Lincoln's historic Hearthside House will once again be draped in black for its annual exhibition on Victorian Mourning & Funeral Customs which opens on Sunday, Oct. 13th. Gone But Not Forgotten is a popular exhibit that has fascinated visitors as they learn of the elaborate mourning protocols which started following the Civil War.
The exhibit, sponsored by the Friends of Hearthside, recreates the wake of former Hearthside homeowner, Simon E. Thornton, who died in the house in 1873. All over the house, black cloth covers the windows, mirrors, and pictures. Docents dressed in Victorian mourning attire greet visitors at the door and lead them through the house, with each room unveiling a different aspect of the mourning process. In the dining room, visitors are offered special Victorian funeral cookies. The house tour, which includes all 3 floors of the 1810 home, concludes in the drawing room, where a period wicker coffin containing "the deceased" is displayed, giving mourners a chance to pay their respects. The fragrance of flowers fill the room, and a portrait of Thornton, taken near the time of his death stands near the coffin.
Objects on exhibit include mourning dresses, jewelry, post-mortem photography, memoriam cards, antique embalming tools and a portable embalming table--most likely the same one used by the undertaker (which was Bellows Funeral Home, one of the oldest in New England and still in business a short distance away from Hearthside) to prepare Thornton's body--are on view in his bedroom.
Tours on Sunday afternoon (13th, 20th, 27th) are $8/adults; $6/seniors; $5/ages 10-17; admission for candlelight tours (19th, 26th) is $10 and offered at 6:30, 7:30 or 8:30 p.m. and must be reserved in advance by calling 401-726-0597.