Last weekend, Historic Huguenot held its first “Christmas Quest” at Deyo Hall where children searched through the beautifully decorated and impeccably restored colonial revival house. Each kid was looking for 30 well-hidden items listed on a scavenger hunt map and clue page set to “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.”
The hunt not only challenged the kids, but brought them close to the period furniture, textiles, cooking utensils, even the simple-yet-ornate toys kids played with in the 19th century.
“It’s a fun family activity,” said Jen White, who accompanied her two young boys through the scavenger hunt. “And it’s wonderful to see how people used to live many years ago.” When at New Paltz High School in the 1980s, White was a tour guide at Historic Huguenot for two years and said she marveled at the changes.
“They’ve done an amazing job restoring and renovating this house,” she said, looking around. “It’s now unified and tied to an authentic time period.”
The Deyo House is a stately residence that began as a modest stone house in the early 1700s, built by Pierre Deyo for his family. Over time, according to Richard Heyl de Ortiz, of Historic Huguenot, what started as a one-room house was expanded to three rooms. The garret was outfitted as bedrooms and the house evolved into a charming farmhouse with paddocks and livestock kept close and the design simple.
That changed dramatically when the then-mayor of New Paltz, Abraham Deyo Broadhead and his wife Gertrude, used their new-found wealth to transform their ancestral home into a colonial revival showpiece around the existing stone footprint and beyond.
It is still a showpiece dressed up in greens and berries and ribbons and garlands for the season. Anthony Ortiz, who was a florist and now a teacher in the Newburgh City School District, did all of the decorating, which could not include “real” pine branches, needles, or dried berries.
“We can’t bring anything like that into the house because the sap could damage the woodwork, or bugs might get in and infest the home. But because of our generous board president, our ‘fake’ decorations look quite real,” said Heyl de Ortiz.
Bill Olivia, along with some teenage helpers, ran the Christmas Scavenger Hunt from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will be offering it again this Saturday, Dec. 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It costs $7 per child (adults are free), and if you find all of the items you receive little prizes like “chocolate coal” and can enter a raffle to win a $25 Enchanted Toys gift certificate.
From there they could get a picture taken with Santa Claus, who visits a different historic house each year, this year bringing his holiday cheer to the Jean Hasbrouck House.
“We’ve been doing that for the past three years,” Heyl de Ortiz said. “It’s very popular because we send them away with a picture framed by some of the vintage cards from our card collection, and then send an electronic file to them and to Rite Aid so that they can turn them into gifts or as their Holiday cards, and we change houses every year.”
Adding to the holiday cheer on the oldest incorporated street in America will be “Candlelight Holiday” tours of Deyo House on Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., 7:30 and 8 p.m. There will also be a variety of holidays highlighted at the upcoming seasonal “story time” series in the Deyo House Parlor, in front of the fire place and Christmas tree, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 4, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18.
For more information, log onto www.huguenotstreet.org.