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Civil War-era Christmas displayed at Perkins Mansion

11/22/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The Parlor of the Perkins Stone Mansion features elegant décor and an example of clothing from the era.
This wreath from the Perkins Stone Mansion is an example of how volunteers decorated with both holiday and patriotic elements to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Photo courtesy of Summit County Historical Society
WEST AKRON — The Summit County Historical Society (SCHS) will continue its focus on the Civil War era of 150 years ago with its holiday exhibit Dec. 1-22.

The Perkins Bedroom includes an image of Col. George Tod Perkins, one of three sons of Gen. Simon Perkins who served in the Civil War.
Executive Director Leianne Heppner said this year the Perkins Stone Mansion, home of Col. Simon Perkins, will be decked out for the season in patriotic colors.

“We want to highlight the old, but we want something that will bring the house to life, and that’s what Christmas always does to the Perkins Mansion,” she said.

A group of volunteers from the society’s Service League have organized and decorated for the exhibit. They include Earline Harris, Clara Robinson, Lydia Bozeman, Eva Manbeck, Barbara Johnson, Suzanne Jones, Elinor Cooper, Karen Clark, Wayne Beck, Tre’shawn Griffin, Carole Stark, Keith Collette, Dave Gates, Douglas Kamerer and Claire Lucas.

Heppner said three sons of Akron founder Gen. Simon Perkins served in the Civil War: George Tod Perkins, Simon Perkins and Henry Perkins.

Décor in the home will be cheerful but simple, reflecting what was available at the time, Heppner said.

“It’s a lot more natural because they used the materials available to them, like pinecones and greenery,” she said.

One SCHS volunteer has researched how families decorated for the Christmas season 150 years ago and found that it was mostly dependent on a family’s means.

“The Perkins family had quite a bit more money, so it won’t be as sparsely decorated as some might have been,” Heppner said.

In addition to the sights of Christmas, Heppner said volunteers kept in mind the sounds and smells of the holiday, too.

“We’re focusing on carols, so we’ll highlight music and smells, such as cinnamon and pine,” she said.

One of the more elaborate displays in the home will be one room that will be made to look as if it is outdoors, complete with a wicker sleigh.

“We’ll have a beautiful painting, a reproduction of something from the era, of a woman and man in a sleigh,” Heppner said.

The exhibit at the Perkins Stone Mansion isn’t the only holiday endeavor from the SCHS. Heppner said its Akron History Exhibit at Lock 3 marked 10 years this year.

“We want people to know that exhibit is open Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.,” Heppner said. “It’s free, and a variety of agencies have materials on display.”

She said volunteer Beck created a display for the exhibit that shows the many ways the Perkins family gave back to Akron.

“The Perkins family cofounded Akron, and their son was the senator that formed the county,” Heppner said. “We’ll also highlight Akron Children’s Hospital because George Tod Perkins gave a lot of money to it. It was originally called the Mary Day Nursery, named after his granddaughter, and we have a painting of her on display.”

Perkins family members also gave the land that became the site of the hospital as well as the Akron Zoo, Grace Park and Union Park in Akron, and were involved in founding Glendale Cemetery, Heppner said.

The Perkins Stone Mansion, 550 Copley Road, will be open for tours Wednesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, $2 for children 17 and younger and free for SCHS members.

For more information, call 330-535-1120 or go to www.summithistory.org.

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