Blog :

A Sight for Sore Eyes: The Louis Bank Of Commerce

A Sight for Sore Eyes: The Louis Bank Of Commerce

1888

835-837 5th Avenue

Architectural Style : Baroque Revival

Architects: Clemment and Stannard

 

In 1831, newspaperman Horace Greeley popularized the saying by John Soule, “Go West, young man.” Many enterprising immigrants took these words literally, and made their way to the burgeoning city of San Diego, California. One of the most resourceful of these was a Prussian Jew named Isadore Louis. Born in Lessen, Prussia on July 4, 1836, Louis arrived in the United States on his 21st birthday. He first lived in San Francisco, then Los Angeles, and finally arrived in San Diego in 1870 with his wife and family in tow. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on November 2, 1874.

 

Upon his arrival, he opened a cobbler shop on 5th Avenue, and quickly became a “cobbler to the stars” of San Diego, as he made fancy French shoes for all the local rich and famous, both men and women. All this within two years! Additionally, he served as a notary public and managed the Louis Opera House, which specialized in road shows, circuses, and minstrel shows, not operas. Louis built the opera house, located on the east side of 5th Avenue between B and C Streets, in 1887. He later expanded his real estate holdings to include a cigar store and a candy shop.

 

As he quickly went from cobbler to capitalist, in partnership with the Bank of Commerce, Louis built the Louis Bank of Commerce Building during San Diego’s boom years of the 1880s. The bank specialized in business loans, so this proved to be a perfect fit.

 

Designed by well-known architects, Stannard and Clemment, this four story Baroque Revival structure possesses so many noteworthy and elaborate Victorian architectural features that it has been dubbed “The Queen of the Gaslamp.” It is also reputed to be the most photographed building in the Gaslamp. The building itself is composed of brick with a granite facade.Four large, three-sided bay window projections on the second and third levels are elaborately decorated in cast terra cotta and wood. Stone spandril panels between the second and third floors have a carved radiating motif.

As some of the building materials were pre-built on the East coast, all did not arrive in a timely manner. Consequently, only three of the four planned balconies were built. This gave the building a somewhat unbalanced look, which is actually not usually noted when viewing the structure, as there is so much detail to absorb. The building is capped by twin towers on the mansard roof. Atop the towers are eagles with outstretched wings. The original towers were lost in a fire in 1904, but have been restored as the original molds by a New England foundry were still available. An elaborate skylight in the interior allows natural light through to the second level, which is lavishly appointed with carved wood railings and doors.

 

The Bank of Commerce remained until 1893. On the ground floor, Isadore Louis opened the Maison Doree, featuring an oyster bar and an ice cream parlor. As San Diego did not have an ice plant at the time, ice was brought in from Lake Tahoe. The oyster bar was said to be the favorite hangout of Wyatt Earp, another noteworthy capitalist, and his wife, Josie. The Maison Doree was touted as the finest restaurant in San Diego, so all the wealthy ate there, providing Wyatt with a cadre of future patrons for his gambling parlors!

 

The upper floors, consisting of 33 rooms, were rented out as lodging quarters and offices. Early tenants included J.H. Grovesteen, a bookseller and County Clerk, a jeweler, an optical needs store and real estate offices.

 

After the turn of the century, the upstairs rooms were rented out by a lady who billed herself as a fortune teller, but soon re-invented herself as Madam Cora. Madam Cora was a marketing genius. While San Diego’s other infamous madam, Ida Bailey, specialized in quality, Madam Cora specialized in quantity. Knowing that many foreign sailors arrived at Horton’s wharf at the foot of 5th Avenue, and that they may not speak English, Madam Cora devised a method to ensure that their needs could be met. She dressed her girls in dresses of different solid colored hues and strolled them up and down 5th Avenue. If a gentleman saw a lady that struck his fancy, he tapped Madam Cora on the shoulder, pointed out the object of his desire, and she handed him a marble of the same color as the lady’s dress. That evening, he would present himself at Madam Cora’s Golden Poppy Hotel on the upper floors of the Louis Bank of Commerce Building, show her the marble, and she would direct him to the door of the same color. Behind that door would be the lady whose dress corresponded with the marble. Not a word had to be spoken! After their business was concluded, the gentleman could leave by the back stairs and drop the tell-tale marble down the outhouse. This was most useful if the patron was an elegant gentleman from Banker’s Hill or some such neighborhood, who absolutely did not want to return home with the offending marble!

