BASSETT HALL was the home of John D. Rockefeller, jr, when in Williamsburg (the guy had a bunch of bigger houses elsewhere). Mr. Rockefeller restored the hamlet of Williamsburg making it Colonial Williamsburg over a period of more than 30 years and at a personal cost to him of $68-million. The house is open only three days a week these days. We have come to visit it on the last day of the year before setting out for the evening celebation, “First Night” all across Williamsburg. First Night is a series of music and food venues pretty much everywhere. It is so spread out they run free bus routes around town.
Carol Anne stands at the rear of the house which is only steps from the Capitol building and the Williamsburg Inn. Carol Anne’s father graduated from Harvard in 1936 with John D. Rockefeller’s son, David, who, at age 101, recently returned to visit Bassett Hall.
It will always be 1948 at Bassett Hall because Mrs. Rockefeller died in April that year. Because she treasured their home and time in Williamsburg it has been preserved as she would have left it. The Christmas tree in the dining room at Bassett Hall has aluminum tinsel and if you had a Christmas tree in 1948 — and I remember ours in Kirkwood, Missouri, well from that year — this tree should look very familiar, the docent said. And it does. Some years we had a top of the tree as on this tree, and other years we had an angel, but the angel wore out, as I recall. Colonial Williamsburg has to take each strand of aluminum tinsel off and re-card it each year because it is no longer manufactured. We did the same because we were cheap. My father would decorate our trees with the tinsel by standing across the room and inviting his four children to heave the tinsel at the tree. My mother sternly disapproved but he, and we, did it anyway. Aluminum tinsel, by the way, was not easy to throw — there was an art to it.
The phone book in the kitchen at Bassett Hall.
The Traveler’s Insurance Currier and Ives calendar hangs in the kitchen. These calendars were so popular people saved them and later framed the pictures. I have a large collection of them that I bought years ago and they are … somewhere around … somewhere. I laugh — but as Christmases go for me as a kid, the Christmas 1948 ranks as the most disastrous Christmas of my life, although in 1949 when at the age of 6, I got really unhappy, Santa (my mother) came and took most of my presents back. OMG. What was this woman thinking of.