Holiday open house at museum

Charles Dickens himself would likely have felt right at home in the historic Henry Fearing House museum on Gilman Avenue this weekend as the 19th century home was bedecked straight out of the Victorian era for its annual holiday open house.

“We came here for the first time last year following Marietta’s Christmas tour of homes,” said Linda King of Whipple. “I love the heritage of this place and that it’s an example of how people lived in this area many years ago.”

She gave kudos to the Washington County Historical Society for preservation of the Federal-style home, built in 1847 for local prominent businessman and philathropist Henry Fearing.

“And I think the older we get the more we truly appreciate the historical significance of homes like these,” King said.

Fearing Township resident and local historian Donna Betts was accompanying a few folks who had gathered to sing some Christmas carols around the 100-plus-year-old Stevens organ in the Fearing House parlor.

“This organ was built at the Stevens factory that was once located just down the street from this house,” Betts said, noting the 1913 flood took many organs that were stored at the factory.

“They just floated out of the factory and down the Ohio River,” she said.

Washington County Historical Society member Kurt Ludwig said his grandmother had one of the original Stevens organs.

“This one (at the Fearing House) has been electrified, but when I was young the organ my grandmother played had pedals that operated a set of bellows to make the keyboard play,” he said. “We children used to sit on each side of the pedals and pump them so my grandmother could play.”

Ludwig joined Betts and historical society members Mary Alice Hoffman and Mary Jo Hutchinson in a couple choruses of Silent Night, played on the Stevens organ.

Historical society member Glen Wolfe noted more than 40 fifth-graders from nearby Harmar Elementary School had made small green-and-red wreath decorations for one of the Fearing House Christmas trees.

“The amazing thing is that each wreath is a little different from the others,” he said. “You can see that the children put some of their own individuality into each one.”

Every year the Harmar fifth-grade class traditionally tours the Henry Fearing House and helps decorate the home’s Christmas trees during the week prior to the annual holiday open house.

“We had a pretty good turnout for the open house this year,” Hutchinson said. “We were open from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, and from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday so that people on the Marietta Christmas Tour of Homes could come visit the Fearing House afterwards.”

Wolfe said this year the open house would only be conducted on one weekend. Last year’s event was held on two weekends in a row, but turnout was extremely light for the second weekend.

The Fearing House museum is normally closed through the winter months, but the home is opened to the public free of charge every December for the open house event.