 

Further into the 20th century, the building housed Ratner’s Electric, which earned it the nickname, “House of 1,000 Lights.” Tenants additionally included offices and restaurants.  In November of 2016, the fully restored stately structure was purchased by PREF Commerce, an affiliate of local Paragon Real Estate, for $7.1 million.  The 22,000 square feet of this Gaslamp jewel are still being redeveloped.

 

Sandee is the historian for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]

History Talks! Lecture Series: Romantic Victorians: Dating, Marriage, and Love.

History Talks! Lecture Series: Romantic Victorians: Dating, Marriage, and Love.

Looking for a Valentine? Maybe the Victorians can help! Join us for our next History Talks! Lecture as Sandee Wilhoit, GQHF Historian, and Jamie Laird, GQHF Visitor Services Coordinator, delve into the intricate customs and traditions surrounding dating, marriage, and love in the Victorian Era. Become versed in the strict courting rules, elaborate Victorian flirting techniques like the “Language of the Fan,” and all that was expected when both parties finally said, “I do.” Learn about Romanticism- a movement that gained momentum in the late 1800s- which emphasized inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual and how it not only influenced Art and Literature but also ideas and romantic notions of the Victorian era.

 

Location: Chuang Archive and Learning Center 541 2nd Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101

 

History Talks! is a monthly lecture series presented by the Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House. Each month a local historian or specialist will delve into topics related to San Diego and the Davis-Horton House to bring a unique glimpse into the history of our city. Come hear history come alive!

 

February 13, 2019 at 7pm.  Lectures are free for Members, $5 non-members.

Day Trip to Borrego

Day Trip to Borrego

                                                Join us for a unique Spring tour!

The GQHF and Walkabout International are teaming up to bring you a day trip to see the beautiful desert wild flowers and a chance to breathe the fresh mountain air! 

Join your new Walkabout friends and GQHF fans for a day long bus tour on Thursday, Feb. 28 to eastern San Diego County. You’ll have a morning departure from Liberty Station (home of Walkabout International)(free parking), a rest room stop and shopping opportunity at Dudley’s Bakery. As we get into the desert we will stop for photos and a short walk to see some hard-to-find wildflowers in Surprise Canyon. Next we’re off to the Borrego Springs Visitor Center & Museum for a visit and a chance to eat your boxed/picnic lunch. We’ll have a discussion about flora and fauna in the area, and then reboard the bus to visit Ricardo Breceda’s “Sky Gallery” spread throughout Borrego Springs. Stops will be made so you can photograph these unique desert sculptures and see additional wildflowers as well. Joining us today will be Walter Konopka, Walkabout’s featured naturalist, who has led many tours of the spring time desert. (His discussion on the sex lives of desert insects and plants is not to be missed!) On our return trip back to San Diego, we’ll stop in Julian, where GQHF board member and historian Dan Haslam will lead our group on a walking tour of the village.

 

The trip price of $59 per person includes round trip bus transportation, all gratuities, a picnic lunch, bottled water and snacks, and the services of your tour leaders.

 

Your check for $59 per person should be made payable to and mailed to Walkabout International, 2650 Truxtun Road, Suite 110, San Diego, CA 92106. Mark your check “GQHF Borrego Day Trip.”

 

Do not delay as this trip sells out quickly whenever offered and only a limited number of seats are available.

 

If you would like a mailed itinerary of the trip, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope plus your email address so specific pick up instructions can be emailed to you.

 

Questions? Email Dan Haslam at [email protected].

 

February is Museum Month in San Diego!

February is Museum Month in San Diego!

 

That means HALF PRICED ADMISSION at over 40 museums for the month of February.

San Diego area residents and visitors are in for a special treat in February! Pick up your Museum Month discount pass at any of the participating libraries (see link below), or when you stay at a Hilton to enjoy 50% off the cost of admission at more than 40 San Diego Museum Council (SDMC) member museums. The Museum Month pass is free and can be used an unlimited number of times* throughout the month of February.

Whether you are an art aficionado, history buff, or nature lover, the SDMC has a variety of member organizations that are bound to capture your interest.

Take advantage of this annual program to visit both old favorites and new attractions you have never even heard of!

*Up to four guests (any age) can receive 50% off the cost regular admission when the pass is presented. Note that some museums may have other fees for special exhibits or programs.

