Gardeners' Guild Historical Tour - 2013

Sunday, December 8th was brisk outside and sales inside Braintree Town Hall at The Gardeners’ Guild annual craft fair matched the weather.  The foyer was resplendent with tables of containers of all sizes and types filled with fresh greens and holiday decorations as well as freshly decorated wreaths and bows.  Guild members had crafted these items earlier in the week.  All fresh greens were sold within an hour of opening.  Looks like the guild will have to craft even more for next year’s show.
A huge tree filled the interior corner of the foyer and was decorated to the nines along with the stairway and railings by members of the Ways and Means Committee led by chairwomen Kerri Eck and Barbara Sullivan.  Sue Ghiloni, ticket chairwoman, greeted guests as she has done for many years at the door.  Sue administers all facets of the design, printing, sales and collection of tickets.  Down the hallway sat a table covered with silent auction items that had been donated from each of the 40 vendors inside Cahill Auditorium.  From the 10:00 a.m. opening until the 4:00 p.m. closing, the boutique drew large crowds of browsers and buyers who enjoyed gift shopping, socializing over home-baked refreshments overseen by Lauren Crook and the hospitality committee, and listening to holiday music provided by the Braintree High School string orchestra and the Archbishop Williams chorus.  Shoppers were happily impressed with the first quality, handcrafted items they purchased from the vendors.
At 766 Washington Street, Braintree a line began forming early for the 1:00 p.m. opening of the Christmas house tour.  Police cars and traffic cones between Central Ave. and Gilbert Bean Drive for the safety of the crowds crossing between the town hall mall and the historical houses had cordoned off Washington Street.   A steady stream of guests toured the historic Asa French House and then went on to the Sylvanus Thayer House and the Gilbert Bean Museum.
On this brisk early December day, standing in a very long, slow-moving line waiting to enter the French House was better tolerated as one enjoyed a birds-eye view of the outside decorations put together by Creative Potpourri Coordinators and Past Presidents, Maggi Johnson and Christine McIntyre assisted by their talented committee that included Jane Barney, Lauren Crook, Jen Fennessy, Karen Joyce, Stephanie McLaughlin and Tina O’Brien.  As you made your way past the historical marker, wrapped in pine and arborvitae and meandered up the granite steps, you were reminded of a simpler time.  The fanlight over the front entry was filled with crisp boxwood branches, and a display of glistening pomegranates and limes surrounded a perfectly shaped pineapple.  Every window was aglow with a single candle.  Swags of mixed greens and ribbons were accented with fruit in the Williamsburg style on doors, windows and lanterns throughout the exterior.
Guests were warmly welcomed into the front foyer of the Asa French House by residents Bob Harris and Aziz Karsan and Guild President, Donna Banville.  They were presented with a brochure, “The French Connection to Braintree,” giving a historical accounting of the French family and history of the properties and town.
Inside the entry hall, Kathleen Doherty, Nina Egan, Mary Fitzgerald, Claire Mulligan and Regina Zahran assisted Chairwomen Donna Banville and Gail Ritz.  Twelve pane windows flank this area and held single flickering candles entwined with greens and ribbons.
A bench, which may have been used by the original family to sit upon while removing their snow-encrusted boots, was laden with wrapped gifts.  The aroma of balsam from the modestly sized Christmas tree at the bottom of the stairs filled your senses.  Bundles of festively wrapped Christmas greens adorned the stairway spindles leading to the upstairs.
Looking toward the dining room one noticed the candlelit chandelier over the table set for six with burlap runners and a lace overlay.  Each place was set with a golden charger holding a china Christmas plate and crystal goblets.  A glass container filled with ornaments reflecting the room colors was the elegant centerpiece.  Swags of mixed greens topped the window frames and a boxwood garland was draped gracefully over the fireplace and held a glistening display of fruits.  This room was also fashioned by the entry hall women.
Guests were next directed into the kitchen, a narrow galley style with a lone window that was attractively decorated with two boxwood wreaths held with wide, mesh burlap ribbon cinched with a red streamer bow and topped with a garland of mixed greens.  A stunning centerpiece, in the Williamsburg style, of magnolia leaves, boxwood, a fresh pineapple and fresh fruits and nuts covered a good portion of the long counter.  Pewter pieces were seen on the cupboard and other shelves amongst greens and votive lights.   Twig wreaths adorned with pinecones, fruit and greens adorned the wall and doors.  And a whimsical nutcracker baker held a small basket of rolls and stood beside a wire basked filled with shiny, lacquered breads and rolls.  Ann Moore, Carole Wilson and Sandra Young decorated here.
