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Vintage Passions

Christmas Walk-About Holiday Event At White Swan Today

Nathaniel Weaver decorates one of 10 trees while preparing for The White Swan’s Christmas Walkabout. Weaver has brought in 10 truckloads of antiques for the special holiday event. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Nathaniel Weaver has been preparing for today’s Christmas Walk-About at the White Swan for several days with the recent addition of 10 truckloads of antiques, a dozen Christmas trees decorated with vintage decorations and an 1880s sleigh. He describes the event as a holiday party planned for customer appreciation and to showcase the upstairs ballroom with its unique history.

Parents are encouraged to bring their children to receive a candy cane and have their picture taken in the sleigh with Santa, who will be decked out in a vintage suit.

Cookies, hot chocolate, punch and coffee will be complimentary. Roast beef and pulled pork sandwiches, French fries and chicken noodle soup will be sold. Ten themed baskets will be raffled in a Chinese auction, including Chocolate Lovers, Child’s Dream, Car Care, Candlelight Lover’s and Holiday Kitchen. A 10-inch holiday-themed ice cream cake will also be raffled at the gala holiday party.

“I just want people to come in and experience the rich history of this beautiful structure,” said Weaver. “Buildings of this quality and age are to cherish because they are becoming less and less of them. In order to grasp how special it is, you really have to see it for yourself, not just look from the outside, but see the great detail.”

A lot of thought went into the engineering of the upper floor, which was added in 1926. The steel rafters can be seen from inside the room.

Refreshments will be served and children may have their picture taken with Santa in the 1880s sleigh in the upstairs ballroom at The White Swan. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“It was very well thought out and ahead of its time. They had a vision and a dream and they accomplished what they dreamt.”

It has been a wedding and party venue and is once again available. There is a caterer’s kitchen, a long bar that was added in 2000, as well as a corner stage which was enlarged nine years ago. The original ticket booth is at the top of stairs near the main entrance. Beside it hangs a framed sign that states “On May 4, 1937 693 tickets were sold for Slim and Jack Gang.”

Over the years, many famous celebrities have performed in the ballroom in the tiny four-corners community. The most recent recording artists were The Shirelles, The Vogues, The Coasters, The Marvelettes, The Drifters, The Edsels, The Contours and The Reflections. Lucille Ball roller skated there before she was known.

Framed signed photos of performers, athletes and various famous people line the walls, but the sports memorabilia and neon signs may be the most eye-catching as one enters the massive room. Vintage model trains are set up on a narrow wall-hugging shelf. A disco ball hangs in the center of the room.

Not only does the ballroom have an interesting history. About 150 years ago, the original building, a one-story house, was built kitty-corner, across the road. It was moved to the current location about 30 years later by eight teams of horses with a large wheel under the center of the structure. After the owners saw they could sell a few things from the location, display windows were added and it was made into Boardman Brothers’ General Merchandise.

Many years ago these lower glass-front display cases stored fishing lures when they were in Findley’s Store in Warren, Pa. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“I just love how it is all original. No updates,” said the building’s owner.

The overhanging roof in the front was where gasoline was pumped. There are petroleum traces in the floorboards of the oil room on the side of the building.

The first thing Weaver did after he took possession of the building in June, was to give it a thorough cleaning, including the individually sectioned glass-front display case from Warren’s former Findley’s Store and a case made for Boardman Brothers which used to hold freshly baked bread. He cut down and hauled away the overgrown brush from the store’s 10 year closure and then went on a hunt, following leads, making phone calls and traveling to find some great pieces to put in the downstairs antique shop. He added a few thousand miles to the odometer of his SUV while obtaining some pristine items and others that were in need of restoration, which he did with pleasure as he enjoys “fixing and making things right again.”

“I’ve bought really unique pieces to display. Among them is this 130 to 140 year-old oak, working secretary desk with both keys and the matching chair, which are rarely found with these pieces,” he said. “Here is an ornate mid-1800s custom built rocking chair with original upholstery. It came from the Newbold Estate in Irvine, Pennsylvania.”

Several other large pieces are displayed throughout the corner store. A wide variety of stoneware crocks, glass milk bottles and McCoy, Hull, Hall and Roseville pieces are tucked here and there.

“This is a perfect time to do holiday shopping as all merchandise will be discounted 20 percent,” said the driven entrepreneur. “Vintage items make very personal and heartfelt gifts. You can’t go wrong getting something beautiful and historic. This stuff has stood the test of time and they’ll have it to cherish and remember you forever.”

