Monday, December 14, 2015

Victorian Christmas at the Babcock House in Appleton, NY

The Babcock House Museum is a historic cobblestone house at 7449 Lake Road near the Village of Appleton in the Town of Somerset, New York not far from Lake Ontario. The Town of Somerset Historical Society maintains the Greek Revival house which was built in l838.
On Sunday, December 13, 2015 it was open to the public for a few hours in the afternoon for "A Victorian Christmas". Visitors to the house stepped back in time and were able to learn how our ancestors prepared for and celebrated Christmas.

In the kitchen, re-enactors were busy churning butter
and baking small cakes and biscuits in the beehive oven.  One of the recipes they were using is for One, Two, Three, Four Pound Cake. The ingredients are one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour and four eggs. Visitors were encouraged to try the freshly made butter and biscuits and small pound cakes. Just beyond the kitchen with the fireplace, in the summer kitchen, punch and cookies were served.  Here visitors could see the old time knitting machine.

Those who came to the event were allowed to take self guided tours throughout all three floors of the house. Docents were available to give information and answer questions. In the basement, trains from the l950's were set up and small boys watched with wide eyes.
There was organ music in the first floor parlor, and Santa Claus waited for children to come and talk with him
. Upstairs, visitors walked through the bedrooms and saw the antique beds and other furnishings. The framed artwork made with human hair was interesting to see.

The three story gambrel roofed barn was open and visitors walked up a grassy sloped hill and into the building.  Once inside, while she was looking around, Rebecca Austin commented "this would be a great place to have a square dance." Down in the main part of the barn, horse and carriage rides were offered and Norm Atwater and the horse (Queen) took passengers around the property.
 Some of the passengers sang Jingle Bells during the ride substituting "one horse open carriage" for "one horse open sleigh." When asked what she liked best about her visit to the Babcock House, Elaine Stahler said "I have to say it was the carriage ride."

You might be wondering what is so special about a cobblestone house. With a few exceptions, cobblestone buildings are unique to Western New York.
 An experienced mason could lay up three or four courses of stone, on one side of a building, in a day.  This would only be about nine inches of wall. While the mortar was drying and hardening on the first house, the mason would go to another house and complete the same process. It took a long time to complete the building of a cobblestone house, sometimes two or three years, depending on the size of the house. Most cobblestone houses were built before the Civil War.

This particular house was built by Jeptha W. Babcock in 1848.  He and his wife, Mary, came to  Niagara County from Rensselaerville in Albany County in 1833. As well as being a farmer, he was a postmaster and state assemblyman. After his death, the homestead was owned by other families but much of the original  architecture was preserved. Presently, it is owned by the Somerset Operating Company.

The Babcock House Museum is open on Sundays from one until four p.m. starting the last Sunday n June through the second Sunday in October,  It is also open other times of the year for special events.  

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