For more information on participating libraries and museums visit the San Diego Museum Council website here .

San Diego ShamROCK 2019

San Diego ShamROCK 2019

Party with a Purpose! Did you know the GQHF has been producing and benefiting from ShamRock for 25 years? ShamRock is the greatest, greenest party of the year in the Gaslamp, and is also our largest fundraiser! Help to preserve and protect the Gaslamp while having a rockin’ good time!

Celebrating 25 years of Irish revelry, San Diego ShamROCK is back and better than ever to paint the Gaslamp Quarter green with San Diego’s largest Saint Patrick’s Day block party. Drawing more than 20,000 attendees from across the U.S., this annual celebration is known for taking this legendary holiday and turning it into an outrageous experience for the green at heart to enjoy. We even added two extra hours so every leprechaun can come party like the Irish with us on Saturday, March 16th from 2PM to Midnight!

Frolic through a clover field with your green Bud Light beer or Tullamore Dew whiskey libation as 6 blocks of the Gaslamp Quarter get covered with over 50,000 square feet of luscious emerald green astroturf! Bust out your best jig with performances by traditional Irish steppers, or shake your clovers across 3 stages of non-stop live music including nationally recognized Irish rock and Celtic bands, top DJs and more! Feeling lucky? Make way to the ALL NEW ShamROCK Shenanigans Street for a variety of Saint Patrick’s Day-themed games!

A full day of Celtic-inspired festivities and new memories await on Saturday, March 16th from 2 PM to Midnight! Grab your friends, don your green attire, and head to the Gaslamp Quarter to experience firsthand what has made San Diego shamROCK a legendary St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Tickets to this event start at just $30 for General Admission and $70 for Lucky Leprechaun VIP. Add on to your ticket and join the Clover Crew with a range of custom packages including 2 complimentary 16oz beers, St. Patrick’s Day hat, commemorative stein and credential, fast pass entry and more for $7 to $30. For additional information on the shamROCK shenanigans planned for 2019 or to purchase tickets, please visit sandiegoshamrock.com.

 

Don’t Miss the MOST ROCKIN’ St. Patrick’s Day  Celebration in Southern California: ShamROCK 2019!

 

 

Davis-Horton House -168 Years and Still Standing!

Davis-Horton House -168 Years and Still Standing!

The Davis-Horton House

 1850

410 Island Avenue

 Architecture: Two-Story Wooden New England Saltbox

 Mortice and Tenon Construction

Through rain and sleet and storms, and even through floods – yes, two of them – the Davis-Horton House, the oldest standing structure in downtown San Diego, has managed to survive.

 

The little yellow house on the corner of Fourth and Island has a long and storied history. It was originally pre-cut in Portland ,Maine, in 1850, along with nine others, loaded on a ship, the Cybele, and sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco. Its original purpose was to serve as housing for the 49ers, the miners who were flooding northern California in search of gold. Gold had recently been discovered in the Sutter’s Mill area, and fortune hunters were coming in droves from all over the country hoping to seek their fortune. One room in such a house could rent for as much as $1,000 per week! However, by the time the Cybele reached San Francisco, the Gold Rush was slowing down considerably, and the houses were no longer in demand. The houses and even the ships were for sale at a highly reduced rate.

 

William Heath Davis, a wealthy merchant and ship’s captain, saw an opportunity and seized it. Although he was based in San Francisco, he had previously done some surveying in the San Diego area, and had always felt that our current downtown, with its beautiful natural harbor, would make an excellent town and seaport. Davis purchased the Cybele with its cargo of houses, and had it sail south back to San Diego. He knew if a town was to be built, housing was a first priority. This was followed by the construction of a 60 foot long pier at the foot of Market Street. Davis’s new town was centered in what is now Pantoja Park in the Marina district, and the Davis-Horton House was originally located on what is now State and Market Streets. Its first inhabitants were Army officers stationed with the Army of the Pacific. Two prominent occupants were General Nathaniel Lyon and General John Bankhead MacGruder. When the Civil War began, many of the soldiers were sent back East to shore up Union troops, while others left to return to the southern states and to support the Confederacy. General Lyon was the first Union general to be killed in the war, while General MacGruder served with distinction for the South.  After the war, MacGruder returned to the area, and became a rancher in the National City area.

