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Plumb Grove welcomes visitors

December 12, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

CLEAR SPRING -- Colleen Cashell learned the secret to stringing gumdrops for holiday decorating from an 82-year-old aunt.

"A little bit of oil on the thread (and) they slide right on," Cashell said Saturday at the historic Plumb Grove mansion in Clear Spring.

Built in 1831, the brick home off Broadfording Road was adorned in Christmas greens and finery for Plumb Grove by Candlelight, a one-day open house held by the Clear Spring District Historical Association, which has all but fully restored the property.

"This is kind of a way to give back to the community and the members" of the association, said Eric Trail, the Christmas committee chairman.

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In a nine-hour span on Saturday, Trail expected hundreds of people to tour the home, which was built by Jonathan Nesbitt Jr.

"It's a lot of work for one night, but it's worth it," Trail said of the decorating efforts of more than 20 people, some of whom search year-round for decorating ideas.

In the 11-fireplace mansion's drawing room, pods from Wisteria vines and Magnolia trees, white origami stars and small red bulbs adorned a cedar tree. The Wisteria pods were painted gold, silver and bronze to give a gilded appearance.

Swags of red-bowed cedar and boxwood dressed the entryways of the dining room, where trays of cookies were served to visitors. Punch, hot cider, coffee and appetizers were served in the kitchen, where dried hydrangeas, pine, magnolia and cedar decorated the mantel above the fireplace.

The cedar tree for the room, mounted in a crock, featured shredded corn husks that were dyed with beet juice and dried fruit, Trail said.

A wreath hanging in the window was made with milkweed pods.

Upstairs in the slave quarters, guinea feathers were featured in many of the more simple arrangements of greens.

The feathers were symbolic of how the slaves likely were left to create decorations from the limited material they could find outside, Trail said.

In the children's room, real tinsel made by a tinsmith in Ontario, along with bundles of peppermint sticks and strings of gumdrops, adorned another cedar tree.

"Somehow, we just ended up with cedar (throughout the mansion)," Trail said.

Wreaths in the windows also were wrapped in gumdrops. In an adjoining bedroom, Cashell embellished the fireplace mantel with white pine, Osage orange, pomegranate, strings of cranberries and hand-dipped beeswax candles.

"I'm ready to light the candles," Cashell said as the daylight began to ebb from the room.

Trail said the historical association, which has about 600 members, hopes the event encourages more people in the community to contribute to the organization's efforts to preserve history. The mansion was badly deteriorated when the group obtained it in the early 1980s.

"It was really let go," Trail said while showing photographs of the home when it was boarded up and practically abandoned.

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