An Illuminated Christmas, 1914
New Holiday Installation Recalls the Mansion’s First Electrified Winter
In December 1914, the Peters of Tudor Place and their servants returned after a long absence to a newly renovated mansion, just in time for Christmas. For the museum’s 2017 holiday installation, Curator Grant Quertermous has recreated that moment when family traditions met the novelties of electric lights, state-of-the-art appliances, and other changes in an ancestral home.
All through December, Tudor Place visitors can take in artifacts, vignettes, and stories showing how the family observed the holiday that year. They can also see how the estate’s servants prepared for the season’s numerous meals and celebrations even as they adjusted to new and unfamiliar technology. The installation covers every room of National Historic Landmark, from the formal Drawing Room tree covered in period and historic ornaments, to teenaged Armistead’s bedroom with its “high-tech” radio, to the sparkling new kitchen where longtime Cook Annie O’Connor was mastering a new combination gas-and-coal stove from DuParquet on the fly. In some rooms, later furnishings have been removed and rarely displayed objects set out to recreate the home’s 1914-era appearance.
Such detailed interpretation took months of detailed research and planning within and beyond the Tudor Place collection and archive. To learn what types of food would have appeared on the family’s tables and in its larders, for example, Grant consulted grocery and dry goods receipts in the archive. Diaries and letters provided information about dining, gifts exchanged, and the season’s social events. Ledgers revealed names and roles of servants in the family’s employ, their pay, and the end-of-year gifts they received from the Peters.
Artistically and technically inclined, young Armistead Peter 3rd enabled a detailed recreation of his ham radio set-up through detailed drawings and photos he made of it. Relying on those and consultations with vintage radio specialists, the curator has precisely recreated “the boy’s” arrangement of radio equipment in the same location and on the same table where he used it over 100 years ago.
The full installation can be seen on all house tours and public programs in the historic house, including daily public tours, evening Candlelight Tours, a Saturday, December 2, family program of house explorations and holiday crafts, and Tudor Lights, the December 7 cocktail party featuring Christmas décor indoors and festive holiday lights in the garden, newly added this year. Most holiday programs sell out, so reserve soon for your chance to experience An Illuminated Christmas, 1914.