 

The next notable person to inhabit the house was our Founding Father, Alonzo Horton. Mr. Davis had lost $700,000 in a warehouse fire, and was forced to give up his dream of a new city by the bay.  However, he urged his acquaintance , Mr. Horton, to visit San Diego, as he felt the area had promise. Horton agreed, and after a brief visit, he had a public land auction called and purchased 960 acres for $265.00 , or roughly twenty seven and a half cents per acre. He promptly began to lay out a city and sell lots. Needing a place to live, he purchased one of Davis’s little houses, and in a most cavalier gesture titled it in his wife’s name. The house was then moved from its original site at State and Market to 227 11th Street, where it remained until it was moved in 1980 to its current location. The Davis-Horton House is the only house in which Alonzo Horton lived that is still standing. Horton had five mansions built during his years in San Diego; they have all been razed.

 

Upon the Horton’s departure, the house served as a boarding house for a brief period of time. The next tenant of note was Anna Scheper, a German immigrant, who purchased the house for $1,500. Ms. Scheper operated the first “County Hospital” in the dwelling.  She was paid a dollar per day per patient by the county to care for indigent citizens. Consequently, she housed patients in every room with the exception of the parlor and the kitchen! Nurse Scheper maintained the hospital for eight and a half years, and was credited with providing excellent care to those under her supervision.

 

In 1898, the house was purchased by a German immigrant couple, Henry and Lina Lohman, who had been renting the house. As they were older and childless, they took in a 5-year-old boy , who was begging in the neighborhood. The little boy, named George Deyo, had been deserted by his mother, father, and grandmother. When the Lohmans passed away in 1936, quite close together, they left the property to George.

 

George never married, but while strolling along 5th Avenue, he noticed a young man around 10-11 years old, who was also begging. This scruffy looking fellow was trying to secure funds to attend a new craze – the movies! George took a liking to the boy, Edward Lanuza, and asked Edward’s grandmother, who was raising him, if he might take him into his home and raise him. Edward’s grandmother was more than happy to oblige George!

 

Edward grew up, married a young woman named Esther Gonzales, and brought her to live with he and George. The Lanuzas had four children and continued to live in the Davis-Horton House with George. The house still did not have electricity, and was not electrified until it was opened as a museum in 1984.

 

When George passed in 1977, he left the house to Esther Lanuza, as he felt that Edward had a gambling problem and might sell the property to bankroll his games.

 

In 1979, Esther sold the land where the house stood to Robert Oswald, and in accordance with George Deyo’s wishes, deeded the house to the city.  In was moved in 1980 to its current, and permanent, location. It now operates as a non-profit and the home of the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation.

 

Before the last move, a  basement gallery was constructed, and the two-story house placed over it. The gallery has served as a gift shop, offices and most recently as offices and as a venue for historic presentations and exhibits.

 

Through three locations, numerous tenants, several purposes and a slew of owners, this house has survived, and is visited by thousands yearly. However, this little jewel in the heart of the Gaslamp, now needs help to mitigate the effects of two floods suffered in less than one year. Fortunately, none of the antiques were damaged, but the basement suffered severely.  It is in the process of being reconstructed internally, waterproofed and made ADA compliant. To this end, a special fund has been set up to assist in this massive endeavor, and to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the historic Davis-Horton House.

 

To contribute, please visit our website or come visit the museum Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 – 5:00 daily and 12:00 – 4:00 on Sundays.

 

Sandee is the historian for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]

History Talks! : Balboa Park’s Two Great Expositions—1915 and 1935.

History Talks! : Balboa Park’s Two Great Expositions—1915 and 1935.

Dotted with numerous cultural institutions, distinct architecture, and home to the World-Famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park has been dubbed “San Diego’s Cultural Hub, “and “a place with something for everyone!” Located just a few miles away from the Gaslamp Quarter this sprawling urban park can credit its creation to two great expositions- one in 1915 and one in 1935.  Join us for our first History Talks! Lecture of 2019 as guest speaker Michael Kelly, President of The Committee of One Hundred, presents The Story of the Panama-California Exposition Digital Archive Project. Get an inside look at images and documents from the historic Exposition and insight to how The Committee of One Hundred has worked to preserve the architecture, gardens and public spaces of Balboa Park since 1967.

