January 20, 2022

Wassail Party stirs memories

Kevin Conlon/city editor

James Williams, of Homer, and his daughter, Merida, 7, look at displays at the 1890 House’s Wassail Party on Saturday in Cortland. Wassail is a spiced punch drunk around the Christmas holidays since the 12th Century.

Visitors milled about the 1890 House Museum on Tompkins Street in Cortland during the annual Wassail Party on Saturday, and the setting had special meaning for Tabitha and Shawn Scoville of Cincinnatus, who were married in the museum’s entryway in 1999.

“We had 40 or 50 people,” Tabitha Scoville said. “It was a little crowded. We came down the stairs.”

She worked as a volunteer at the 1890 House Museum for a year or two before becoming director of the Cortland County Historical Society.

Tabitha Scoville said she had a rare Saturday off from work so she and her husband came to the holiday party.

“I never get to go because I usually work on Saturday,” she said. “I was off today. I wanted to support the 1890 House.”

The museum in the Victorian-era house built for industrialist Chester F. Wickwire was opened to the public for free Saturday for its annual event. Wickwire owned a sprawling mill on south Main Street and the museum highlights his business, its employees, his family life and the lives of the house’s servants.

People walked through the house Saturday checking out Christmas trees and decorations, listening to music performed live by ‘‘Underground Flute Operative,” sipping wassail — a traditional cider drink — and munched on cookies.

On the second floor, James Williams, of Homer, and his daughter Merida, 7, dressed in a red-sequined holiday dress, were looking at displays in hallway display cases that included household items such as a popcorn popper and a metal mesh dish cover.

“I love that they do this event every year,” James Williams said, noting he would play Father Christmas later in the day for guests of the Wassail Party.

“We’ve been doing this for years.” He said his wife, Stacey, is vice chairwoman of the museum board of trustees. Jim and Mary Doss of Harford were walking through first-floor rooms decorated for the Christmas season.

“We’ve enjoyed coming here,” said Jim Doss, who noted that the couple has been members of the 1890 House museum for many years, although they had not been active during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We used to bring our kids here,” Mary Doss said.