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. Continue reading