NEW MADRID - It is a white Christmas for the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site. The house is sporting a brand-new coat of white paint over most of its exterior just in time for the annual Holiday Open House at New Madrid's three historic spots on Dec. 7 and 8.
Site Administrator Mike Comer said the new exterior paint is just one of several changes visitors will find at the house during the annual free tours. The tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the candlelight tours set for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8.
But it will take a careful observer to catch the new look. "They are not great changes because for the most part the house is pretty correct," said Comer. He explained a paint analysis of the rooms was completed, prompting some repainting.
The fireplace mantles in the upstairs bedrooms are now painted their original black to give them the appearance of black basalt, which is the look the Hunter family had used. The mantles in the formal parlors will be painted to recreate the look of marble, just as they did originally. Also the paint analysis prompted a darker brown paint for the staircase with white spindles and trim.
Preparations for Christmas began at the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site before Thanksgiving even arrived. "We started cleaning all the oil lamps last week," said Comer about the lamps which will light the house for the evening tours as staff, dressed in historic period costumes, welcome visitors and demonstrate Victorian Christmas traditions.
Holiday decorations at the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site feature 300 yards of live pine roping, kissing boughs, decorated trees and dozens of velvet bows to recreate the style of a Victorian-era Christmas. This year there will be three trees to put visitors in the holiday spirit - a large tree in the formal parlor, a Christmas tree on the second floor landing and a tree decorated with hand-made ornaments similar to those created in the 1870s in the family parlor.
A group from the Singing Eagles, the New Madrid County High School choir, will perform at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. The Singing Eagles are under the direction of Judy Henry.
The New Madrid Historical Museum, located adjacent to the Mississippi River observation deck at 1 Main St., will be decorated for Christmas with items from the Museum's collections.
The featured display in the Museum's upstairs gallery is a large antique nativity scene. It is a display Dot Halstead, the museum's director, said draws many return holiday visitors and impresses those viewing it for the first time.
"It is just outstanding," said Halstead. "Many people are impressed by its size - it is half lifesize - others are just amazed by the craftsmanship and beauty. I wish we could leave it up all year round."
The Higgerson School Historic Site, 300 Main St., and adjacent gift shop and visitor's center, will open its doors to the public with free tours during the Open House. Completely restored and opened in June 1998, the Higgerson School will be decorated for Christmas and have special displays.
All participating sites in the open house will serve refreshments.
For more information contact the New Madrid Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-748-5300 or visit the City of New Madrid's web site at www.new-madrid.mo.us.