The Bell Homestead wrapped up the second night of its annual Candlelight Christmas Celebration on Saturday, December 10, 2022. Tours are held on the first three Saturdays of December and run hourly between 5:00 to 9:00 p.m..
It’s not very often that a museum opens its doors in the evening, however, this event invited was the exception. Visitors will learn about Christmas traditions and other facts or history about the Bell family and the invention of the telephone.
“Seeing a museum after dark is always a fun experience,” said Hannah Mills Calnan, museum guide. “It’s a really different ambience with the cranberry glass, especially at night, it has a warm Christmas feeling.”
Groups of eight are guided throughout the Bell family home with the help of members from 4-H Ontario. The tour takes visitors through each room starting in the foyer, lit up with the faint glow of red from the cranberry-glass lamp that hangs above.
Throughout the tour, guests learned about the history of the many rooms in the home. The library was commonly used by Alexander Graham Bell’s father (Melville) to write lectures, teach his students, read or to enjoy a cigar after dinner. A small Christmas tree made of goose feathers dyed green, was on display as a representation of the first artificial Christmas trees of the time.
The dining room features a few dishes owned by the family, art by Eliza Bell (Alexander’s mother), a melodeon and other donated pieces. Turkey, geese, and plum pudding would have been Victorian-era Christmas favourites enjoyed in the room.
In the kitchen, guests got to try a taste of shortbread or ginger molasses cookies before learning more about the simple greenery used as décor during Christmas.
Upstairs, guests can see the four bedrooms as well as a glass case holding medals, tie pins, an original house key, a poetry book and a broach. Two of the bedrooms belonged to Alexander’s parents as it was popular to have two separate rooms during this time. His sister-in-law slept in the third room, while the fourth bedroom was originally Alexanders before he was moved downstairs due to his tendency to stay up until 2:00 a.m.
Back downstairs, the drawing (or parlour) room is currently decorated for Christmas and creates a festive atmosphere within the Bell family home. Adults would typically be the only ones allowed to be in the room, however, during Christmas children were allowed to occupy it as well. Musicians, Dan McDonald and Kristin Vollick sit in the back of the room providing carols for the tours as they walk through the home.
A large tree in the room is currently decorated with popcorn, candy canes, gifts, candles (during the time, a bucket of water would be kept nearby), and other natural items. Decorating trees became a popular tradition among families in the 1840s after the royal family was photographed doing the same.
Guests soon make their way to Alexander’s bedroom to see the many encyclopedias, telephone prototypes, drawings and other inventions.
The Henderson house is the last part of the tour and features the first telephone office created by Melville Bell and Reverend Thomas Phillip Henderson. Here, visitors got to learn about the first switch boards and the evolution of the telephone.
The Bell Homestead has one night of tours left on Saturday, December 17, 2022.