Advertisement

Founders’ Park celebrates a very Victorian Christmas in Anaheim

The Woelke-Stoffel House, built in 1894, is adorned with Victorian-style decorations at Founders' Park in Anaheim.
The Woelke-Stoffel House, built in 1894, is adorned with Victorian-style decorations at Founders’ Park in Anaheim. The Victorian Christmas Open House is back at Founders’ Park in Anaheim, featuring the historic Mother Colony and Woelke-Stoffel houses.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
Share

In the heyday of Anaheim’s packing district, oranges were wrapped in tissue paper before going into the crate for shipping.

“Before refrigerator cars, oranges were wrapped, and the reason they wrap them is because if one of them goes bad, it is not going to spread and infect the rest,” said Jane K. Newell, heritage services manager at the Anaheim Heritage Center.

During the holiday season, orange packaging was made a little more festive with symbols of Christmas printed on the tissue paper, typically by a local newspaper. Twisted in the merry paper, the orange became a gift of sorts that was regarded even more highly outside of the county.

Jane K. Newell demonstrates how Valencia oranges were packaged for Christmas.
Jane K. Newell demonstrates how Valencia oranges were packaged and prepared for shipping to the East Coast for Christmas during a tour at the Carriage House in Anaheim.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“The oranges that appeared on the table back east or anywhere up north are going to be precious to those people because they didn’t see oranges, especially at that time of year,” said Newell. “Anytime of the year it is going to be expensive, but that time of year, it was really like gold — California gold.”

At Founders’ Park in Anaheim, the history of Orange County’s citrus-packing houses and Victorian Christmas traditions are celebrated at the Victorian Christmas Open House on Dec. 10. and Jan. 7. The historic Woelke-Stoffel House is a two-story Queen Anne built in 1894 during Anaheim’s citrus era and is named for the two earliest families that lived in it.

“Mr. Woelke came here from Chicago, and the plans for the house were in a catalog,” said Newell. “The Stoffel’s lived here the longest, from 1907 until Mr. Stoffel died in 1948. It was in 1949 the house was actually moved here to save it. It has been a museum since then.”

A Christmas tree inside the Woelke-Stoffel House at Founders' Park in Anaheim.
A Christmas tree inside the Woelke-Stoffel House at Founders’ Park in Anaheim.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

This time of year, the historic Woelke-Stoffel House gets adorned with Victorian-style Christmas decorations, both inside and out.

In the parlor, for example, a Christmas tree stands atop the grand piano.

“This would have been an upper- to middle-class family. They had a business and they had an orange grove, so they would have had money to buy the glass ornaments that were being produced in Germany, and they probably still had family there, so they had contacts,” said Newell.

Many of Anaheim’s early families were German American, for whom the Christmas tree was a long tradition.

“It didn’t really get the profile until Queen Victoria married a German prince,” said Newell. “Suddenly everybody wanted a Christmas tree. But these families would have had one because it was part of their culture.”

Vintage magazines from the late 1800s and early 1900s with covers celebrating Christmas.
Vintage magazines from the late 1800s and early 1900s with covers celebrating Christmas.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Many Christmas traditions like snow globes, candy canes, nutcrackers and the exchange of homemade gifts are rooted in the Victorian era, and displays within the home reflect those too.

“A lot of people collect nutcrackers and have no idea it has that tie,” said Newell of a nutcracker collection that lines shelves in the kitchen.

In the dining room, visitors will find decorations featuring cherubs — winged childlike angels.

“Cherubs became a part of the Christmas elements whether it was on cards or ornaments. So you will see cherubs everywhere because they were super popular at that time,” Newell said.

Besides the entry, parlor, dining room and kitchen, two upstairs bedrooms are also set up with displays. During the open house, docents will be stationed in each space, available to answer questions and dressed in period costumes to be easily identified.

Founders’ Park also features the Mother Colony House, the oldest remaining wood-framed building in Orange County, and a Carriage House, where visitors can learn how to size oranges and wrap them in holiday tissue paper.

A vintage Anaheim mail wagon on display at the Carriage House in Anaheim.
A vintage Anaheim mail wagon on display at the Carriage House in Anaheim.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Since printed tissue paper isn’t made anymore, visitors can stamp a Christmas design of their choice on tissue paper to wrap an orange.

“So they have got the experience of the packing house,” Newell said, holding up a wrapped orange.

The Victorian Christmas Open House is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. until noon on Dec. 10 and will return during the same hours on Jan. 7.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.


Advertisement