Castle tea a sold-out fundraiser for museum

December 05, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER


The Christmas tree was lighted, the mantles were decorated and the fireplaces were glowing Sunday afternoon at Berkeley Castle, the site for the annual tea party in Berkeley Springs.

The third annual Yule Tea, hosted by the Museum of the Berkeley Springs, has become such a popular event that it was sold out weeks ago, said Tamme Marggraf, museum president.

Andrew Gosline, who purchased the castle in 2003 and uses it as a private home, conducted tours of the upper rooms while the Warm Springs Chamber Ensemble entertained guests with "a potpourri of Mozart, Viennese waltzes and Christmas music," pianist Pat Springer said.


Victorian Pink was the color scheme this year, said Mary Banks Nichols, the event coordinator. Variegated pink poinsettias were used throughout, she said.

Arlene Verge of Berkeley Springs said, "It's nice to see how the castle is decorated. We came to the first tea, and we look forward to it because it puts you in the Christmas mood."

Dee Sweitzer was visiting from Fayetteville, Pa.

"I like the decorations, but I'm fascinated by the castle itself," she said.

Banks Nichols said local businesses donated money for the event and local inns and restaurants donated food. The tea servers volunteered for the occasion, she said.

Zana Thomas, 11, and her great-grandmother, Ruth Butts, came from Hagerstown. Butts said she got her tickets as soon as she read about the event in the newspaper.

Thomas wore a Victorian-style red dress with a white cape and matching white hat. Butts made Thomas the outfit for the occasion, she said.

The proceeds of the tea will help construct and maintain a virtual museum Internet Web site, said Jeanne Mozier, museum secretary.

"This is like the archives to the museum," she said.

The museum received a grant of about $3,000 from W.Va.'s Benedum Foundation for the online museum and received matching funds from the Washington Heritage Trail National Scenic Byways, which will be used for computers and wiring at the museum, Mozier said.

"So much goes into an exhibit, and we lack suitable space for all the information, and this will enable people to get it all online," Marggraf said.

The Museum of the Berkeley Springs was opened by local residents in 1984 on the second floor of the Roman Bath House in Berkeley Springs State Park, Marggraf said. The exhibits include the geology of the town's springs, and the mineral contents of the water are broken down and on display, she said.

There also is a James Rumsey exhibit, Marggraf said. Rumsey, the inventor of the steamboat, was hired by George Washington to build his house, but that was never done, she said.

"He was too busy inventing stuff," she said.

Sitting high on Warm Springs Ridge and overlooking the town, Berkeley Castle was built as a private summer residence in 1885 by Samuel Taylor Suit as a wedding present for his bride-to-be, Rosa Pelham.

According to the Berkeley Castle Web site, Suit was a prominent Maryland businessman and president of the Washington and Chesapeake Railroad. Washington, D.C., socialites were entertained lavishly at the castle, and after Suit's death, Rosa spent her way through two fortunes by hosting gala events.

The castle is the only English Norman Castle in the United States and is a half-scale replica of Berkeley Castle near Bath, England.

Gosline said "this is good for the community and a good fundraiser. I donate the house, but they do all the work."

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