Planning to stay for a few days at the Hudson House Inn in Cold Spring, the Brawny Sherpa and I stop on a snowy Wednesday at Boscobel, an historic house in nearby Garrison. It’s the perfect time for a visit because the snow deters all other tourists; we are treated to our own personal tour of the house, which is decorated for Christmas.
On a wintery day, we appreciate challenges that owners had heating houses like these in the early 1800s. The matter of upkeep is also in my mind as we learn that a candle-bearing chandelier lighting the grand staircase would have to be lowered from the ceiling and several servants would be involved in the effort. We appreciate the new floorcloth in the entrance after our tour guide reminds us that there were no vacuums back then.
We learn that Christmas in the olden days focused more on adults, who seem to have enjoyed knocking back a few drinks and indulging in a king cake that would contain a trinket anointing the one who found it as ruler of the festivities. Liquor and cake apparently made things a little wild. That part is all good. I hadn’t realized that king cakes were also a part of a northern tradition; I had always associated them with New Orleans and Mardi Gras.
I marvel at the indulgence of people who lived in a place like this at a time when life seems to have been very hard. I wish that more attention was given to the staff at Boscobel and how they lived. In my tour, only “servants” are mentioned. I wish that whether and to what extent slaves were part of Boscobel’s life was addressed as part of every tour through the place. Yes, it’s wonderful that provisions were made in bedrooms for midnight calls of nature, but what was life like for the person who was removing the waste every morning or pressing the linens?
Planning a visit to Cold Spring, N.Y.? Consider these posts: