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Norwalk Museum Dressed in Old Holiday Favorite

NORWALK, Conn. – Red and green are in at Norwalk's Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum , where volunteers and curators have seen fit to honor the venerable building's Christmas history by filling it with poinsettias.

"Florence Mathews loved poinsettias," said Susan Gilgore, deputy director of the museum, adding that the information came from oral history accounts. "The son of one of the gardeners said that every Christmas the mansion would be filled with poinsettias. So we decided to bring back this tradition to honor Mrs. Mathews and the history of the mansion."

Mathews was the last resident of the mansion. The gardener's son, James Goggins, said in a 1995 interview that the flowers were produced in the estate's greenhouse and forcing house, and arranged on the floors, mantels and grand staircase during the holiday season, as they are now.

Decorating the mansion for the holidays begins in late summer, with "Christmas in August" meetings for the curatorial staff, Gilgore said. "We continue talking about it, kind of elaborating what's going to happen through October," she said. "And then in mid-October we start the installation. We have many volunteers and they all assist in helping the curatorial consultant put together the trees and it takes several weeks. By the third week in November, when we are going to open for Thanksgiving, that's when the installations are completed."

Area interior designers also had a hand in the holiday decorations. Danna DiElsi, owner of the Silk Touch on Wall Street, decorated the mansion's entrance hall, and Linda Fontaine, Maury Rose and Phyllis Rose decorated the grand staircase.

Another exhibit elaborates on the customs of Christmas past, as area historical societies have contributed toys from the 1850s to the 1900s. Gilgore said the museum is spotlighting Victorian dining customs in another exhibit, starting with Dining Customs of the 1850s & 1860s: à la Française.

The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, through Jan. 8. It is closed Jan. 1 and 2. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children 8 to 18.

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