When the National Christmas Center officially reopens on Friday at Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown, attendees might feel like stepping into a time machine.
They will stand in front of near life-size replicas of mid-20th century Columbia storefronts, including those by Woolworth and Watt & Shand. Inside these display cases is a treasure trove of vintage toys, dolls, decorations, cash registers and model trains that will evoke memories of past vacations.
Over 1,000 people have already purchased tickets to enjoy all this Christmas spirit.
âIt just creates these amazing memories for people and just takes them back to their childhood,â says Stone Gables owner David Abel.
The National Christmas Center will reopen on certain dates starting Friday. This is the first time the attraction will open since moving from Paradise in 2018 to the reconstructed Belmont Barn on Stone Gables Estate. The center has undergone extensive renovations, restorations and additions building on an already impressive collection of Christmas memorabilia curated by Jim Morrison, founder of the original location.
Morrison says it was amazing when David Abel bought the museum after Paradise’s location became too difficult to continue.
âHe couldn’t be in better hands. It’s beyond anything I thought it could ever be, âsays Morrison. “I just wanted it to continue because it’s such a healthy family affair.”
Morrison continues to work at the center and will be there to greet people and talk about the collection and Christmas.
âThere is so much to see,â says Morrison. âPeople are speechless when they pass. I am amazed myself. The detail is incredible.
Everything and more
The new additions to the collection are coupled with the restored collection of the original Christmas center. Additions include these 17-foot-tall replicas of newly built Columbia display cases, including replicas from Byer’s Bakery, Joe, the Motorist’s Friend, Heinemann’s Men’s Shop, and Dave Barton’s Barber Shop. Also new: a dollhouse store, a toy store, over a dozen large mechanical Santa Claus figures and over a thousand nativity scenes.
âThere are a lot of fabulous additions. That’s all that was at the Christmas Center and more. It’s beyond expectations, âsays John Enterline, executive curator of the National Christmas Center. âThis is the perfect place for Christmas. “
Enterline says people should plan to spend around two hours to be able to admire the museum’s huge collection of Christmas ornaments, cribs, antique toys and decorations.
Visitors will be able to see all the latest additions to the Christmas Center and Stone Gables Estate during the grand opening Friday and Saturday. The event includes a bus or tram ride through a 3 mile light show on the way to the center and a traditional German-style Christkindl market with vendors offering handmade crafts and ornaments. Food and drinks like s’mores, hot chocolate and coffee will be on sale along the estate’s Liberty Lake area, which will be dotted with fire pits.
âWe want to make it a fun family activity,â says Abel. “And say the true meaning of Christmas, which is the celebration of the birth of Christ.”
The centre’s collection of more than 1,250 nativity scenes from around the world help tell this story, says Abel.
âPeople can see the way the birth of Christ is celebrated around the world in their own way,â says Abel. “It’s really powerful.”
The museum, according to Abel, also chronicles how Lancaster County’s German roots shaped Christmas traditions in this country and how Woolworth introduced German Christmas ornaments to the United States.
âWoolworth’s started here, the first ornaments were sold to Lancaster, the first Christmas trees were grown here,â says Abel. (Woolworth’s first store was in Utica, New York, but Lancaster’s location was the company’s first successful store. A Columbia location opened later.)
The museum is filled with the history of Lancaster County as well as some of Abel’s personal history.
âWhen I was a kid I got my hair cut at Dave Barton barber in Columbia, so we have a kid’s barber seat with a little horse you sit on,â Abel explains.
The centre’s miniature train set is sure to arouse feelings of nostalgia in adults and create new memories for children. But one of the cars on the tracks has a special connection to Abel’s childhood.
âIn the train showroom, Jim Morrison showed me a green dump car he bought for a young teenager,â says Abel. âHe showed me this rare green dump car, then reminded me that this little boy was me. He bought it from me for his Lionel train, and it’s on the tracks at the National Christmas Center. I was like, ‘Hey wait a minute, was that rare? You never told me that when you paid me $ 15! ‘ “
The National Christmas Center conveys the excitement of the holiday shopping experience with its extravagant and oversized display scene of department stores and toy stores. The museum has a massive collection of toy soldiers, dolls, dollhouses and model trains. But one model really stands out – the huge model of the Titanic located in the boy’s replica toy store.
The epic model of the Titanic is 22 feet long, 9 feet tall, and weighs 5,500 pounds. Viewers can get a 360-degree view of the model and learn more about the history of the Titanic. The model, known as the Builder’s Model, was commissioned by the Belfast-based shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff, the same company that built the Titanic.
âIt contains Harland and Wolff’s letter. They actually ordered this. It is the only original Titanic builder’s model in the world, âsays Abel. “My friend was commissioned by Harland and Wolff to build it, and when he died his son called us three years later and said, ‘I think our father’s greatest treasure should belong to you and be a part of it. of the National Christmas Center. “
Abel says people keep calling him to see if he would be interested in adding unique items to the collection. Two brothers contacted Abel about the possibility of adding to the National Christmas Center’s collection two pristine 1956 speedboats manufactured by the Trojan Boat Company, which had a factory in Lancaster.
The centre’s extensive collection of vintage Christmas items is sure to bring the holiday spirit, as the lyrics of the classic Christmas song say, to children “ages 1 to 92”.
âIt’s really meant to instill the awe and wonder of the child in every human heart,â says Abel. “That’s the whole story.”