Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum’s Storybook Christmas

As many of you know, I began volunteering at the historic Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum last winter to help them with a hot social media contest for grant money.  With lots of hard work by many, and the invaluable help of some blogger friends, I am proud to say Bartow-Pell won.  It beat out such big names as the Guggenheim, High Line and Apollo Theatre and now has the money necessary to restore its Delano & Aldrich gardens.  Restoration plans are in full swing.

Now I sit on the board at Bartow-Pell and when their biggest annual fundraiser–their holiday festivities–rolled around, I turned once again to my supportive blogging community.  Of course, they did not let me down.

Bartow-Pell is simply GORGEOUS at Christmas.  It is fully decorated indoors and out, but by far the highlight is the 8 decorated trees throughout the mansion.

A Bartow-Pell Gingerbread Mansion

Each tree has as its theme a beloved children’s storybook, which ties into the literacy program for Bronx school children who visit during the month of December.  Jennifer of Decaporter, Tamara of Nest by Tamara, and designer Bryant Keller (you may recall Bryant’s well received entry featuring Scalamandre’s classic zebra wallpaper at last spring’s Kips Bay Show House), among other talented folk, have all graciously agreed to do a tree.  Bryant is decking out the entire room.

I would love all of you to attend something at Bartow-Pell this December–the schedule is packed with beautiful music, parties and fun-filled activites for children.  I will include the full schedule at the close of this post.

I also know, however, that many of my readers live outside of the New York metropolitan area and won’t be able to visit.  For all of you who can’t see this dreamy spot in person, I can’t help but share some of the glorious decorating details.

I have so many pretty pictures that I will cover Bartow-Pell’s Holiday Celebration in several posts.  Today I’ll share highlights from some of the trees.  Next up the enchanting room created by Bryant Keller using fabrics donated by Scalamandre–that will be Monday at the latest (promise!).  Finally, I will finish with some additional tree highlights and some of the pretty vignettes created all around the house.

Here we go….

A Nature-Inspired Tree

Tamara Matthews-Stephenson’s Velveteen Rabbit Tree is focused on the garden and outdoors.  She even used live sprigs of flowers, spraying each sprig silver to perserve them.  Her tree sits prominently in the north side of the large formal double parlor, and she made sure to coordinate with the room’s beautiful color palette.

Tamara also decorated the nearby sideboard to fit in with her theme.

Tradition and Tartan Tree

Jennifer Mehditash, fresh off our trip to London for BlogTour, couldn’t resist choosing Paddington Bear’s Christmas Story as her theme.  Tartan plaid rules and the tree features such iconic British symbols as an ornament teapot and London phone booth.  The nearby mantle is hung with plaid stockings, including one for Paddington of course.  Perfect because children will meet Santa in this room.  Jennifer has created the ideal setting for those special keepsake photographs.


Packages spread about the room continue the British theme.

Charming kid-crafted Ornaments

The tree designed by Ilse Murdock, artist and Family Art Project Manager at Wave Hill, highlights the cardinal that appears on the cover of storybook Christmas Eve Blizzard.  Each individual bird is unique and made from construction paper and feathers by children who recently visited Wave Hill.  (Click here to learn about Wave Hill, another beautiful garden and cultural center in the Bronx–our city is so rich).

This is a ten foot tree, so that is a lot of birds!  The effect is charming.  If my boys were still little, I would have them making similar birds for our tree right now!

Babar Reigns in the Dining Room

Easily my favorite part of this tree is the strung peanuts sprayed silver.  So clever of Mary Colby and Marguerite Chadwick-Juner.   Because the dining room is used to serve food during Bartow-Pell’s holiday events, the tree is placed on top of the sideboard.  The room also has many of the prettiest decorations in the mansion.  I especially love the sugared fruit tree in the window.

Be sure to check back!  Bryant Keller’s room and tree next!


Holiday Luncheon

Friday, November 30, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.

Booksigning and demo by paper artist Pamela Dalton, New York Times award-winning children’s book illustrator.  Call 718.885.1461 for details.

Annual Holiday Family Day

Saturday, December 1, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Holiday spirit abounds during this fun-filled day.  Children will delight in a shadow puppet show, A Year with the Bartow Family, by French artist Caroline Borderies.  Professional photographs with Santa (additional fee), holiday shopping, caroling, and more.  Puppet shows at 10:15 and 12:15; puppet making with Caroline at 11:15.  Other holiday crafts and photos with Santa on-going.  Space is limited, registration required.  Cost $20 children one year and up; member children $15 (adults and children under one year free)

Holiday Evening Celebration

Saturday, December 1, 7–10 p.m.

Support the museum while enjoying cocktails and holiday fare, caroling, and more!  Call 718.885.1461 for details.

First Friday! with the Metropolitones

Friday, December 7, 5:30–8:30 p.m.

Experience the magic of the mansion decked out for the holidays and delight in the festive, fun sound of the a cappella Metropolitones.  Do a little holiday shopping and enjoy refreshments.  The free Bronx Seaside Trolley makes a continuous loop from the #6 Pelham Bay Park subway station to BPMM to City Island. Registration requested.  Cost $10 adults; $8 seniors & students; members free

Bronx Arts Ensemble Holiday Concert

Saturday, December 15, 1 and 3 p.m.

The Bronx Arts Ensemble and Singers present a wonderful holiday concert with music for St. Nicholas.  Concert is free, but space is limited and tickets are required.  Call Bronx Arts Ensemble at 718.601.7399 for tickets.  The museum will not be open for tours on Saturday.

Holiday Candlelight Tours and Victorian Carolers

Saturday, December 15, 6–8 p.m.

Experience the mansion by candlelight with costumed docents highlighting 19th-century holiday traditions.  Victorian carolers add to the festive atmosphere while you enjoy light holiday fare and wassail in the Orangerie.  Christmas trees throughout the house evoke beloved characters in children’s books.  Reservations required.  Cost $12 adults, $8 seniors & students.

Bronx Arts Ensemble Holiday Concert

Sunday, December 16, 1 and 3 p.m.

The Bronx Arts Ensemble and Singers present a wonderful holiday concert with music for St. Nicholas.  Concert is free, but space is limited and tickets are required.  Call Bronx Arts Ensemble at 718.601.7399 for tickets.  The museum will not be open for tours on Sunday.


Merry Christmas, Curious George Storybook by H.A. Rey; Tree design by Bartow-Pell docents Linda Sacewicz and Christine Williams

Eloise at Christmastime Storybook by Kay Thompson, tree decorator; City Island artist Anoosh Donahue

Paddington and the Christmas Surprise Storybook by Michael Bond; Tree design by interior designer Jennifer Mehditash

How the Grinch Stole Christmas Storybook by Dr. Seuss; Tree design by New York artist Mary Rumser

The Velveteen Rabbit Storybook by Margery Williams; Tree design by interior designer Tamara Matthews Stephenson

Babar and Father Christmas Storybook by Jean de Brunhoff; Tree design by City Island artists Mary Colby and Marguerite Chadwick-Juner

Christmas Eve Blizzard Storybook by Andrea Vlakhis; Tree design by artist and Wave Hill Family Art project manager Ilse Murdock

Raggedy Andy Stories Storybook by Johnny Gruelle; Tree design by interior designer Bryant Keller


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  1. says

    It is so charming! I will take a closer look the next time I am at the Mansion and then post a comment. Thanks for reading!

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