LIVERMORE — The Washburn-Norlands Living History Center will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, for a Cabin Fever Reliever.
Journey into the past and have old-time fun and celebrate President’s Day in 1870. Activities will be provided by interpreters in period clothing portraying people of the 1800s Norlands neighborhood or Livermore’s Washburn family.
The annual event is a belated celebration of President’s Day — 1870 style. A special tribute to America’s first president, George Washington, will take place at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
After his death in 1799, Washington’s birthday became a day of remembrance and celebration. Celebrations included toasts, elaborate galas with dancing, laying of wreaths and fancy cakes using a recipe from Martha Washington.
Washington’s actual day of birth (Feb. 22) became a federal holiday in 1885. At first, the holiday was meant to honor only George Washington. However, many people considered it a day to honor both first President Washington and 16th President Abraham Lincoln (born Feb. 12, 1809). In 1971, the holiday officially became President’s Day, a time to honor all presidents past and present, and the day was moved to the third Monday of February.
Norlands interpreters Shelly Cox and Jeanette MacDonald, portraying the Washburn’s 19th-century neighbors, will bake a version of Martha Washington’s cake and pay tribute to President Washington with poems and songs at 12:30 and at 2:30. Stop by for a slice of cake and participate in the celebration.
Another highlight of the day is a special program on Lt. Samuel Benjamin. His story will be told by “Clara Howard,” portrayed by Willi Irish, Norlands director of interpretation and training. At 11:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m., Clara will share excerpts from Lt. Benjamin’s diary that he kept during the Revolutionary War.
Samuel Benjamin (1753-1824) was one of the first to respond to the call to fight. He fought at the Battle of Lexington in 1775. He served as a sergeant at the Battle of Bunker Hill. After the British evacuated Boston, Benjamin was then at Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Eventually he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Massachusetts Continental Line and went on to serve at Valley Forge, Saratoga, Monmouth and Yorktown.
Benjamin was an early settler in Livermore during the time when it was called Port Royal and still part of Oxford County. He married Tabitha Livermore and went on to have seven children, including Patty Benjamin Washburn.
Visitors to the Norlands can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride and see traditional ice-cutting demonstrations nearby on Bartlett Pond. Craft activities will take place in the cozy Washburn kitchen. The schoolmarm, “Corilla Rose,” will be ready to greet scholars in the one-room schoolhouse.
In the 1867 mansion, visitors can take a guided tour. Several family stories will be shared on the tour of the elegant home, especially stories about the family’s relationship with Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Unique family artifacts are on display, such as the armband and sash Elihu Washburne wore as a pallbearer for Lincoln’s funeral and a hair wreath, made with hair from every member of the Washburn family. Hair work was extremely popular during the latter half of the 1800s.
The sentimentalism of the Victorian age made these types of keepsakes popular for anyone who was separated from their family members or close friends, either by distance or by death. The Washburn wreath is lasting evidence of the fondness and intimacy among this extraordinary family.
Bring snowshoes and walk the historic carriage trail to the Pools of Simeon, reflecting pools designed in 1903 by the youngest Washburn brother, William Drew.
Hot chocolate and other goodies will be available in the farmer’s cottage, while supplies last.
General admission is $10 adults; $6 for ages 12 and under. Members of Norlands have a 20 percent discount on admission. Upon arrival, park by the church and walk up to toward the mansion. Purchase admission tickets in the gift shop.
In case of bad weather, the event will be canceled by 9 a.m. the day of the event. Call the Norlands and listen to the outgoing message or check the Norlands Facebook page for updates.
FMI: call 207-897-4366 or visit www.norlands.org. The Washburn-Norlands Living History Center is located at 290 Norlands Rd.