Location of this lecture will be held just a few blocks walking distance from our museum at the Chuang Archive and Learning Center 541 Second Avenue, San Diego CA 92101

History Talks! is a monthly lecture series presented by the Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House. Each month a local historian or specialist will delve into topics related to San Diego and the Davis-Horton House to bring a unique glimpse into the history of our city. Come hear history come alive!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 at 7pm.  Lectures are free for Members, $5 non-members.

 

 

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

11th Annual Vet + Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade

presented by FOMO Bones

December 16, 2018 12PM – 5PM | 401 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101

For more info click here.

Deck those paws with bells so jolly and jingle all the way through the Gaslamp Quarter for The Vet + Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade presented by FOMO Bones. Pet owners and their furry, feathered, and scaled companions are invited to don their favorite costumes for this jolly promenade and Holiday Pet Market on Sunday, December 16, 2018, at MLK Promenade Park, adjacent to the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter (401 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101).

Entry to participate in the Pet Parade is just $15 per pet in advance, and $20 on the day of the event. FREE for Spectators!

Day-of registration and check-in will begin at 11:30AM. Guests are encouraged to register in advance as space in the Parade is limited and will fill up fast. For more information, please visit www.holidaypetparade.com

The Pet Parade steps off promptly at 2:00 pm from under the iconic Gaslamp Quarter Archway, and continues up Fifth Avenue takes a left at E street and down Fourth Avenue ending at MLK Promenade Park, where contest winners will be announced and the Holiday Pet Market will continue!  Festively-attired critters compete for bragging rights and prizes in fun costume contest categories. Dogs, cats, birds, and even fish are welcome to take part in this holly-jolly good time!

Registrants can be sure to grab a goodie bag full of fun samples, toys, coupons, and other gifts for your festive fur friends at the FREE Holiday Pet Market, open to the public from 12PM to 5PM with live music, presentations, and festive fun for all. Official viewing stations will be around the Gaslamp Quarter providing patios to view the pets on parade and specials to partake in.

The best vantage points for the Pet Parade are along 4th & 5th Avenues between E and K Street from 2PM – 3PM (arrive early to peruse the Holiday Pet Market and guarantee a great spot to watch the parade).

*Jolly pets welcome. No livestock allowed in parade.

Check-In: 11:30AM

Holiday Pet Market: 12PM – 5PM

Costume Contest Judging Panel: 12PM – 1:30PM

Parade kicks-off: 2PM

History for the Holidays

History for the Holidays

Join us on Sunday, December 9th from 2 PM – 4 PM for our annual Holiday Open House! Our halls will be decked with Victorian-style Christmas cheer and there will be free house tours, docents dressed up in period attire, and light refreshments!  Come experience the holidays at the oldest edifice in the historic Gaslamp Quarter!

The Ghost of Christmas Past – A Victorian Christmas

The Ghost of Christmas Past – A Victorian Christmas

No era has influenced the way we celebrate Christmas as much as the Victorian era. Before the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837, Christmas was largely unheard of. One of the most significant cultural shifts within the Victorian period was the introduction of the holiday season, which occurred as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The increase in wealth and the infrastructure allowed factory workers to take Christmas Day and Boxing Day off , and celebrate the holiday with their families. The term Boxing Day originated when the less fortunate opened their boxes of gifts from the wealthier classes. It is still commonly used today in Britain and Canada to celebrate the day after Christmas.

 

The custom of giving and receiving gifts was originally done on New Year’s Day, but as the significance of Christmas began growing, it was moved to Christmas Day. It also became a time to reward children with gifts, although the gifts differed greatly according to the family’s financial status. At the beginning of the Victorian period, the children of the rich received handmade toys, which were quite labor intensive to make and expensive. The children of the poor received stockings filled with fruit and nuts, a tradition we still have today. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution and mass production, factories were able to produce toys more rapidly and much less expensively, so they became more accessible to all. The size of the gifts also increased. Initially, small gifts were hung from the tree, but as the gifts began to increase in size and complexity, the placement of gifts became “under the tree.” The popularity of the indoor tree grew quickly giving rise to the new market for ornaments in bright colors and reflective materials that would shimmer and glitter by candlelight. The first advertisements for tree ornaments appeared in 1850. One of the most popular ornaments was the glass Christmas pickle. It was hidden way inside the branches of the tree for good luck. On Christmas day, the finder of the pickle was either given a special extra gift or allowed to open his/her gifts first. The tradition of the pickle dates back to a medieval story of two Spanish boys traveling home to celebrate Christmas. They became weary and stopped at an inn, where the innkeeper, an evil man, stole their possessions and hid them in a pickle barrel. Luckily for them, St. Nicholas came along, saved them and sent them on their way. Victorians also placed candles on their trees, which have now been replaced by electric lights.

