Every year, Essex County’s Commissioners + the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs host the annual Historic Holiday House Tour. It’s a wonderful — and mostly free — way to enjoy the holiday season while also getting a lesson in Essex County history. The event only lasts for one weekend, so in case you missed it, we’ve got you covered. Read on to experience the holiday magic of this event.
“The County of Essex is rich in history and architecture. Take a break from the hustle and bustle this December and visit historic homes that have decked the halls in holiday extravagance for one spectacular weekend. Tour historic Essex with your friend and family and delight in the elegance of the season.” – Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., Essex County Executive
For one weekend each year, the county opens up its most historically important houses to the public. Families attend with their children, societies meet up to share information with the public, and locals come to celebrate the joyous season and take pictures. Most of these houses are open and accessible to the public, while others cost a small fee or reservation. So if you missed the event this year, read on for a look at the gorgeous decorations.
One of our favorite hidden gems is this last farm in Cedar Grove. The 1850s farmhouse is a hive of history, displayed through architecture, memorabilia, and artifacts. The Cedar Grove Historical Society made all the holiday decorations. History is ingrained in their members — one of whom is even a Canfield themself. There was hot apple cider, homemade cookies, friendly docents, and a bounty of information.
The sturdy house built by one of Montclair’s founding families is a favorite when decorated for the holidays. The Garden Club of Montclair fills the halls with dried fruits and citrus smells, gingerbread men, and floral arrangements. The Crane House serves to preserve the history of Montclair through its use as a private home in early America, and later as a YWCA in the 1960s. It’s a treasure in the town.
Have you ever wanted to peek inside this mysterious castle on First Mountain? Kip’s was decorated as it would have been in its early days, home to a private family in the 1920s. The stunning main room has a central hearth and an adjacent sitting area — both surprisingly cozy considering the gothic architecture. Families love taking pictures in front of the magnificent decor, and others study the Kiplings’ rather impressive family tree.
The sitting room of this 1865 house is decked in holiday cheer. Once owned by the longtime caretaker of the Iris Gardens, Mrs. Barbara Walther, the house is a beautiful setting for the gardens’ gift shop, The Bloom Room. The Christmas tree, window decor, and fireplace are lovely.
This National Park and historic home is the birth-site of the 22nd + 24th President of the United States. The home is delightfully set up for the holiday season and is brightly decorated with old-fashioned evergreen festoons, fruits, ribbons, rose hips, and sprigs of berries. Decorations remain up until January.
Other places that hosted historic tours this year included:
Glenmont at Thomas Edison National Historical Park
The Gypsy Farmhouse
Van Tassel Funeral Home