Entering the warmly decorated family room, one noticed the inviting use of red tones.  A beautiful Christmas tree, decorated with Christopher Radko ornaments, was featured.  Mixed fresh greens and poinsettias completed this tree.  A coordinating wreath hung on the focus wall and the fireplace was adorned with mixed fresh greens, multiple poinsettias and floor length candlesticks holding flameless, flickering candles.  Working their magic in this room were Ann Toland, Jane Gillis, Joan Hutcheon, and Janine Oliva.
Following along brought one into what is currently used as a breakfast room but what was originally the first post office in Braintree.  North Carolina Cypress, fashioned in a heart shape, adorned a door.  Pewter pieces, dried branches, pods, fruits and berries were used throughout.  In trying to maintain the sense of the period, mostly natural materials, burlap ribbons and wool roping was highlighted.
A stunning wreath of twigs and dried fruits covered the focus wall.  And a wooden spinning wheel sat by the window.  A bookcase featured antique doll figures from the book “A Christmas Carol.”  Judy Caristi and Carol Morley styled this room.
In the living room, one felt the east meets west Asian influence.  The murals on the walls, furniture and objects d’art were collected from a lifetime of travels.  Beautiful magnolias and frosted fruits surrounded a wreath of mixed Christmas greens that hung above the fireplace.  Most rooms in the house  had a fireplace.  An old fashioned tree stacked with apples adorned a coffee table, and a Christmas tree sat in the far corner.  It was totally adorned with gorgeous Lenox ornaments from the resident’s collection.  Lovely wrapped gifts sat underneath waiting for Christmas morning.  The room was styled by Carolyn Mahoney, Sue Ghiloni and Cathy Toohey.
Guests were graciously invited upstairs to view the bedroom and bath areas.
The master bedroom sported natural mixed greens holding dried fruits and spectacular sage green, floral imprinted ribbons.  An authentic uniform of the Ancient Honorable Society hung next to the greens filled fireplace. The desk provided an inviting respite for a cup of tea and quick note to friends and relatives inviting them to upcoming holiday festivities.  The master bath, quite large for this period, sported a claw foot tub filled with floating candles, mixed greenery throughout, red and off-white Christmas designed towels and touches of the season on sconces and shelves.  Stephanie Minchello, Barbara Black and Steve Maccini decorated here.
The guest room was adorned with mixed greens, burgundy and burlap ribbons, cranberries and dried fruits throughout.  The mantle held nutcracker figures, a fruit studded garland and the fireplace was filled with greens, birch logs, pinecones and dried hydrangeas.  An authentic military uniform hung on a stand beside the fireplace. Rochelle Moore, Sarah Sciasia and Cara Slattery worked in this area and the children’s bedroom.
The children’s bedroom used the same mixed greens, pinecones and dried fruits.  Toys and period books popular during this period were showcased.  A gorgeous needlepoint button ribbon decorated the wreaths and window treatments throughout.
Returning downstairs, guests admired the hallway Christmas tree decorated by Barbara Black and Jane Barney.  Popcorn and cranberry garlands entwined the tree and red and white plaid ribbon encircled it.  Hand-made, heart shaped windowpane cookies hung and little white lights sparkled.
Guests then exited to the Thayer House and/or Gilbert Bean Museum.  Outside the Museum stood a living, balled blue spruce tree that would be raffled off to a lucky winner for planting.  It was decorated with popcorn and cranberry garlands and birdseed covered pinecone ornaments for our friends in the air.  Working in the museums were Cathy Avellino, Lucille Barton, Gail Burns and Peg Kelly.
Each windowsill in the Thayer House held a simple, single candle, fresh greens and holly berries.  The table was set with candles and pewter dishes and mugs.  The loom room and spinning area as well as the kitchen smelled of fresh bread.  Root vegetables ready for preparing dinner rested on a table.  A roaring fire emblazoned the enormous fireplace and heated the entire house.  Guests were able to tour all rooms to view how everyday living occurred during this period.
The staircase of the Gilbert Bean Museum was adorned with mixed green garlands.  Poinsettias decorated the loft.
Special thanks go to Bob Harris and Aziz Karsan for graciously offering their residence to be viewed in support of this holiday tradition, which benefits Braintree community projects.  And as always, kudos and sincere thanks go to the ladies and gentleman of The Gardeners’ Guild of Braintree for their untiring efforts in presenting these events and somehow outdoing their own expertise with each succeeding year.