EAST LYME, Conn. — While many people flocked to some of the nation’s largest retailers to get a jump on holiday shopping last weekend, others opted for a trip into the past.

On Sunday, volunteers with the Friends of the Samuel Smith House hosted their first Christmas open house at the Samuel Smith Farmstead in East Lyme, where visitors could buy a variety of seasonal gear ranging from Christmas decorations to hand-knit mittens, as well take a tour of the circa 1685 house.

While some visitors were regaled with tales of the survival and construction of the treasured house, others escaped the brisk winter weather with hot spiced cider and cookies, all while shopping inside the comfort of the farm’s barn.

Free tours of the house are offered nearly every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day and the preservation effort overall is entirely volunteer led. Sunday’s event, one of the few offered during the fall and winter, saw more than 100 visitors turn out to get a glimpse of colonial life and pick up some seasonal gifts.

Susan Jewell and Barbara Duncan of Ledyard, who respectively bought a snowflake candle holder and old fashioned mittens, said they were eager to see the old house and enjoyed its historical holiday decor.

But the highlight for them may have been in learning how the Smith house expanded over the years and compares to other colonial houses in Connecticut.

“It’s very interesting because it is so different from the Lester House,” said Duncan, contrasting it to the Nathan Lester House in Ledyard. “This is a worker’s house. It started out very meager.”

Others, such as Cindy and Dick Kovak of Old Lyme, made the visit to offer their support for the preservation effort and revisit a place they hadn’t been to in years. Both had visited the farmstead several years ago when it was under different ownership, and were eager to see how the restoration effort was going.

“We wanted to see what progress they’re making and buy some greens for the holidays,” said Cindy Kovak, who plans to use the greens to make her own decorations.

“It’s a great place to preserve,” added Dick Novak. “There aren’t that many places this old left around.”


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Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com