Dolley Madison Garden Club hosts Christmas Market and historic Webb-Blessing Open House event
The Dolley Madison Garden Club is hosting a community event for all ages on Dec. 12 when it holds a Christmas Market in conjunction with an open house at the historic Webb-Blessing House. The market will feature a variety of local vendors and artisans, musical performances throughout the day by different school groups, a special gift-making workshop for kids and the Dolley Caf selling local fare. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charles Town Presbyterian Church at 220 E. Washington Street in Charles Town.
Products on sale include fiction and nonfiction books, vases and pottery, handcrafted wood-turned items, hand-knitted creations, hand-painted decorative pieces, vinegars, jewelry, handbags, soaps, garden-related items, greeting cards, Christmas decorations and fresh greenery.
As an additional treat, the club is featuring the nearby Webb-Blessing House, which will be artfully decorated by Dolley Madison Garden Club members and is open to visitors during the event. This historically significant home is located at 303 East North Street and currently serves as a museum. The club intends to partner with the Jefferson County Black Historic Preservation Society to restore the backyard to a mid-19th century garden, reflecting what it most likely would have been when the home was occupied. The club’s proceeds from the Christmas Market will help fund the restoration project.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the Webb-Blessing House was originally owned by Samuel Washington (brother of George and Charles), who deeded the lot to Ezekiel Dean in March 1797. In 1829, Dean deeded the property to Isaac and Charlotte Gray, annotated as “persons of color.” Shortly after this transfer, James Webb built a stone house on the property. This is one of the earliest stone structures built by a free black. The Blessing family took up residence in the clapboard house at the end of the Civil War. Blessing was a baker who supplied food to John Brown during his incarceration and befriended him. Another significant aspect of this property is the well that stood in front of the house. In Charles Town’s early days, there were twelve wells strategically placed to provide water for the townspeople; the oldest was in the front of this house. In 2003, the Jefferson County Black Historic Preservation Society purchased the Webb-Blessing House to restore it and establish a museum about this significant structure and its inhabitants. Currently there are two exhibits, one about the Blessing family and another titled, “African American Military from 1812.”
“Community events and celebrations were once a hallmark of small-town America, and we like to foster that whenever possible,” said Nancy McGlothlin, spokesperson for the garden club. “We are definitely planning a lively Christmas Market with musical performances, activities for kids and good food. The club members are delighted to bring so many local vendors together for this event. Shoppers will have a large selection of merchandise to browse, providing excellent holiday gifts and it supports our local artists and small business owners,” she adds. “And of course we are thrilled to bring awareness to the Webb-Blessing House, both its historical significance and its ongoing restoration needs.”
“The event is bittersweet this year,” added McGlothlin. “Mary Koonce, one of our most passionate garden club members, recently passed away after her battle with cancer. She really advocated for our club to have the market again this year, so we are hosting the event in honor and memory of her.”