 

The Christmas tree, itself, was a tradition brought to England in 1840 by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, from his native Germany. This tradition is one of the most significant aspects of our modern Christmas celebrations.

 

Mistletoe and holly became popular decorations, and for weeks before Christmas, these greens were sold by vendors on the streets. Holly was the most popular as it was a fairly common hedge on wealthier estates. However, selling holly became a somewhat precarious business if a vendor was caught helping himself to the branches of one such house! Such a poor soul would be lucky if all he lost was his cache of holly and didn’t end up in jail.

 

What would Christmas be without cards? Believe it or not, they did not begin with Hallmark. The first Christmas card was made in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole, who asked an artist, John Callicort Horsely, to create a card Cole could sell in his art shop. The card featured a group of people around a festive dinner table and a Christmas message. Sir Henry had 1000 printed and sold them for one shilling each, which was considered rather pricey for ordinary Victorians. The idea was successful though, and the wealthier families began sending out cards every Christmas. Queen Victoria was a huge fan, and had her children create and send their own cards. In 1870, a halfpenny postage rate was introduced, and printing technology became more advanced, which made this a more accessible custom for the less affluent. By 1880, over 11.5 million cards were printed, and a national tradition was born. Some of the early commercial cards were rather creepy though, as they featured ogres chasing bad children, scary clowns and other unpleasant themes. But – commercialization of Christmas was well on its way!

 

Another commercial Christmas industry was born when a confectioner, Tom Smith, came up with a new and unique way to sell sweets. His invention was a simple tube-like package, which was filled with candy and small gifts, and when pulled, would snap apart. Voila! the Christmas cracker!

 

By 1881, simplicity in holiday decorating had given way to elaborate and elegant customs. In Cassell’s Family Magazine, the lady of the house was instructed that it was worth the while to bestow some trouble on the decorations of the rooms and especially on the menu for the Christmas feast. Early Victorian recipes indicate that the traditional mince pies were originally made with meat, a Tudor tradition, but in the 19th century the composition of this dish changed. Recipes without meat, but heavy on dried fruit, became the norm. The turkey also has its roots in Victorian times, as it was the perfect size for a middle-class family, and quickly replaced the traditional goose. Poor people often subscribed to a “Goose Club,” where they put aside small sums on a regular basis to save for the Christmas feast. Thus, this would ensure that even the poorest would have a feast to celebrate. Oysters, often called the “protein of the poor,” were also popular.

 

After the feast, the entertainment would begin. Victorians loved entertainment and parlor games were a favorite. These games helped pass the time and cheered everyone up. At times, however, they could prove a bit dangerous. Along with such staples as charades and musical chairs, there was snapdragon. Snapdragon was not a game for the faint of heart, as a bowl was filled with raisins, covered with rum and set ablaze. The task was to snatch the raisins out of the bowl and eat them while they were still afire. For the less daring, there was rabbit kissing, in which a lady and a gentleman put a piece of cotton between their lips and rubbed noses until their lips met.

 

Another form of entertainment was caroling, which began in Elizabethan times, but was popularized by the Victorians, and served as a means to gather around the wassail bowl. Going from house to house and singing might prove tiring, and carolers were usually invited in to share a cup of hot punch called wassail. The basis for the punch was either apple cider or beer, which was then enhanced by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon slices, and sometimes roasted crab apples. The punch often became thick and foamy, and the foam floating on the top was called “lamb’s wool.”

 

As in modern times, football also became a tradition and form of entertainment on Christmas Day. The games consisted of league matches, which became so popular that they often caused the fans to postpone their Christmas feast in order to attend the game. The first league match on Christmas Day occurred in 1889, and drew a crowd of 9,000.

 

A Victorian Christmas and our modern Christmas are alike in many ways. The celebration helps to bring family and friends together with feelings of goodwill and sharing. As Charles Dickens says in his Victorian classic, A Christmas Carol, “God bless us everyone.”

 

The staff of the the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation wishes everyone a happy holiday season, and we invite you to History for the Holidays on December 9, our annual open house featuring the Davis-Horton House lavishly decorated in true Victorian style.

 

Sandee Wilhoit is the historian for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]