Feb. 20, 1895, Della Shawhan was married to William H. Laird in the drawing room of what now is the Seneca County Museum. For that reason, Tonia Hoffert, museum director, chose that room as the backdrop for "Wedding Gowns Through the Ages," an exhibit that guests can view during open house dates at the museum.
"There's 16 dresses from the 1860s to the 1990s," Hoffert said.
The museum is to be open 1-5 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday and again Dec. 3 and 4 during Victorian Christmas. As in previous years, local garden clubs, Girl Scouts and other groups have decorated the museum's rooms according to this year's theme,
"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."
Upon entering the bridal exhibit, visitors can pick up a printed guide describing the gowns, some of which also have a wedding photo of the woman who wore the dress.
Shawhan's gown is described on the back of the guide as "a superb heliotrope silk gown, trimmed with rare point lace and diamonds." The parlor has been decorated with spring flowers, the way Shawhan had arranged it for her winter wedding.
"I did the flower arrangements, but the flowers are all on loan from Cabin Creations. Donna (Brose) let us borrow them all," Hoffert said.
Over the years, Hoffert has had numerous requests for the museum to host a wedding gown display. Five of the dresses belong to the museum, four belong to Hoffert (including her own 1985 gown), and the rest are on loan from area women. Hoffert said her dress came from Teynick's shop in Bucyrus.
Some of the earlier dresses were colors other than white, such as the oldest one, which is dark green. The fabrics include muslin, cotton, silk, batiste, taffeta and satin. Viewers may notice the tiny waistline of an 1880 dress made of wool and lace.
"That one was from the Egbert family. That was Ken Egbert's great-grandmother's wedding gown. When I started here, they hadn't had it here at the museum very long. ... (The family) said they had found it out in the barn in an old lard can. That's what preserved it," Hoffert said.
Moving around the first floor, Hoffert decked the front entry in green and gold, the Sandusky River Valley Doll Club again provided decorations for the east room, Girl Scouts did the kitchen, and the docents added holiday touches to the glass rooms and the war room.
"It's interesting, when you give them a theme, to see what they come up with. A lot of them make their own decorations when they have all year to plan for them," Hoffert said.
The display cases in the meeting room are to hold some special items from Seneca County that have not been on display in recent years. One case will have a collection of Coca-Cola artifacts from the years the beverage was bottled in Tiffin. Another contains Christmas ads from the past and news articles from 1917-24 about the arrival of Santa Claus at the Warner Koller store.
"Warner Koller was the first store in Tiffin to have a live Santa Claus come in for the children. They would either meet him at the train or in front of the Shawhan (Hotel) and escort him to the store," Hoffert said.
Quilts and coverlets by the Heritage Quilt Guild have been placed throughout the museum. The Blossoms and Butterflies Garden Club took charge of the tree in the second-floor window, while the Tiffin Garden Club decorated the music rooms. The tree is dotted with letters to Santa that were hand-printed by local children. A lighted Santa serves as a tree topper.
In the Junior Homekids Room is a small evergreen trimmed with old-fashioned Christmas lights. A toy train circles the tree, and letters to Santa from residents of the home are on display. The focal point in the "pioneer bedroom" is a red and white coverlet in the apple core pattern. Bonnets, night caps and knit stockings complete the look.
"We tried to make it look like 'The Night Before Christmas,'" Hoffert said.
The Gadabouts Red Hat Society decorated the east bedroom on the second floor. Tiny wagons, sleds and other winter vehicles hang from the tree in that room. Across the hall, pine cones and other natural materials add holiday accents to the Gibson bedroom. A rag quilt in a Christmas tree pattern covers the bed.
Refreshments are to be available for visitors during each open house. Dec. 3, St. Mary Folk Choir is to perform live Christmas music and Gary and Jan Dundore are to dress in Victorian garb to greet guests.
Hoffert said the museum website (www.senecacountymuseum.
com) and www.discoverohio.com will have pictures and information posted.
Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.