wise),” Ayers explained.
And while many period furnishings were situated throughout the Edwards-Franklin House Saturday, the simpler elements of a Victorian holiday were what seemed to make the biggest impression on Emily Tucker of Pilot Mountain. She was making her second Christmastime visit to the house along with her daughter Greta.
“Just the old-fashionedness of it,” Tucker said of what she found most appealing about Saturday’s event, which she believes will pay dividends for her own celebration of the season.
“It gives us ideas on how to decorate our home,” the Pilot Mountain resident continued, “just going out in the yard and finding things.”
Saturday’s celebration also featured tours of the house by docents in period clothing.
Meanwhile, Lynn Godfrey found her way to the dining area and a table full of finger sandwiches, cookies, trifles and other sweet treats that one might have encountered at a holiday party during the 1800s.
Godfrey said she had never attended such an event before, and agreed that it was helping her “to get in the spirit of Christmas” in a quality way.
In addition to the temporary loss of electricity, no cell phones, video games, computers or other examples of 21st-century technology were spotted in the old house. And there was no mention of Black Friday.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.