Victorian Tea

The Larchmont Historical Society hosted a Victorian holiday tea on Sunday, December 9th at Larchmont’s most historic landmark, the Manor House, at 18 Elm Avenue.

The reception was held at the Larchmont Manor House.

Guests were invited to see this 18th century home draped in Christmas décor, learn about traditional Victorian holiday practices and partake of an old-fashioned tea with seasonal treats. Hostesses and entertainers will appear dressed in Victorian period costumes, adding to the historic atmosphere.

Welcoming guests to “their home” was Colonel Charles McKnight Leoser and his wife (as re-enacted by LHS members), who rented the Manor House in 1892 from Frederick Flint.

Colonel Leoser, the publisher of Bonfort’s Wine and Spirits, graduated from West Point in 1861 and fought at the Battle of Bull Run. He was captured later in the Civil War and confined at the infamous Libby prison.

leoser1907Colonel Charles L. McKnight Leoser’s graduation portrait from the Class of 1861 at the United States Military Academy. (Portrait courtesy of the Academy library.)

During the tea, “Colonel Leoser” provided a poetry reading and display his Civil War pictures. He told stories of his Civil War service with the Eleventh New York Volunteer Infantry, or “First Fire Zouaves,” a regiment consisting primarily of volunteer firefighters from New York City.

Many of America’s Christmas traditions became popular in the Victorian era, including: decorating the tree, sending holiday cards, giving gifts, caroling and even Santa Claus himself. Another favorite indulgence dates back to this time as well – afternoon tea.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem “I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day” which was read by Charles L. McKnight Leoser at the tea.

“We presented ‘A Victorian Christmas’ in 2001, and the response was overwhelming,” said Dee van Eyck, vice-president and programs chair for the Historical Society. “This year, we decided that a ‘Victorian Holiday Tea’ has been a fun way for us to illustrate life in our village over 100 years ago. For us to have the opportunity to host the event in Larchmont’s oldest and most historic home, maked this a special treat for everyone.” Carl and Mary Olsson, the current owners of the Manor House, are again sharing their home with the Larchmont community.

The Manor House has been featured several times on the LHS annual house tour and is Larchmont’s only remaining 18 th century estate. Built in 1797 by Peter Jay Munro, nephew of John Jay, it was later sold to Edward Knight Collins, a shipping magnate, who changed the entrance of the home to face the water and also added a ballroom. Over the years, the house has also served as a resort and The Manor School for girls. “Since 1982, it has been owned by Dr. and Mrs. Olsson, who have done a wonderful job maintaining its historic integrity,” said Barbara Newman, LHS president. The custodial torch, however, may soon pass to a new proprietor as the Manor House is again for sale.

The Larchmont Historical Society was chartered in 1981 as a non-profit organization to discover, preserve and disseminate information concerning the natural, social and civic history of Larchmont and to promote the preservation of historical sites and structures. For more information about LHS and the history of Manor House, visit or call (914) 381-2239.