Christmas at the Miller House

December 06, 2000

Christmas at the Miller House

By KATE COLEMAN / staff writer

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Flowered arrangement

Antique dolls

Christmas tree

When: Wednesdays through Saturdays through Dec. 30 and Sunday, Dec. 17, 1 to 4 p.m. Special tours are available by appointment.

Where: Miller House, 135 W. Washington St., Hagerstown

Admission: $3 for adults; $2 for senior citizens; free for students younger than 16. The Miller House will be closed to tours from Monday, Jan. 1, to Wednesday, April 4. However, the office and library will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 301-797-8782.


Members of Washington County Council of Garden Clubs have decorated the Federal period townhouse, home of Washington County Historical Society.

Participating garden clubs:

  • Antietam Garden Club
  • Chapelwood Garden Club
  • Crossroads Garden Club
  • Hagerstown Garden Club
  • Potomac Garden Club
  • Town & Country Garden Club
  • Woodland Garden Club

It's time for Christmas at the Miller House, and this year the time is Christmas 1900.


Seven Washington County garden clubs have decorated parts of the Federal period townhouse in keeping with Christmas of 100 years ago. Washington County Historical Society staff members were available to provide guidance on the period, said Melinda Marsden, executive director of the organization, headquartered at the Miller House.

Town & Country Garden Club did the honors at the house's entrance. Red, green and gold plaid bows brighten white pine roping on the railings. The front doors have swags of greens - Southern magnolia, Douglas fir, boxwood, holly and cedar, brightened with sprigs of winterberry and bows of the same plaid.

The arrangement on the bow-front chest in the front hallway is from Antietam Garden Club, a wreath of faux greens surrounding a white pillar candle in a glass chimney. The wreath is decorated with bows of delicate gold and silver ribbon, small apples, pieces of pinecones, a bird and Christmas balls of gold.

Potomac Garden Club decorated the curved railing of the Miller House's hanging stairway. Faux pine garland is intertwined with lengths of ribbon - one blush-colored with gold edges, the other a gold-trimmed patterned ivory. Golden roping and gilt pinecones complete the simple and elegant decoration.

The Christmas tree in the front drawing room was donated by Marsden and her husband, Jim. They cut the concolor fir they planted years ago at their Leitersburg home.

The tree is decorated with antique glass, metal and paper ornaments from the Miller House collection. Among these is a paper trolley with pictures of several U.S. presidents in the trolley windows.

Under the tree are toys from the historical society's collection. Miller House toys and toys from the personal collection of doll curator Sharon Caha also are on display in two upstairs bedrooms. Dolls are gathered for a holiday party in the children's tea room on the first floor.

Crossroads Garden Club filled the mantel in the front drawing with boxwood scattered with hand-crocheted snowflakes. Small boxwood Christmas trees at the mantel's edges wear garlands of pearls and golden beads, as well as crimson and lace ribbon. There is a golden lamppost ornament at the mantel's center, and carolers - mouths rounded in singing - are dressed in costumes of the period.

The back drawing room mantel wears pine garland with a few simple stars of gold wire. Chapelwood Garden Club placed a large crimson velvet star trimmed with gold braid in the middle. There are rosebuds made of shimmery reddish ribbon at the star's center. Candleabra at the mantel's edges have bows of the same ribbon. A pillow of crimson velvet, with tiny white satin rosebuds, sits on either side of the star.

Hagerstown Garden Club used white pine and boxwood to cover the mantel in the dining room. Lengths of black and gold brocaded ribbon form V's pointing toward the floor. Golden beads wind among glittery pinecones and faux fruit.

The artificial fruit works well in arrangements that are on display through the end of the month, said Curator Elizabeth Graff.

A very Victorian arrangement of flowers made of feathers was created for the sideboard in the dining room by members of Woodland Garden Club. The feather poinsettias are in a footed glass bowl placed on a mirror surrounded by a green-velvet drape with simple red and gold ribbon.

Facts about the Miller House in 1900

In 1900, the brick mansion on West Washington Street, now known as the Miller House, was home to Alexander Neill. The third Alexander Neill to live in the house, Neill was born there in 1844, studied law and was admitted to the Washington County bar in 1865. He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1870 and married Ellen Loughridge of Baltimore in 1871. They had six children, three of whom were deceased when Thomas J.C. Williams' "A History of Washington County Maryland" was published in 1906.

Neill was a founder of the Washington County Historical Society, said Melinda Marsden, executive director of the organization.

Ladies' dresses, photos and items from the period are on view in the second-floor exhibit room. For the historical society, a "traditional" organization, the century is turning this year, Marsden joked.

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