My love of tea parties dates back to childhood visits to the Williamsburg Inn. Whenever we vacationed in Colonial Williamsburg, we’d make sure we were back at the Inn by 4:00 to enjoy its elegant tea. Helping myself to sugar cubes, clove-studded slices of lemon, and an array of dainty cookies, I settled into one of the Inn’s comfortable chairs, sipped my tea, and then — when we had the room to ourselves — played the piano. My afternoon tea habit was encouraged further during trips to the Greenbrier and even one visit to Fortnum & Mason in London. It’s still going strong in a daily ritual I call “Cookie Break,” whether at home with my Spode “Blue Italian” mug or with my Rosenthal “Renaissance” cup and saucer I keep at work.
Throughout the year, the Kelton House offers Victorian teas in the best 19th century tradition. First, you enjoy Earl Grey tea and a generous sampling of savories and sweets; then, you listen to a short educational program that reflects the season, an object from the Kelton House’s collection, or a topic of historical interest. As Museum Director Georgeanne Reuter remarked to us, the teas offer Kelton House guests the opportunity to socialize, to enjoy delicious food, and to learn new things.
For today’s Valentine Tea, we joined an almost-full house of ladies for a buffet of Crab Rangoon Canapes, Sweet Currant & Cranberry Tea Sandwiches, Baked Chicken Salad Crescent Rolls, Artichoke & Potato Frittata Bites, Pea Blini with Golden Caviar & Creme Fraiche, Blood Orange Sugared Scones, Chocolate Raspberry Creams, White Chocolate & Cherry Hearts, Sparkling Champagne Cake Truffles, Brownie & Raspberry Buttercream Hearts, and Red Velvet & Strawberry Trifle. Then, several lucky raffle winners took home lovely treats from the Kelton House’s gift shop, such as a teapot, a handmade apron, a tulip-decorated tray, napkins, candles and a Kelton House ornament.
Today’s educational program featured the history of the Ohio Statehouse. Gregg Dodd, Deputy Director for Communications, Marketing and Events for the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, showed a video he created for the Statehouse’s Sesquicentennial that was filled with wonderful historic photographs. After enthusiastically imparting his knowledge of many interesting facts about the building’s history, “The Butler of the Statehouse” turned the program over to his colleague, Mike Rupert. The communications specialist was dressed as a Civil War Union Army surgeon from the 1st Ohio Light Artillery Battery A, the Statehouse’s own group of Civil War re-enactors. Mike described how ladies convened at the Statehouse to roll bandages, sew shirts, and send canned food for soldiers during the Civil War. As he showed a surgical saw that would have been used for amputations during the Civil War, he talked about “sanitary” practices involving a tongue depressor, “laudable pus,” and “blue mass,” a pill containing mercury and licorice that was commonly used during the day. In fact, Abraham Lincoln took blue mass to improve his mental state.
For more information on the Kelton House’s Victorian teas, click here. If you can’t wait until the St. Patrick’s Day Tea on March 14 (I’ll be there), visit the Kelton House this Sunday, February 12, at 3:00 p.m. for “Kids, Courage & the Civil War.” This child-friendly theatrical presentation by the Imaginating Dramatics Company is based on Civil War diaries and dramatizes the effect of war on children.