Cheryl Lane is a very interesting person: Chemist, water specialist, food scientist, restaurateur — and most of the decorations for the 33 trees at the 1890 house came from the 13 trees she used to decorate in South Carolina.
She has a thing for Christmas. So when she joined her husband, David Lane, executive director of the 1890 House museum in Cortland, she had 13 trees’ worth of ornaments — some Waterford crystal, others hand-blown, some her mother made — she had a project in mind.
The 33 trees are part of The Festival of Trees event at the house meant to raise Christmas spirits, through at least Jan. 3. To see the trees, people pay the general admission.
After seeing all the trees — which takes a while — people get to vote on their three favorites. The winners will be announced at the New Year’s High Tea on Dec. 29.
Festival of Trees
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: 1890 House, 37 Tompkins St., Cortland
Details: 33 holiday trees decorate for the season. Vote for your favorite
“The house is pretty well decorated,” said David Lane. “My wife is the decorator at our house. The house just really explodes.”
The trees are themed, David Lane said.
“We can’t do the candles,” she said Thursday, admitting the one concession to safety compared with the sort of Victorian tree Chester Wickwire, the original owner of the house, might have put up in the arboretum.
But the rest is surprisingly authentic. A bird theme, a nutcracker theme, an angel tree. A music-themed tree sits next to a piano in the music room; a gold tree lights up a parlor.
“As you can see, I have my Santa collection,” she said, pointing to a tree of Santas and Father Christmases, most of which were culled from a lifetime of presents to a December birthday girl.
“I always had a fascination with the evolution of Santa,” Lane said. “Sometimes things just evolve. And it can be such a good time of year. The lights bring smiles to people.”
Donors sponsored trees of their own: A garden club sponsored the bird tree; an Irish nativity was lent, too. The Cortland Eye Center decorated the entire east parlor.
But many of the trees are decorated with memories. One features hand-made ornaments, which Lane either made herself or with her mother — delicate stars of lace with tree cones and berries.
The live tree in the arboretum scrapes the ceiling (It was cut short from a 13-footer.) and has four-inch glass ornaments, handblown balls, and a couple of extra Santas.
And, like Victorian hostesses of 130 years ago, she’s sharing them with the neighbors. Traditionally, sponsors decorated the trees themselves, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented that this year. “I ended up just doing it,” she said.