In earlier days, the hearth was a symbol of home and the comforts and joys found within it and stood as an emblem of enduring graciousness, hospitality and repose. With the changing of the seasons, the lovely mantle, serving as the crown jewel upon the magnificent stonework, showcased a treasure trove of seasonal riches, following the advise of an 1889 homemaking manual to “make a beauty of economy,” and to bring a touch of nature to the indoor décor.
During the months of spring, a lovely collection of flowering bulbs were often placed upon the mantle, along with sprigs of lilac, blossoms of peony, lily of the valley and flowering forsythia. Topiaries of variegated ivy, signifying “fidelity, loyalty and undying affection,” stood among the treasures, along with little clay pots filled with velvety green grass and abandoned birds nests made from tiny twigs and downy soft feathers.
In the summer, the mantle was arrayed with pink roses growing in sweet and elegant perfection, symbolizing by their presence, a home of “perfect happiness and contentment,” mingled with lavish displays of purple hydrangea, foxglove, scented geraniums and favored old begonias.
During the fall, wreathes made of gleaming red bittersweet hung above the noble hearth, mingled with sprigs of red and golden maple leaves, dried ears of corn, tiny pumpkins and pretty colored squash. Dried flowers and fragrant herbs were often used to garnish table tops and to nestle in little nooks and crannies around the home, while “tall sheaves of tasseled corn, and bundles of nodding oats and swaying wheat” stood along side the stately hearth to celebrate the harvest.
In the winter, the mantle was draped with luxurious velvets and rich brocades and laid with garlands of sumptuous pine boughs, sprigs of holly, boxwood, and laurel. To add to the elegance and beauty, pots of chrysanthemums and Christmas roses mingled with eucalyptus berries, bay leaves and sprigs of baby’s breath, filling the home with a glorious wintertime fragrance, while beeswax tapers in silver candlesticks glowed with a charming and luminous brilliance.
--The Riches and Treasures of Home