Back about 1900 and before, the Swinney Homestead was the place to be.

The Swinney Homestead, which once belonged to Thomas Swinney, his wife Lucy and their three daughters, would have been the talk of the town when it came to Christmas happenings.

The annual Swinney Christmas Tea “At Home” with the Swinney sisters will take place Dec. 6-7 at the Swinney Homestead in Swinney Park, 1424 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne.

The event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Settlers Inc. group, requires reservations to attend. They can be made over the phone by calling 260-747-1501 or 260-747-1229.

According to Norene Brown, event coordinator, there will be three seatings of 40, with 10 tables of four at each. The event will be a traditional Victorian tea with lunch, including but not limited to sandwiches, sweet and savory, tea, and desserts of course. Upon entering the homestead, guests are greeted with syllabub in a silver punch bowl, a popular beverage of the 19th century made of apple juice and cream.

“Sugar plums were made last week; it’s all ready to go. It’s all you want as far as Christmas treats go,” Brown said.

The event is so popular that it sells out in advance, Brown said.

“We’re usually full up and have a waiting list,” she added. “We all wear long- sleeve white blouses and floor length skirts.”

Volunteers both educate and mingle with guests, making the experience interactive. After the tea and meal, there’s an optional story time in the parlor, where guests learn about the symbolism of the 1900s Christmas traditions.

Guests are encouraged to dress in their Christmas finery, and jeans are discouraged. Attendees also have the opportunity to explore the upstairs area of the homestead, which serves as a museum and a gift shop, and hear the Hearthstone Ensemble settlers musical group perform. The group will perform popular songs of the era.

“We have unique Victorian gifts that are handmade,” Brown said.

Brown, who is a former president of the Settlers Inc. group, understands the history of the home and what it stood for. “It’s really part of the story of Fort Wayne,” she said.

The Settlers have multiple events during the year, including an annual plant sale at the Homestead in May and serving as a co-founder for the Johnny Appleseed Festival in the fall. The Christmas tea is another of those traditions.

“It’s part of our agreement, letting people see what the opulence was during 1900s. Their house was the place to go. You came with your gloves and your hats,” Brown said.

The cost to attend is $25 per person and any children who attend are encouraged to be on their best behavior. Seatings will take place Dec. 6 at 1:30 and Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Proceeds will go toward maintenance of the building, according to Brown. More information about the event is available at

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