“I’ve had my heart in this store since I was three years old. This was the first antiques store I’d ever been to,” said Weaver. “I was seven or eight when I used to tell the owners I was going to buy this place one day.”

The 20-year-old has been buying antiques for as long as he can remember. He has been an entrepreneur for just about as long.

He had a lemonade stand in his parents’ front yard when he was eight or nine and turned their basement into a “make-believe greenhouse” when he was a pre-teen.

“I used to bring him here,” says his Aunt Darlene Wawrejko. “The owners felt comfortable selling to him because they knew his passion. He always bought the most interesting things.”

Weaver is already looking ahead to spring, when he plans to enclose an area to accommodate a soft-serve ice cream machine, which he has already purchased.

The event takes place today, Small Business Saturday, from noon until 8 p.m. The White Swan is located at 900 Route 958, Pittsfield, Pa. in the village of Wrightsville, just 28 minutes from downtown Jamestown. Take Forest Avenue through Busti and Sugar Grove, Pa. and turn left at the four corners in Lottsville. The White Swan is 2.5 miles on the left. The winter hours are weekends 12-5 p.m., but appointments may be made by calling the mobile number (814) 730-2352. The store phone number is (814) 489-3424. Thursday and Friday hours are added during Spring through Fall.

The Chestnut Stuffing, English Plum Pudding and World War Cake came from the 1934 edition of The Rumford Complete Cookbook which was originally printed in 1908. The Holubky came from the Slovak-American Cookbook printed in 1952.

Chestnut Dressing

1 1/2 pounds French chestnuts

1 c stale bread crumbs

1/2 c scalded milk

1/3 c butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the shells from the nuts and blanch by pouring boiling water over them; allow them to stand 5 minutes when the brown skin can be removed with the fingers and a knife. Cook the nuts in boiling salted water till tender, which will probably take about 1/2 hour; mash finely, add the butter and seasoning, also the crumbs which have had the scalded milk poured over them. Mix well, and use for stuffing.

English Plum Pudding

1/2 lb suet

1/2 lb currants

1/2 lb seeded raisins

1/2 lb citron or orange peel

Grated rind of 2 lemons

1/2 lb sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 level tsp each ground cloves, nutmeg and ginger

1/4 lb flour

1/2 lb stale bread crumbs

6 eggs

1/2 c grape juice

Chop the suet finely, clean the currants, seed the raisins and cut the peel quite small. Put all together into a bowl. Add the lemon rind, sugar, spices, flour and bread crumbs, and moisten with the well-beaten eggs and grape juice. Turn into well-greased bowls or pudding molds and steam or boil 8 hours. These puddings will keep for a year, but need to be steamed or boiled for an hour before serving.

World War Cake

1 c brown sugar

11/2 c water

1 c seeded raisins

2 oz citron, cut fine

1/3 c shortening

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 c flour

5 tsp Rumford Baking Powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

Boil together for three minutes the sugar, water, fruit, shortening, spices and salt. Let cool and then add the flour and baking powder sifted together and the vanilla. Mix well and bake in a well-greased loaf pan in a moderate oven about 45 minutes.

Cheeseless Cheese Cake

4 eggs, separated

11/3 c sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp grated lemon rind

1/3 c lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 T melted butter

2/3 c (12) Zwieback crumbs

Beat egg yolks and combine with milk, add lemon rind, juice, vanilla and nutmeg; blend well. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Combine melted butter and crumbs.

Sprinkle half the crumbs in buttered 8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch pan or 9-inch by 2-inch layer cake pan. Pour in mixture and sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Bake in slow oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Cool for 1 hour in oven with door closed.

Holubky or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

1 large head cabbage

1 c shredded cabbage

3/4 c uncooked rice

1/2 c diced onions

1/4 c diced green pepper

1/4 c diced carrots

1 lb ground beef

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 c sour cream

1/2 c canned tomato soup

Parboil head of cabbage, separate leaves and set aside. Mix together shredded cabbage, rice, onions, peppers, carrots, meat, salt and pepper. Form this mixture into loose (not too solid) rolls, leaving room for rice to expand. Wrap each roll in a cabbage leaf; fasten with toothpicks. Place into greased casserole, pouring over 1/2 cup water. Bake 90 minute at 350 degrees. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Stir cream and tomato soup together; pour over the cabbage rolls and bake an additional 30 minutes.

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