The River Reporter Special Sections Header

Scattered clouds
Scattered clouds
66.2 °F
July 31, 2014
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search Login

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


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

Next year, be sure to catch one of the most popular traditions at Grey Towers: the annual reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” This year’s two shows already are sold out.

Dramatic readings were a popular form of entertainment when the grand house was occupied by the Pinchot family from the late 1800s through mid-20th century, and Grey Towers has kept up the custom.

Joe Plummer Jr. and his sister Therese Plummer are keeping a three-decades-old family tradition alive, picking up where their father, Joe Sr., left off when he stepped down two years ago. The siblings are both actors, living in New York City. Joe Jr. is also a writer, producer and director, while Therese is an award-winning audio book narrator.

Joe Jr. reflected that the chance to do this annual reading of the classic holiday story is “the greatest Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten. The story has so much depth and substance, every year I see something new or discover something different in it. That’s why it’s survived for so long and become such a classic.

“The text is so great and beautiful… The language is so interesting, and funny,” he added, telling how the audience picks up on these things and laughs. “Here’s Dickens scaring you to death and yet making fun at the same time... It’s a dichotomy between scaring you and making you laugh.”

It makes one want to find a copy of “A Christmas Carol” and read it again after all these years.

”God bless us, every one.”