FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield History House was decked out for the holidays Sunday during a two-day open house featuring the theme, “Treasured Toys Through the Years.”

The dozen or so rooms in the mansion, built in 1894, were peppered with toys dating from the 1920s to the 1990s, with some lying under decorated Christmas trees, some placed on shelves or bureaus and others propped up on beds.

There was a Radio Flyer wagon and chemistry set from the 1920s, a stuffed Mickey Mouse from the 1930s, Mr. Potato Head from the 1950s and an Easy-Bake Oven from the ’60s among other toys.

In the dining room, with its high, wooden, coffered ceiling and Charlie Brown Christmas tree, pretty dolls sat at a small table set with tiny teacups and saucers.

“A lot of the items were donated specifically for this exhibit by local people,” volunteer Emily Fournier said as she greeted guests in the formal living room.

Sunday was the final day of the open house, which started Saturday. The History House reopens in March and is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, as well as on the second Saturday of each month. The home was owned by Gertrude Smith, who sold it to the Fairfield Historical Society in 1983 for less than what it was worth.

Dressed in a replica of a Civil War-era, floor-length dress adorned with red roses and wearing white gloves on her hands and a pink bow in her hair, Fournier sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with her husband, Josh Fournier, who was attired in a black top hat and pin-striped suit. Volunteer Kay Gagnon accompanied them on an old piano.

The living room was decorated with a Christmas tree next to a wooden toy boat. A white, wooden rocking chair for a child, shaped like a swan, also was situated near the tree.

“A lot of the items are made by people in the Fairfield area — toys people in the area played with as a child,” said Fournier, 28, who has been volunteering on and off at the History House since she was in junior high school and helps manage the society’s web page.

She pointed to an old set of tiny tools including a wrench, saw, drill and ax made for Coralie Tozier Dixon by her grandfather, Alton Nason, in the 1920s. Dixon was one of the founders of the Fairfield Historical Society and was the town’s librarian from 1963 to 1983, when she died at age 73.

Dixon’s daughter, Peggy Blair, secretary of the society, was dressed Sunday in a long maroon dress, a replica of one a woman would wear around 1900. She was leading a tour of the kitchen, where the home’s original soapstone sink was situated near a pantry that housed an icebox and flour barrel among other items. The ice box opened at the back where a little door opened out into a mud room at the home’s back exit, so blocks of ice did not have to be toted through the main kitchen, according to Blair. The bin housing the flour barrel also had a similar back door into the mud room so flour could be replenished in the pantry from the mud room.

Elizabeth Teague of Fairfield was carrying her 10-month-old daughter, Greta, into the kitchen from the dining room where her son, Jack, 2, had been playing with a wooden toy under the Christmas tree.

Teague, who said they were visiting the house for the first time, explained that her father-in-law, also Jack Teague, loaned the toy and other items for the open house.

“It’s great,” she said. “The home itself is really interesting, to see all of the details. It kind of takes you back. It’s a walk through history. It gets you into the spirit. It’s beautiful.”

Meanwhile, Blair’s husband, Bill, also a volunteer, was giving tours of the cellar, where a giant stone cistern beneath the floor was visible through a trap door. He explained that the family living there many years ago would use the water for doing laundry in the cellar, and water also was pumped to the upper floors of the house to be used for washing and cleaning. The cellar also has a cold room used for keeping pies, home preserves and other food, as well as old-fashioned toasters, irons and other implements.

On the second-floor landing upstairs in the house, Doug Cutchin, president of the historical society, pointed to an old metal Big Boy truck from the early 1920s that a child would get into and pedal. He said the open house was well-attended.

“We’ve had this open house years and years, but the last five years, they have really done it up,” he said of the volunteers who decorated the rooms for the holidays and loaned items.

“All the furniture in this house, with very few exceptions, were built in Fairfield,” he said. “Fairfield was the furniture capital of the U.S. from about 1865 to about 1915. This whole area was one of the most compact industrial centers — most people don’t know that.”

He said there were three major fires in Fairfield history — in 1855, 1887 and 1895 — and stories about them appeared on the front page of the New York Times because furniture from Fairfield was shipped to that area. The fires in 1887 and 1895 burned furniture-making mills, he said.

“It literally wiped out the waterfront where all the mills were,” he said.

In an upstairs bedroom, Cutchin pointed to a toy train from about 1900, an old metal toy bucket loader and a toy brass cannon, all placed under a Christmas tree. On a bureau was a colorful metal Ferris wheel dating to the late 1950s.

“All of this stuff was loaned and it would never get seen without events like this,” Cutchin said. “We’ve got stuff from the 1800s right up to this date.”

Another bedroom was a stuffed toy heaven with dozens of creatures including a Snoopy dog, Cookie Monster, Wylie Coyote and a bunny which is more than 100 years ago.

Gagnon, who played piano downstairs earlier, and her husband, Dwight, of Benton, were greeting people in the Lawrence Room upstairs, where many of Dwight Gagnon’s grandmother’s dolls were on display. His grandmother, Jennie Gagnon, also of Benton, was born in 1886 and died at 100 in 1986 and loved dolls, he said.

“They are all from her generation,” he said. “She made the dresses for them. There is one doll — she had as many as 30 dresses for it.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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