Written by Alexandra Munteanu – Fall Intern 2016
Marblehead kicks off the holiday season with its annual Christmas Walk Weekend, just as December makes its festive debut. It is a chance for the local businesses to interact with the public and for folks to preview the holiday charm of the historic downtown and business districts. At this time of year, the King Robert Hooper Mansion is known for its beautiful seasonal decorations from each of the five garden clubs of Marblehead and this year’s creative floral donations did not disappoint. As well as being an important 18th century colonial American site, the Mansion is home to the Marblehead Arts Association which purchased and restored the mansion in 1928 with funds raised by the sales of work by member artists.
For this project, the Mansion is divided into 5 areas—one for each garden club to decorate. The theme of the Mansion this year was The Twelve Days of Christmas, complete with each of the twelve days somehow represented all throughout the house. A few years ago, The Garden Clubs of Marblehead chose their own theme for the house to decorate to, however, the theme is now chosen for them and they are given the task of coming up with decorations that fit that theme. Each person from the different clubs said that they really loved seeing how the other garden clubs interpreted the theme assigned.
As one enters into the Mansion, the Parlor Gallery is to one’s left decorated by The Arrangers of Marblehead. They adorned the windows with signature wreaths and used live greens for the mantle. Each club tries to use as many “live” elements as possible.
Upon entering the mansion, a small topiary sits at the foot of the front hall stairway and the banister is adorned with garland. On the second floor landing, a lighted tree with handmade decorations greets you. The Marblehead Garden Club is the creative force behind these spaces. Avery Russell, a Marblehead Garden Club member hand sewed all the felt swans and hens and also cleverly cut doilies to resemble ladies dancing. Other members made creative use of everyday items such as golf tees and spools to turn them into horns and drums.
Further into the house, on the first floor, is the Dining Room Gallery, done by The Driftwood Garden Club. Ginny von Rueden, a 20-year member of The Driftwood Garden Club, is also a long time artist member of the Marblehead Arts Association. Ginny worked with her team to decorate the Dining Room Gallery. They focused their designs around the birds of the 12 Days of Christmas, evident in the portrayal of the swan, partridge in a pear tree, turtledoves, and the French hen.
“I love to work with the other volunteers in the club to create the scenes we have selected for the decorating theme and I also like to see how the other clubs interpret the same theme,” Ginny said when asked what her favorite part of decorating the Hooper was.
The Hendrick Gallery at the back of the house is decorated by The Winter Garden Club. The five golden rings and the partridge bird from the classic holiday song are the focus of their decoration. Poinsiettas are used throughout the design.
The Cottage Gardeners of Marblehead and Swampscott was assigned to the Ballroom Gallery. The rooms rotate each year and are assigned to different garden clubs for decorating. Petra Langer, member of the Cottage Gardeners, said while they were assigned to the ballroom a few weeks ahead of the decorating date, they were only given a few hours to completely decorate the entire room. The Club tries to use more natural elements than artificial ones
Petra commented, “We were told that we could use either live or artificial greens and plants; we elected to use as many natural greens and plants as possible, but we also used some artificial ones. Given that the decorations must last for a full month, using natural greens and plants is tricky. We’ll see if they last!”
The Hooper Mansion remains decorated through the holiday season and even when the festive decorations are removed in the New Year, the town still remembers how beautiful they were and looks forward to next year’s Christmas Walk.