Historic Homes for the Holidays Roundup

The Breakers at Christmas, photograph by William H. Johnson

With Hanukkah in full swing and Christmas right around the corner, it’s time for us to wrap up our “Historic Homes for the Holidays” series, which celebrated the beautiful sites included in New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens, by Kim Knox Beckius with photography by William H. Johnson.

We kicked things off by profiling the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts, highlighting it as the ideal late autumn getaway. While tours of the home have halted until June, the 195 acres of land surrounding the structure remain open to the public year-round. As the weather turns colder, visitors can strap on snowshoes and ramble around the picturesque grounds that inspired many of Cullen’s poems.

Next, we moved on to Hildene, the estate of President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, in Manchester, Vermont. The property served as a summer home for Robert and his family, but once the temperature drops, the 412 acres of gardens, farmland, and trails create the perfect terrain for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In December, the house is done up with Victorian-style Christmas decorations, and the pipe organ cranks out Christmas carols.

Mark Twain’s Billiard Room, photo by William H. Johnson

Speaking of beautifully decorated houses, we would be remiss not to mention the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Twain’s “dream home,” where he penned classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is laden with wreaths and garlands in December, and its annual Holiday House Tour (which includes other nearby homes) has become a Hartford tradition over the last three decades.

Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine, is another holiday utopia showcased in the series. Every holiday season, the Mansion features a different decoration theme—this year’s is “Deck the Halls: the Carols of Christmas.” Each room’s decorations are inspired by a different Christmas carol from the Victorian period, such as “I Saw Three Ships” and “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” Holiday tours will continue through early January.

Inside Victoria Mansion, photograph by William H. Johnson

Like Hildene, Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, Rhode Island was originally built as a summer home. Now, more than a century later, its elaborate holiday decorations are planned nearly a year in advance. The highlight is certainly the 18-foot Canadian spruce that fills the entryway, though each room has its own, smaller tree. As with Victoria Mansion, the rooms also have their own themes. However, the extravagant decorations aren’t the only reason to visit. The property’s extensive garden, which remains open in the winter, is filled with winter plants and 50 different tree specimens.

The series culminated with The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island—the subject of our December digital desktop calendar. The mansion, which is breathtaking in the summer months, becomes even more spectacular when draped in wreaths and garlands. If you haven’t visited it yet this season, consider stopping by on New Year’s Eve to admire the decorations and hear the New World Jazz Quintet perform.

The Breakers, photograph by William H. Johnson

For more information on these stunning, iconic properties, pick up a copy of New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens. Don’t forget to bring it along when you visit these sites!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *