Thursday, January 5, 2017

roberson museum: home for the holidays christmas tree display

My family doesn't have too many holiday traditions that we practice every year. We follow the same menu each Thanksgiving dinner, we go out to breakfast at IHOP on Christmas morning, we open stockings at the kitchen table that include a packet of lottery tickets chosen by my dad, and we watch "The Santa Clause" after we eat our Christmas dinner. That's about it for the things we partake in annually... except for our visit to the Roberson Mansion and Science Center.

Since I was a wee Gabbi, my mom and I have made a trip to the Roberson Museum every December to visit the Home for the Holidays Christmas Tree display. It's a fun trip that has always made the holidays feel more magical and it's something we both look forward to every year.

*this is a very photo heavy post*

Roberson Museum is comprised of the Science Center and the Roberson Mansion. The Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built from 1904 to 1907 by Binghamton architect C. Edward Vosbury in the then-prestigious Riverside Drive area of the city. The house was built for Alonzo Roberson Jr. and his wife Margaret Hays Roberson. It is an Italian Renaissance Revival-style house that was built with all of the modern conveniences of the time, including an elevator, central heat, combination gas and electric lighting, a dumbwaiter, an intercom system, and a private bathroom for each bedroom. Similar to most of the large mansions nearby, there was a ballroom and billiard room on the third floor, and the design also incorporated a three-story servants' wing in the back of the house that was accessible from the outside.

The New York City firm Pottier & Stymus was chosen to design the interior of the home. The design included silk damask on the walls of the library, living, and reception rooms. The Main Hall was decorated with Dutch metal, stenciling, and hand-painted decorations. Each room on the first floor has a different type of elaborate woodwork. The property was enclosed by a tall wrought-iron fence. The total cost of the property including the house, stable, fence, and landscaping was $107,500 - a small fortune back then.

Alonzo Roberson died in May 1934. His will allowed for the establishment of an education center in his home after its use by Margaret, his widow. The Roberson Memorial Center was opened to the public in 1954. Throughout the year, several different art and educational exhibits are on display throughout the museum and they have several seasonal events, such as the Home for the Holidays display and a New Years Eve Masquerade Ball. The actual mansion portion has been kept in pristine condition, and it is a real treat to be able to have full access to such a historical home and be able to see how the family lived back then.

The Home for the Holidays Event runs from November 16th to January 8th so that it covers the three major winter holidays. It centers around a large display of Christmas trees: one set that changes each year based on what local companies decide to decorate the trees as, and one set that focuses on different holiday traditions from countries and cultures around the world. It also showcases the beautiful Christmas decorations in the Roberson mansion, which are quite extravagant and very stunning. This year, they advertised that they had decorated the museum and mansion more than they ever had and boy, they weren't kidding! The display started as soon as you entered the front door of the Science Center.

They don't often repeat displays, but they have used this one in the past and I am very glad they have because it's one of my favorites. In this particular woodland animals display, they have different taxidermied bobcats, baby deer, doves, ducks, a grey wolf, owls, rabbits, and a Father Winter figure hiding amongst trees lit with beautiful white gold Christmas lights.

It is a beautiful, ethereal winter scene that really sets the stage for the rest of the exhibit. It instantly transports you into a Narnia-like winter wonderland. 

I couldn't get enough of this display and took about twenty different photos of the animals from all angles. I would live inside of something like this for all of winter if I could!

Most of the Christmas trees decorated by local companies are located in a big room off of the main hallway. There were at least twenty to twenty-five trees this year, and these are just a few that caught my eye. 

Our local zoo, Ross Park Zoo, was the first tree to stand out. Our zoo was opened in 1875, making it the 5th oldest zoo in the country. The tree was decorated with many stuffed animals that the zoo has had or currently has, animal ornaments, and little cards with animal facts on them.

The bald eagle exhibit is always one of the ones I look forward to seeing when visiting our zoo, so I was happy to see this animal on the tree!

Another of our local businesses, the Raymond Corporation, came up with one of the most interesting trees this year, in my opinion. They had an empty tree with a basket of blank miniature wooden pallets on which you wrote your wish for the new year and then hung it on the tree.

Some of the wishes were really endearing, like "I wish the war would stop," or "Hope for a year full of friendship and love!" Some were typical kids' wishes, like asking for dogs or video games for Christmas. Others were heartbreaking, such as "I wish I could have just one friend," and "I wish to not get cancer again." It was a humbling moment to stand in front of a tree filled with so many peoples' deepest thoughts and wishes.

The next tree was a Harry Potter tree! Anyone who knows me knows I am a big Harry Potter fan, so I was thrilled to see this one. It featured a beautiful Fawkes ornament, the phoenix who resides in  Dumbledore's office.

