Christmas at the Campbell House

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Part of what makes Camp­bell House so unique is that the vast major­ity of every­thing you see when you go through the House is com­pletely orig­i­nal.  No fakes, MSGs or fillers.  What you’re see­ing belonged to the Camp­bells, was used by them on a daily basis, and is still call­ing CHM home more than 160 years later.  But when it comes to Christ­mas­time at the Camp­bell House, we’ve had to be a lit­tle bit creative.

2929787835_xmas_tree_question_mark_M_answer_103_xlargeYou see, though we would like to say that all of the beau­ti­ful orna­men­ta­tion, lus­cious green­ery, and Vic­to­rian frills found through­out the build­ing is spot-on orig­i­nal as well… it’s not.  In fact, we only have TWO orig­i­nal Camp­bell Christ­mas pieces in our col­lec­tion.  That’s not two sets of dec­o­ra­tions or two boxes… it’s two.  And there’s a pretty easy expla­na­tion for why this is.

The Camp­bells, as we’re well aware, knew how to throw a party.  Folks like Pres­i­dent U.S. Grant, Gen­eral William Tecum­seh Sher­man, James Eads, and Henry Shaw reg­u­larly supped here at the House, and Vir­ginia even had the for­mal par­lor dou­bled in size to accom­mo­date the elab­o­rate get-togethers.  As you can imag­ine, their Christ­mas par­ties (and later, their son Hugh’s Christ­mas par­ties) would have been a grand affair, and the Camp­bells made sure their guests went home with gifts to remind them of the evening.  But these weren’t spe­cialty gift bags or neon t-shirts with “Camp­bell Xmas Party 1854″ embla­zoned across the front.  When you came to a Camp­bell Christ­mas party, you were allowed to take with you an orna­ment from their tree.  And, as many guests came and went through the halls of this grand home, so too did the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.  Kind of a neat tra­di­tion, right?  Great for the guests, not so great for us here at CHM who would love to get our mitts on some of those orna­ments in the present day.

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Par­lor tree, mid-construction.

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Com­pleted par­lor tree.

So, when you come through Camp­bell House this hol­i­day sea­son (and we HIGHLY encour­age you to do so), know that you’re look­ing at our best guess of what a Camp­bell Christ­mas might have looked like.  Is it spot-on orig­i­nal?  No.  But it is quite the sight to behold.  Hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing takes the bet­ter part of a month to com­plete.  It’s worth the effort.

Check out pic­tures below of the two remain­ing Camp­bell Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions in our col­lec­tion.  Also some pic­tures of how we deck our halls dur­ing the hol­i­day season!

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The only Camp­bell orna­ment remain­ing in the CHM col­lec­tion. A small, cel­lu­loid (thin plastic-like mate­r­ial) piece depict­ing a young girl with a bas­ket of apples. The orna­ment was taken off the Camp­bell Christ­mas tree and given to a young vis­i­tor in 1922. 

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The only other Camp­bell Christ­mas piece still in our col­lec­tion today, is this rein­deer. Orig­i­nally part of a full set of Santa’s eight rein­deer that sat on the Camp­bells’ din­ing room table (see below), Vixen ended up with a dif­fer­ent St. Louis fam­ily for more than 90 years before he was returned to Camp­bell House.

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Ster­ling sil­ver harp name­plate on the critter’s back iden­ti­fy­ing him as Vixen. Please dis­re­gard the neon green iPhone case.

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The orig­i­nal full set of rein­deer on the Camp­bell fam­ily din­ing table,  circa 1895.