‘White Christmas’ at Long Branch not just a dream
Posted: December 4, 2012
The Winchester Star
Millwood — Whether it snows or not this year, Long Branch Historic House and Farm is going to have a white Christmas.
Area garden clubs are drawing from the theme “White Christmas” for decorations for the Millwood estate’s annual Christmas gala and Twilight Tours, executive director Nicholas Redding said.
Festive white decorations and natural greenery will be in place in time for the gala, which will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Redding said. The decorations will remain up for the tours, which will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 14, 15 and 16 at the 1811 mansion at 830 Long Branch Lane.
“Long Branch is a place where people can connect with the past and the holiday season,” Redding said. “It is a time when people often reflect on their own past and traditions.”
Members of 14 garden clubs will spend several hours Thursday accenting Long Branch’s different rooms, each bringing its own style to the same theme, said Lockett Van Voorhis, the house’s curator. She will head up the team from the Winchester-Clarke Garden Club, which will decorate three of the house’s bedrooms.
Each team member is bringing different items for the decorations. One of her contributions to the overall look is a bisque nativity set.
“We will be doing items in the windows and on the mantels. On the bed, we will be hanging a wreath,” Van Voorhis said. “We just want to get people into a very festive mood.”
Nalls Farm Market in Clarke County has donated the house’s Christmas tree and is decorating it today.
The convivial mood of the house at Christmas will be evident at the gala, a black tie fundraiser for Long Branch, she said. Tickets are $100 per person.
As people arrive for the gala this year, they will be greeted with music from the Powhatan School choir, a new addition this year, Redding said.
Another change to the evening will be that the event will only feature a silent auction, he said. In the past, a live auction and raffle were also part of the festivities.
Some of this year’s silent auction items include a champagne brunch at L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, a dinner at One Block West, vacation rentals and a $1,000 gift certificate from Elizabeth Locke Jewels in Boyce.
Love at First Bite in Berryville will cater the affair.
During the gala, guests may walk through the house to get the first glimpse of the Christmas decorations, he said.
“Folks will get a chance to see some of the recent repairs and updates we have made to some aspects of the historic house and some of the projects that we hope to accomplish in 2013, some of which hopefully will be funded by proceeds from the gala,” Redding said.
The gala typically draws a crowd of about 100 people and grosses $40,000 to benefit Long Branch, he said.
Those who can’t make it to the gala can still see the house decorated for Christmas at its annual Twilight Tours, Redding said. The tours have been consolidated this year to “focus on one Christmas weekend.” Tickets are $10 per person.
There will be one tour each day, which are different from a traditional look at the house because they occur after dark, he said.
“People get to see the house in a different way — illuminated at night,” he said. “It adds an element of interest and excitement to the tours.”
Also that weekend, the house is holding a wreath making workshop at 11 a.m. Dec. 15, he said. The cost is $25 and includes all materials, but people need to bring clippers and gloves.
This will be Redding’s first holiday season at Long Branch since taking over as executive director in August, and he said he is excited to see it decked out for Christmas.
Redding, 26, came to the house from the Civil War Trust, which is a national battlefield preservation group based in Washington. He worked in several positions within the organization before becoming deputy director for advocacy.
Before that, he attended Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2008. While in college, he worked as a park ranger for the Gettysburg National Park.
He is also currently on the Historic Preservation Commission in Frederick County, Md.
Though he is relatively young, Redding thinks he brings a valuable perspective to his job that will help in the years to come. History and the Civil War in particular, have long been one of his passions.
“I have always been dragging my parents and now my wife to historic sites,” he said. “I had ancestors who fought in the Civil War.”
History to Redding is “something that is real and ever present and incredibly important,” he said. Having the opportunity to impress that upon others is one of the main reasons he took the position at Long Branch. He also liked the house’s “tremendous potential and almost unparalleled architectural resources.”
The Long Branch board is currently looking to “make some big positive changes that will impact the way we interpret our story” and engage the community, Redding said.
“It seemed like a pretty exciting opportunity to lead a historic site that was enthused about the idea of changing for the better,” he said.
The museum world is rapidly changing, and Redding thinks it is for the better. He sees it as the responsibility of the people leading the historic sites to make sure they are prepared to “meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
For more information about holiday events, call 540-837-1856 or visit historiclongbranch.com.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com