Yule ways in olden days
November 26, 2004
WHAT: Christmas Lantern Tours.
WHERE: Historic Allaire Village, Allaire State Park, Route 524, Farmingdale.
WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 11. Tours leave every 15 minutes from the Visitors Center.
HOW MUCH: $9. Registration required. (732) 919-3500. Directions at allairevillage.org. Allow about an hour from the Hackensack area.
Researchers don't know for sure how the families who lived in Historic Allaire Village celebrated Christmas, but that doesn't stop interpreters from getting into the festive spirit.
"We know most of the families here were German and Irish, so we can speculate how they might have celebrated," said Marina Tortorello, associate director and volunteer coordinator for Allaire Village Inc. The non-profit group interprets the history of the village, a historic site in Allaire State Park in Farmingdale.
For the village's Christmas Lantern Tours, guides dressed in period costumes lead guests around the site, talking about its history and 19th century holiday customs.
The village grew up around an iron foundry owned by James Peter Allaire, who also owned a shipbuilding yard in Manhattan. Allaire Village, then known as Howell Works, supplied the iron necessary for the steam engine works in the city.
As the iron industry thrived from 1822 to 1848, so did the village. At its heyday, it was home to 400 people. The self-sufficient community had carpenter and blacksmith shops, a bakery, gristmill, workers' homes, boardinghouse, school, church and general store with a post office. Today, 13 buildings remain on the property; eight are included in the tour.
Tour guides lead guests along a dirt road lit by hanging lanterns and flanked with sycamores as old as the village's buildings. The first stop is the Episcopal Church, where guests are treated to a 15-minute harp recital of holiday classics. Flickering candles on the windowsills add to the festive atmosphere. The tiny church, popular today for wedding ceremonies, was built in 1832; additions were made in 1836. After the expansion, the church was also used as a schoolroom and community center.
"Children from the village had free schooling here, but anyone coming from outside had to pay a fee for classes," Tortorello said.
Leaving the church, tour groups file past the foreman's one-room red stone cottage and cross over Mill Pond. The next stop is the bakery, where holiday delicacies can be washed down with hot cider while listening to the retelling of an old-world Christmas tale.
Visitors learn about the blacksmith trade when they step inside the forge across the street from the bakery. Glowing candles in the front windows of the Manager's Cottage beckon to groups as they leave the forge.
Built in 1750, this is the village's oldest wooden structure. Inside, the sweet smell of "clear toy" candies wafts from an open-hearth fire.
"Each year our volunteers make something different - last year it was gingerbread, the year before that plum pudding," Tortorello said. "This year we are going with the German tradition of clear-toy candies. These would have doubled as toys and treats for the children."
A highlight of the tour is the Big House, home to the Allaire family, who lived most of their lives in a brownstone on Cherry Street in Manhattan. James Peter Allaire retired to the village in 1850 and lived there until his death in 1858.
Holiday d袯r inside the house (the main part was built in 1790 with an addition in 1833) is a combination of French and British to reflect the ethnic heritage of the family.
"One year we had stockings hanging from the mantelpiece to represent the British custom. This year we will have shoes in front of the fireplace - a French tradition," Tortorello said. "The shoes would have been filled with candy for the kids."
In the Carpenters Workshop, volunteers demonstrate how village tradesmen made molds for iron products such as frying pans or tool handles.
The tradesmen also made wooden toys such as carousels and climbing bears, both on exhibit in the workshop.
There's no grand Christmas tree to greet guests taking the holiday tour of the Crane Mansion in Montclair. The 1796 Federal-style home pre-dates the tradition of the decorated tree in the United States. Instead, the Garden Club of Montclair has draped the grand staircase with garlands and decorated table tops, mantelpieces and doors with berries, fruit and fresh greenery. Tours begin Dec. 4 and will run 1 to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 2. The Pro Arte Chorale will perform traditional holiday music during candlelight tours of the mansion, 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10. $5, 10 and under $2. 108 Orange Road, Montclair. (973) 744-1796 or montclairhistorical.org.
Holiday Memories is the theme of this year's holiday tour of Skylands Manor. Nine local garden clubs and horticultural societies decorated the first floor of the Tudor revival mansion that was designed by architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Tours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Dec. 5. $7, seniors $6, children 6-12 $5. Champagne candlelight tours of the home for adults, 6 to 8 p.m. next Friday through Dec. 5. $25. New Jersey Botanical Gardens, Morris Road, Ringwood. (973) 962-7527 or njbg.org.
Step into the world of the Victorian elite during a Victorian Christmas Tour of Ringwood Manor. Costumed guides take guests through the lavishly decorated rooms of the 23-room country mansion. Holiday tours are noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 8. $7, seniors $6, children under 10 $3. Sloatsburg Road, Ringwood. (973) 962-2240 or ringwoodmanor.com.
The old log house is decorated for a 1915 Christmas at The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms in Morris Plains. A national historic landmark, Craftsman Farms was the home of Gustav Stickley, famed turn-of-the-century furniture designer, philosopher and publisher. Guided tours will explore Arts and Crafts holiday traditions. Tours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19. $7, members $6, children under 12 $4. 2352 Route 10 west, Morris Plains. stickleymuseum.org.
For directions go to hudsonvalley.org.
Stroll down a path lit by lanterns to Sunnyside Cottage and step inside for a glimpse of Christmas in the 1850s at the home of Washington Irving. Docents in costume will lead guests through the home, stopping periodically to read excerpts from Irving's Christmas tales. Tours begin at 4 p.m.; last tour leaves at 8. Dec. 11, 12, 18, and 19. Daytime holiday tours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Wednesday through December. $10, children 5-17 $5. West Sunnyside Lane, Route 9, Tarrytown. (914) 631-8200, ext. 618, or historichudsonvalley.org.
A candlelight tour of Van Cortlandt Manor is followed by the revelry of a Twelfth Night celebration at the estate's Ferry House. Guests can dance to lively fiddle music and drink a toast to the holiday season. Tours start at 4 p.m., last tour leaves at 8. Dec. 18, 19, and 26. Daytime tours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends in December. $10, children 5-17 $5. South Riverside Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson. (914) 631-8200, ext. 618, or historichudsonvalley.org.
Each room in Lyndhurst House is decorated in fairyland themes. Guests are served hot mulled cider while listening to live holiday music. Tours are every half-hour from 4:30 to 7 p.m. weekends, through December. $11, children $6. Reservations required. 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown. (914) 631-4481.
"Visions of Sugarplums" is the theme of the 18th century family Christmas at Montgomery Place. Caroling by local schoolchildren is followed by a horse-drawn carriage ride to the mansion. Hot chocolate and holiday treats will be served. Noon to 5 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12. $8, children 5-17 $4, under 5 free. Annandale-on-Hudson. (845) 758-5461.
Hundreds of candles light the elegant interior of the Boscobel mansion, built in the early 19th century. Guests will be entertained with a holiday music recital in the library. 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10-12 and 17-19. $12, seniors $10, children 6-14 $8, children under 6 free. Daytime holiday tours at the mansion are 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Dec. 10 through 31 except Dec. 14, 21, 25 and 28. 1601 Route 9D, Garrison. (845) 265-3638, ext. 115, or boscobel.org.