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April 19, 2014
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A fortnight of holiday festivities; Throwing open the doors of a grand old house in Milford

By Jane Bollinger

MILFORD, PA — One of the grandest old mansions of a bygone era in the Upper Delaware River Valley is Grey Towers, the former home of Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service (1905-1910) and Pennsylvania governor (1923-1927, 1931-1935). One of the most beautiful times of year to visit Grey Towers is in December, when this national historic site is all decked out for Christmas, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and the Milford Garden Club.

Holiday house tours

For two weeks from December 9 through 21, visitors to Grey Towers are invited to join special holiday house tours to see the Pinchot home all decorated for Christmas and to experience a sense of their privileged lifestyle. “Everything we do here is linked to conservation, forestry, or to what the family would have done in their time,” explained Elizabeth Hawke, Grey Towers horticulturist, who is also a member of the Milford Garden Club.

For over 20 years, the local gardeners have been helping the forest service put up the season’s decorations. For two full days early in December, club members arrive en masse to do their work—decorating three Christmas trees, all of the museum rooms, the home’s many railings and banisters, wreaths for every window and the hallways on all three floors.

Contrary to most of the year when house tours are confined to just the first floor, at Christmastime, it’s different. “That’s what one of the big draws is,” Hawke reported. “That’s what’s so special about December; visitors get to see all three floors.”

These days, because of concerns over bringing insects and pests into the museum, artificial trees, garlands and greenery are used.

“We do get some pushback from people because we don’t have a live tree,” Hawke reported, “but it’s all because we want to protect the many great historical pieces we have here.”

For information about the Milford Garden Club, which by the way also decorates the borough’s library for the holidays, contact milfordgarden@yahoo.com.

House tours at Grey Towers will be conducted at 1 and 3 p.m. from December 9 through 21. The cost of admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for youth 12 to 17 and no cost for children under 12.

Visit www.greytowers.org for more information.

Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol,” performed