Hartwood mansion decked out for the holidays

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The late John and Mary Flinn Lawrence probably never decked the halls of Hartwood Mansion with bugles, flutes and violins.

But the couple might enjoy seeing their living room — the Great Hall — decorated for the holidays with real horns and string instruments on a towering Christmas tree.

“Mrs. Lawrence was a very accomplished pianist and organist. She actually composed a couple pieces of music,” said Berlin Marsh, a docent at the Lawrence's rambling, stone Tudor home.

Tours of the mansion, now awash in beribboned wreaths, shiny ornaments and twinkling lights, are available through Jan. 5.

In addition to music, Mary Flinn Lawrence loved animals and used two cast iron peacocks, placed outdoors, to inform visitors of her availability.

“If they — the peacocks — were facing out, she was seeing visitors. If they were turned to face inward, there were no visitors,” said docent Barb Lamendola, who oversees the mansion's ever-changing seasonal décors.

About 24 volunteers and nine Hartwood staffers gathered one day in November to decorate and wrap Hartwood Mansion in its current Yuletide splendor.

Mary Flinn Lawrence's cast-iron peacocks — now on view for the first time — inspired the Great Hall's music-and-peacocks theme, illustrated by garlands of turquoise organza, vases of real peacock feathers and a tree hung with authentic musical instruments.

Her grandfather — Irish-born John Flinn — inspired this year's holiday theme for the dining room at Hartwood Mansion, decorated by Amber Bierkan and Rainy Scherred, both of Hampton, with help from Sharon Donahue of Beaver County.

St. Patrick — lavishly portrayed in a quilted and appliquéd wall hanging — overlooks the dining room table set for six guests with Mary Flinn Lawrence's Royal Worcester china, engraved silverware and a holly-filled centerpiece with white roses — her favorite flower.

A garland of golden sateen fabric — depicting the road of life — wraps the room's Christmas tree and descends to a pot of golden ornaments on the floor. A Celtic knot — symbolizing the Trinity — tops the tree.

Visitors can view pieces from the Lawrences' many sets of fine china in the adjacent butler's pantry, which connects to the mansion's kitchen, featuring a green porcelain sink.

A modest Charlie Brown-style evergreen, hung with cinnamon sticks, pine cones, apples and crocheted ornaments, decorates the servants' dining room.

“I wanted to keep it simple,” said Toni Hoffman, the wedding coordinator at Hartwood Acres, who decorated the servants' Christmas tree. “It looks like they've gone outside and chopped it down.”

Upstairs, tour takers will visit the Lawrences' separate bedrooms and dressing rooms, plus, the couple's linen room and boot closet, which contains an array of the Lawrences' riding habits, sporting goods and monogrammed luggage.

“It's great that we have so many things of the family,” said Patti Benaglio, Hartwood Mansion's office manager.

John Lawrence's bedroom features a tree decked with vintage Christmas cards and a model of the biplane he once flew, plus, engraved silver trophies won during the 1950s by the Lawrences' accomplished hunter — Donnie B — at Rolling Rock Hunt and Sewickley Hunt horse shows.

Trees of wispy pink feathers flank his wife's white twin bed.

She slept in the bed as a child at her parents' Highland Park home. She brought the bed to Hartwood Acres after the Lawrences built their equestrian estate.

The Friends of Hartwood chose a candy theme — illustrated by garlands of gum drops and bouquets of candy canes — to decorate the mansion's library, traditionally the only room decorated for Christmas by the Lawrences.

Holiday tours of the mansion are available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 5. Candlelight tours are available 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10. A tour with tea and music is set for 11 a.m. Dec. 7. Admission is $6 for adults ages 18 to 59; $4 for those ages 60 and older; $4 for youths ages 13 to 17; $2 for ages 6 to 12; $1 for children ages 5 and younger; and $33 for the tour with tea and music. Reservations are required for all tours.

Hartwood Mansion is at 200 Hartwood Acres in Indiana Township. For more information, call 412-767-9200.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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