There was also a large Dragon ornament - clad in Harry's glasses - which is a nod to the Goblet of Fire book (my personal favorite) and the challenge Harry must endure to continue on in the competition. 

There were beautiful metal Golden Snitch ornaments all over the tree, along with House ornaments (I'm a Ravenclaw) and crocheted Gryffindor scarves, a nod to the house of the three main characters. The tree was topped with an owl as well!

A special tree display that many visitors were looking forward to was this one by Animal Adventure. An outdoor, interactive animal park located in Harpursville, New York, Animal Adventure was founded by local businessman Jordan Patch as a way to educate the public and help them to understand and appreciate the parks' hundreds of animals through the use of the human senses by allowing them to get up close and personal with the animals. They are expecting a baby giraffe at the park in 2017, thus titling the exhibit "Great Expectations."

Being an animal lover - especially of dogs - I was excited to see the Humane Society's large tree display, featuring photos on their trees of previously adopted and currently adoptable dogs and cats. They also had Milkbone garlands, tiny Milkbone bandannas, and super adorable dog and cat ornaments.

On the floor in front of the trees was a miniature doghouse and a lit-up white dog wearing a Santa hat!

My absolute favorite was this stocking hanging from the tree that said, "Dear Santa Paws, I have been a very very good dawg this year... Please bring lots of bones." It was signed with a dog paw. Each year, we talk to our dogs about how Santy Paws is coming, so this stocking was perfect to me!

This year, it was obvious how much they expanded Christmas display because they had an extra room set up with even more trees displayed in it. Just inside the door was a light pink tree filled with baby dolls. To be honest, it was a bit creepy but towards the top was this gorgeous Glinda doll.

Throughout the room they had chosen to have local quilters display their works behind the trees, so those are visible on the walls. This was a tree Chris would have loved! He is a huge Star Wars fan. I never really got into it, although I have seen some of the movies. It is a great idea having Darth's head be the tree topper and his cape going around the tree, though.

So many different Star Wars ornaments decorated the tree - from newer movies to older ones.

A beautiful purple skull stood out on this African tree.

My mom and I loved this tree so much and this was definitely one of my favorite trees out of all of them this year! It is a "Sweet & Treats" tree, decorated with ornaments like cupcakes, donuts, gingerbread men, cookies, donuts, and more. It is so fun and whimsical.

The choice of colors is classic but the extra details like glitter, sprinkles, high shine, extra dots, and cotton candy-like fluff add current flair to the tree.

Ornaments like these look almost real enough to eat!

Joy is exactly what this Christmas tree brings: The smiling gingerbread man, delicious-looking cupcakes and donuts, and bright ribbon garlands all make me smile wide.

Not many people know that Rod Serling grew up in Binghamton, New York after his parents moved him down from Syracuse when he was two. Of course, later in his life he started writing the famous television show The Twilight  Zone, and the rest is history. A cult classic, The Twilight Zone aired for five seasons and won many TV and drama awards, winning Serling much critical acclaim. This year, a special tree and display were set up in honor of this Binghamton legend, titled "The Fifth Dimension."

It featured ornaments with shots from several Twilight Zone episodes, black and white swirl ornaments, eyeballs, ravens, and a creepy baby-doll face tree topper.

An old television was set with another raven, more eyeballs, a pair of glasses, some candles, and a bottle of poison.

Dalmatians and other firefighter paraphernalia decorated this ode to the Binghamton Fire Department. Photos of fires they had fought and a firefighter badge hung along stuffed dog toys.

The Firefighter's Prayer was prominently displayed on the tree next to firetruck ornaments. 

Next up were the tree displays that show various countries and their customs and traditions for each year. When I was little, the whole exhibit was made up mostly of these trees and it was very fascinating to me to read what each family did on Christmas Eve to ensure that Santa Clause (or whatever term that country used) arrived and left the presents. As I've gotten older, it's still interesting to see the traditions that are done, and also what decorations are hung on the trees. Some of them are familiar, like Canada, with their skis and poinsettias.

Others are less familiar, like Taiwan and China with their origami and bell ornaments, silk robes, abacus, and fans.

Scotland is slightly more familiar to me with the plaid, bagpipes, embroidery, and scottie dogs.

And finally is Poland, with its ornate house display, detailed wooden and complex paper ornaments, and simple but lovely wooden nativity scene.

