Each year, Morrison Hall, the mansion that is the showpiece of Orange County Community College (SUNY Orange) in Middletown, New York, is decorated for the holidays by a dedicated cadre of gardeners, artists, and visionaries from the Middletown Garden Lovers Club. On any day, the house itself is gorgeous, carefully maintained in its original design, and well kept and cared for with pride, but for a short week or so in December it’s transformed into a spectacular Christmas wonderland with a new theme each year. This year’s name is “Holidays Across the States.” It doesn’t disappoint.
The mansion is a special place for me. I work at the College in the Wellness Center, am able to visit it at will, and almost always take a short cut for a quick tour when crossing campus. It’s the setting for one of my works-in-progress, which takes place in Hyde Park, NY, and was inspired by the much more famous Vanderbilt Mansion. One day, while passing Morrison Hall, it occurred to me that I should relocate the building to Hyde Park and make it the setting for my novel. I was familiar with it and it’s much more beautiful than Vanderbilt. What a liberating thing, moving twentieth century mansions across counties in my mind. One of the joys of being a writer.
I was fortunate to tour the mansion yesterday, the first day of viewing, when the crowd was thin, so no rushing and no obstructions. Each of the downstairs rooms is decorated. All include their own tree.
Upon entry, the FOYER was decked out in a Texan theme called “Howdy Y’all.”
This display included a reference to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mission Control in Houston, where the crew tracks Santa’s progress as he heads for Morrison Hall.
The SALON was dedicated to “Hawaii,” and used a surfboard, seashells, and a casual seaside table to set the mood.
The MUSIC ROOM was home to “Louisiana,” celebrating with jazz, fabulous food, and the bright colors of Mardi Gras: Purple, green and gold.
The LIBRARY, a heavenly wood paneled room I would love to relax in with a good book, portrayed “Alaska.” and included the state’s natural wonders: an indigenous igloo, a bear, and the Northern Lights.
In the DINING ROOM, we enter California’s Sonoma Wine Country, and are transported to Stella D’Oro Cellars. A Christmas tree made of wine bottles and decorations built from cork adorn the traditional tree and the hearth. The table is set for dinner with a grapevine covered pergola overhead and a beautiful centerpiece.
History of Morrison Hall
Built by Webb Horton, the mansion’s corner stone was laid in 1908, and the house was completed in 1910. When Horton died he left the property to his cousin, John H. Morrison, husband of Christine Morrison. Mrs. Morrison lived alone after the death of her husband in 1946. In 1950, she donated the mansion and property for it to become the home of Orange County Community College. For more information about the mansion’s history visit the College’s website.
Location and Schedule
The mansion is located at 115 South Street, Middletown, NY. The exhibit is open December 9th, 14th, & 15th from 1 pm to 5 pm. Admission is FREE.
The SUNY Orange Chamber Ensembles will present a FREE concert featuring music by Beethoven, Handel, Marcello, Schubert, and others on December 15th at 6 p.m.
The effort is supported by the SUNY Orange Foundation and a number of Orange County business and organization. For more information visit the College’s website.