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Holidays at Auburn: Come celebrate with period Christmas goodies

By Lauren Wood / The Natchez Democrat — Auburn volunteers Donna Martello, left, Kaye Harris, center, and Peg Shonebarger will be at the antebellum house today to help celebrate Auburn’s 200th birthday. The house, below, will be open to guests and will provide a variety of food and entertainment.

In 1812, Christmas was celebrated for the first time in Auburn.

And for this year’s annual open house, the members of Auburn Antebellum Home want to show Natchez what that was like.

The historic preservation society that operates the home — which is owned by the city — will have an open house from 1:30 to 4 p.m. today. Admission is free.

The open house will serve as the finale to the historic home’s year of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of its construction.

Auburn Antebellum Home Treasurer Evelyn Halford said the house has been decorated for the holiday season with garlands and ribbons, and a Christmas tree has been placed in most rooms.

Homemade food by Terri Deshong similar to what would have been served at Christmas during the time in which the house was built will also be served, Halford said.

Auburn Antebellum Home President Clark Feiser said Deshong’s refreshments will include things such as scones and cookies.

“She has really done a lot of research into it, and they are going to be good,” he said.

Auburn members will also be dressed in period appropriate attire during the open house.

“We will be dressed in 1812 styles, which is (skirts) without the hoops,” Halford said. “We do that during Pilgrimage, but we never do it during open house, but we are doing it this year because of the anniversary.”

Auburn Antebellum Home President Clark Feiser said areas of the Auburn property that are not normally open will be for the open house, including the detached kitchen and the servants quarters.

“You are welcome to walk around or we will give you a guided tour, no charge,” he said.

While the tours are ongoing, the house will host musicians Richard Williams and Dana Lux. The duo will perform four mini-concerts throughout the afternoon.

“They are professional singers who sang for the Christmas open house for Laura Bush in 2008,” Feiser said. “They are very good, but as I have said before, you don’t get to sing at the White House if you are just a shower singer.”

The open house is intended to serve two purposes. The first, Feiser said, is for residents to be able to explore what is theirs.

Now designated as a National Historic Landmark, the Duncan family donated Auburn to the City of Natchez in 1911. The building is noted for its free-standing, unsupported staircase, and was the first building in Natchez to be built using an actual architectural plan.

Since 1972, the Auburn Antebellum Home preservation group — which at the time was the Town and Country Garden Club, later changing its name to the Auburn Garden Club before transitioning from garden club to preservation group in 2009 — has leased and maintained the property.

“We want to do this open house for the community, for them to see what they own” Feiser said. “After all, if the city owns it, the citizens own it.”

The second reason for the open house is so that residents can see the group’s goals for the house, he said.

“Our ultimate goal is to restore the 1830 detached kitchen, the servants’ quarters and a covered walkway from the second floor of the servants’ quarters to the main house,” Feiser said.

“At the open house, we’re going to have some photos of what it looked like in the past, and Aimee Guido is working on some line drawings of what we are planning to do with the covered walkway, the servants’ quarters and the kitchen — people will be able to see what we plan to do and what was.”

More information about Auburn can be found online at www.auburnmuseum.org.

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