Stephen Mather Homestead holds first ever Harvest Festival
A town as old as Darien will always have special historical landmarks. Darien was incorporated in 1820, but the Stephen Mather Homestead was around for decades prior. The home was originally built in 1778 by the Mather family, and was still in use as a private residence through the 20th century century. In early May, the McPherson family gave the house to the Stephen Mather Foundation, and it is now a national historic landmark. On Saturday morning, Nov. 4, the homestead hosted its first ever harvest festival.
The event was designed as a blend of education and fun. A beautiful fall morning made the event a perfect destination for both families and local history buffs alike. It was extremely well attended, as tickets available in advance online were sold out.
Tours were available of the homestead, which contains furniture and other pieces from the original construction. The dining room has the original table and chairs, as well only one of a pair of armchairs, with the second of the pair currently residing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The dining room also features a chest that was used by the Mather family, as well as their neighbors, to hide silver and other valuables from British troops during the Revolutionary War. Only the first floor of the house was available to be toured. The rest of the house is available to be toured by making an appointment. Darien Times editor Susan Shultz and reporter Dan Arestia were given a full house tour soon after the homestead became a landmark, and it was a fascinating trip through Darien’s history.
Outside of the homestead there were games and family fun. Apples were tied to a tree with a length of string out in front of the home, and children tried to pull the apples from the tree without using their hands. Nearby was a small display of wood soldiers and other toys that would have been used throughout the home’s history. Out in back of the house, a small playhouse still stands that was used by just about generations of children that grew up in the homestead. Inside the playhouse there were Revolutionary War costumes for kids to play in.
A small petting zoo was set up, and pony rides were also available. Cider and donuts were available, and Little Bites, from Jen Maher Food, had other fall foods to eat. Local sponsors like Espresso NEAT, Bartlett Tree Experts, and ERI Building and Design helped to make the day happen. Money raised from ticket sales goes to the Stephen Mather Foundation, which is dedicated to maintaining and operating the now museum.
Open space in Darien remains at a premium, as the town is nearly 99% developed. The Stephen Mather Homestead represents both a local effort to preserve the open space in Darien and to preserve and share an important piece of town history. For more information about the Stephen Mather Foundation including volunteer opportunities and arranging a tour, visit www.matherhomestead.org.