Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas at the Martin House

On December 25, 1907, Darwin D. Martin wrote in his diary, Memorandum of Events in the Life of Darwin D. and Isabelle R. Martin, the following words:

A beautiful Christmas.  We sent and received many gifts--one from Belle [Isabelle Martin] to DDM [Darwin D. Martin] a lovely miniature of Darwin's.  As usual Grandma and Margaret out Christmas eve until 26th.  Grace Peckham also overnight Christmas eve, Christmas dinner guests were these, Mrs. Peckham, Mrs. Parmalee, and family.  To supper with these except Parmalee, also Moreys, Simpsons and their friends Mr. and Mrs. Austin of Ithaca.  Assets reach a million for first time. 

Here, Darwin D. Martin describes the familiar traditions we often associate with the holidays--the exchanging of gifts, the welcoming of house guests, and the hosting of dinner parties--and he concludes with the proud, yet factual, declaration of his newly-reached status as self-made millionaire.  Yet in reading this journal entry, one begins to wonder what more do we know about Christmases past in the Martin family household?


Martin Family Photographs, University at Buffalo Archives

An archival photograph sheds some light on the Martins' custom of decorating the family Christmas tree.  A tall, slender spruce rises to the height of the ceiling frieze rail and stands adjacent to the southeast pier cluster at the point where the living room and the library meet.  Clusters of multi-shaped glass ornaments and sparkling strips of silver tinsel adorn it, underneath which sits an overflowing pile of gifts--including what appears to be a large box "wrapped" in a plaid blanket--all awaiting to be opened.


Nellie Gardner and volunteer members of the Interior Beautification Committee trim the Martin House Christmas tree.


Taking inspiration from this historic snapshot, staff and volunteers have brought the yuletide spirit back into the Martin House through the temporary installation of a Christmas tree evocative of the one that was once trimmed by the Martins--right down to the very detail of using a period-appropriate tree stand by North Brothers Manufacturing Company, an early 20th century iron and brass foundry from Philadelphia, PA.

We hope you will come for a tour of the Martin House and discover it with your own eyes.  And until then, best wishes for a holiday season filled with much joy, peace and success--from our house to yours!




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