Fenton History Center Brings Holiday To Life

With a knock at the front door on a chilly evening, a crowd of visitors was swept back into the holiday spirit of 1865.

The Fenton History Center hosted the first “Meet the Fentons” holiday tour Friday night, allowing guests to interact with actors playing the famous Fenton family members. Guests met their introductory guide, Sara Reale, education coordinator, in the giftshop and were brought out to the front door of the house.

“I have to admit I brought you here under false pretenses,” Reale said. “The Fentons don’t know we are coming.”

Explaining being an unexpected guest in the 1800s was unheard of as well as rude, Reale guided the crowd to the front door of the house, hoping to play on the good graces of the maid, Emma, played by Julie Hall.

After knocking on the door, the crowd gathered around, waiting to see if they would be let in. After a back and forth with the maid, the OK was given by Elizabeth Fenton herself.

Gov. Reuben Fenton, played by Paul Leone, made an appearance near the upside-down Christmas tree on the second floor, while Elizabeth Fenton, played by Cindy Rodgers, greeted guests down stairs. In the parlor, near a gigantic tree covered in over 300 hand-dipped candles, Josephine, played by Victoria Parker, and Janet, played by Paige Cummings, sat knitting and sewing gifts for Christmas as they spoke of the hardships the Civil War had brought. They discussed a local family and what they could do to help as the guests looked on.

Every room of the house was decorated for the holiday season with candles, green garlands and other period specific decorations. On the downstairs level, a variety of Christmas and holiday displays from across the world were put up, including Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, a Swedish Christmas display and others.

Reale said a lot of hard work went into the event, but it was worth it. She said she was grateful for the hard work of the actors and all who were involved.  In the following performances, Reale said Gesele Koehler will play Emma the maid.

Reale said the experience is a delightful way to kick-off the holidays.

“It’s probably the only major holiday exhibit around,” she said, explaining guests would have a chance to see Christmas and the holidays from a whole new point of view.

While the “Tis the Season” holiday display is an annual tradition at the Fenton History Center, the “Meet the Fentons” holiday tours offer guests an inside look at what Christmas was like in the 1800s all while learning about local history.

The tours will be held each Friday at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and reservations are required. The tours cost $20 for non-members, $15 for members and $10 for children. To make reservations, call 664-6256. For more information on the Fenton History Center, the “Tis the Season” holiday exhibits and the Fenton family, visit fentonhistorycenter.org or find “Fenton History Center” on Facebook.