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Tarpon Springs museum offers a look at a Victorian Christmas


Thank the Victorians for our modern Christmas traditions like Christmas trees, the singing of carols, family turkey dinners, charity for the poor and Old St. Nick doling out gifts.

Thank the 1883 Safford House Museum for an opportunity to see just what these Christmases of yore were like.

Today and Saturday, all are invited to join Tarpon Springs city founder "Anson P.K. Safford" (portrayed by actor Bruce Miller) as he and his costumed "family members and staff" provide tours of the home all gussied up in holiday style.

Nineteenth century carolers will sing, Safford will read the 1822 poem Twas the Night before Christmas, a Victorian Santa will visit and children can partake in crafts on the wrap-around veranda. Refreshments will be served in the gift shop.

During a preview tour, Miller, in character as Anson, said he is very proud of his home, a prime example of 19th century Florida vernacular architecture. The two-story, tan-colored home boasts a parlor, offices for both Anson and his physician sister, a massive dining room, four bedrooms, three fireplaces and the "first indoor water closet in town."

Lace curtains cover windows made of original wavy glass panes and striking green verandas wrap around both stories.

The 1883 home was originally constructed as a one-story, four-gable, unpainted dogtrot house. It was considered way too small by the former governor of the Arizona Territory who needed room for his sister, third wife Soledad, the children, governess and household help, so a second story was added.

In the 1970s, the home was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It was acquired by the city of Tarpon Springs in 1994 and has been extensively renovated to reflect its 1893 appearance.

It now serves as a museum and is open year-round. The home is chock-full of antiques, ornately carved furniture pieces and finishing touches of period clothing, dishes, toys and medical instruments. In the parlor, a piano (circa 1816) has 66 keys. (Today's standard pianos typically have 88.)

During the tour, Dee O'Brien will appear as Anson's sister, Dr. Mary Jane Safford, known as the "Cairo Angel" of Illinois. She earned the nickname because of her tireless care of the diseased and wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War, O'Brien said.

Accordingly, her office is decorated with Christmas angels.

She became Tarpon Springs' first doctor and the first female physician in Florida.

"I was a great believer in homeopathic medicine," O'Brien, in character, said.

In Anson's office, visitors will notice a picture of Ulysses S. Grant, who is called "a personal friend."

A shotgun rests over the virgin pine fireplace festooned with stockings and red poinsettias.

"It comes in handy for gunfights on Tarpon Avenue," said in-character Miller, who has researched his character extensively. "I use it to protect my family from marauding cowboys and livestock."

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at


Safford House Victorian Christmas

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today; 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: 23 Parkin Court, Tarpon Springs

Tickets: $14; $12 for Tarpon Arts members and students; $6 for children kindergarten through sixth grade. Buy tickets at the door, online at or by calling (727) 942-5605.

Tarpon Springs museum offers a look at a Victorian Christmas 12/16/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 6:08pm]
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