Representatives of The 2021 Committee
Thank you to Larry Flint of Flint Photo for capturing the essence of Victorian life at The Community Arts Center.
To build awareness and appreciation for the rich historic architectural heritage of the Greater Williamsport area and the importance of its preservation for future generations.
The Origin of Victorian Christmas
Victorian Christmas (and the renaissance of Williamsport’s fabled Millionaire’s Row) all began, appropriately enough, in the historic bar of the Peter Herdic House Restaurant, 407 West Fourth Street, in March 1998.
Nan Young, one of the founders of Victorian Christmas, remembers it well.
“Gloria, Ted and I were so active in trying to achieve restoration in the Historic District. One day, over a glass of wine at the bar, we decided to have a little candlelight tour. We did it all ourselves and had a few houses, dragging our friends in to guide. Then we added a luncheon at Park Place. Oh, the first year we had a carol sing in the lawn of Park Place and lit a tree on Friday evening. It was grand.”
Sisters Gloria and Marcia Miele, then owners of the Peter Herdic House Restaurant and other West Fourth Street mansions, and Edward (Ted) Lyon, Jr., also a Historic District property owner, shared Young’s passion for historic preservation. Sadly, Ted and Marcia have since passed.
Energy and enthusiasm spread, as the small group of determined mansion rescuers grew. They added new events to the tours to maintain public intrigue, such as a crafts fair in the gothic gym at Trinity Episcopal Church.
Soon, they were joined by Fran Visco, her sisters and mother, who organized a bridal gown fashion show at Park Place. Gown models portrayed well-known Williamsport personalities. Some of the gowns were very old and made of gorgeous silk and satin, recalls Young. Capitalizing on the success of this show, the group organized more, featuring lovely authentic Victorian clothing and hats and emceed by the mayor and other city dignitaries. As an added attraction, Visco’s family decorated the prettiest tree at Park Place.
In the second year of mansion tours, the group put their profits into enlisting local florist Diane Franklin to produce and maintain the lovely hanging baskets that now grace the period light posts during summer months. The results were, in Young’s words, changes in the district.”
Fire-burned buildings were bought by preservationists. Single families, such as Carlos and Melinda Saldivia, Tim Levan, and Hank and Mary Collings moved to the heart of Millionaire’s Row.
Victorian Christmas committee members joined on, adding music, decorations, teas, luncheons, carriage rides, and appearances by Father Christmas in his elegant hand-crafted robes.
They received grants from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, Lycoming County Visitors’ Bureau, and the Williamsport-Lycoming Foundation to continue and enhance the festivities, which had become a much-anticipated annual event. According to Young, “the best celebration of all” occurred when Victorian Magazine featured five of Williamsport’s historic houses in several of its issues. Everyone’s hard work had put Victorian Christmas and Williamsport on the map as a serious Victorian destination.
“The first year we gathered our money from the tickets in our muffs and went to the Herdic House to rejoice. We put the money out to count and toasted each other, we were so pleased,” recounts Young.
Although new faces and enthusiasm keep events fresh, the Mieles, Lyon, and Young are to be applauded for continuing to carefully tend the bright flame of preservation that has its roots in Victorian Christmas.