After seeing all of the beautiful Christmas trees, the Mansion displays were calling our name. Walking into the mansion is like walking into another era, since it has been maintained true to the 1900s when it was built. It even smells simply delicious, like an old house smells - if you frequent old houses and buildings you will know exactly the smell I am referring to - which is absolutely one of my favorite smells in the whole wide world. You step into an old house, fill your lungs with that smell, and can picture the history and stories filtering through your nostrils. It's amazing.

My most loved room in the house is the parlor room. It has an ornate marble fireplace that is consistently adorned with the most stunning decorations and this is no exception! It also has shiny hardwood floors, elaborate window casings, a gold-trimmed chaise lounge, and is just a lavish, gorgeous room.

On either side of the main entrance of the mansion, shown at the beginning of this post, are two small rooms with pocket doors and tile floors that feature built-in wooden window bench seats on either side of a large window looking out onto Front Street in Binghamton. When I was younger, the rooms were available for the public to sit in and experience what it was like for the Robersons to take some time out of their day and spy on the public for just a little bit. As time went by, the tile on the floor deteriorated, the benches were removed, and the rooms got roped off. For the exhibit, they displayed thin, tall trees in the spaces that perfectly fit into the size of the rooms.

The library of the mansion is a massive space filled with loads of old books. As a collector of old books, it takes much self-restraint to not sit down and read them all each time I come! The extravagant decorations this year are just breath-taking.

Even the tiny trees on top of the bookshelves are so cute!

I love this tree in the corner of the living room. The colors and letters match so well with the wallpaper. It's so festive.

This enormous display takes up only one corner of the living area, if you can believe that. The white trees with lights on them and fluff on the ground make it look so magical!

The dining room is typically decorated with more tradition Christmas fare, but this year they chose a fun Candyland theme! They had these three white trees with candy ornaments just inside the door.

One of the wooden sideboards had a popcorn machine and miniature ice cream cones. Not pictured are the bright red and pink lights that I couldn't look at because they gave me a headache, unfortunately. They lit the room and reflected off the candy decorations, making you feel like you were inside of a bubblegum wrapper or something!

The long, ornately carved table had been taken out and this smaller center table had been brought in. It was covered with peppermint trees, cupcakes, small cakes, candy cane trees, and other mouth-watering pastries.

A big mirror and the mantle over the fireplace was adorned with the "CANDYLAND" letters, along with large candy cane swirls, ribbons, brightly colored gumdrops, and candy ornaments. It was delightful having a break from the traditional ornaments for a while!

The centerpiece was this huge, white Christmas tree being lit from inside and covered in Willy Wonka-like giant lollipops in a rainbow of colors! Upon closer inspection, we figured out that they were pool noodles cut up and wrapped inside of cellophane - genius!

Back to the more traditional decorating fare, up the main staircase at the center of the first floor is the gigantic main Christmas tree. It's decorated in gold and red poinsettias, gold glitter ornaments, reindeer, and shiny red and gold balls. It is really stunning, especially in person. It is in front of the three signature stained glass windows that get their sunlight from overlooking a courtyard in the middle part of the "U" made by the Science Center and the Mansion. The staircase always has a red velvet carpet on it, making you feel luxurious as you walk up the same set of stairs the Robersons did back in the day.

On the second floor of the mansion, the rooms have been used as a photo gallery for the past few years. They are painted in bold, beautiful colors that juxtapose nicely with the trees, such as this black and white animal print tree.

This Mardi Gras tree was surprise standout this year - if you look closely, the center portion is actually made of a mannequin bust! I love the colors and the peacock feathers coming out of the top.

As we went back into the Science Center to head out to the exit, we noticed one more tree waiting. It's a very special tree. Our local hockey team, the Binghamton Senators (the AHL affiliate of the NHL Ottawa Senators) started the group Do It For Daron after Coach Richardson's daughter Daron committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 14. DIFD encourages young people to openly talk about mental illness and ask for help. It also provides them and their parents, coaches, teachers, and other adults with the resources and courage needed to overcome the shame and fear of discussing mental illness. A purple heart was chosen as the symbol because purple was Daron's favorite color, and it is a visual reminder that only love and awareness can combat youth mental illness. 

My family has been going to see hockey games for years and Daron's suicide rocked the local hockey community. It was a tragedy of the worst kind, and suicide is something that has touched my life in the deepest way as well. It was awesome to see this tree promoting the group and mental illness awareness.

Everyone has someone affected by mental illness, and the only way we can work through it is by working together.

The last exhibit was this adorable "home" set-up showing Santa delivering presents!

My mom and I loved getting to go through the mansion as our yearly tradition and seeing the stunning trees this year. It was definitely worth it, especially since the decorations were so beautiful this year! I already can't wait to go back next year.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!


No comments :

Post a Comment

Blog Design by Get Polished