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Rice Homestead Holiday

Annual event opens historical site’s doors to public

December 7, 2008
By ZACH SUBAR, The Leader-Herald

MAYFIELD-Colonial treasures ruled the day at the Mayfield Historical Society's 17th Annual Rice Homestead museum open house on Saturday.

Part of the Rice Homestead building was built in 1790 by Revolutionary War veteran Oliver Rice as a farm for his family.

Subsequent additions included the home's front rooms, an outhouse and a woodshed. It remained in the Rice family until 1988, and the historical society bought it in 1990.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Arlene Rambush of Benson places wool fiber onto a spool as she prepares to spin yarn during the event.

At the open house, society members dressed in colonial clothing served mulled cider to guests, while others spun yarn with a wheel.

Guests helped themselves to plates of homemade cookies and brownies, while pies, available for $8, rested in the kitchen.

Sylvia Parker, the society's president, gave tours of the house's upstairs, which included newspaper clippings from the early 20th century and beds the Rices slept in years ago.

"I didn't know a lot about Mayfield," said Rotterdam Junction resident Mary Ellen Wilcox after a tour. "But I learned a lot."

Lynn Johnson of Mayfield said that she was drawn to Rice Homestead by its regional charm.

"It's local," she said. "We love the history of this house."

Town historian Betty Tabor is responsible for decorating for the open house, and says that she tries to change its look from year to year. Christmas adornments dotted the building, and table wreaths were present. Tabor begins the decoration process in September.

"People love to come here for the open house," she said. "They wouldn't miss it for anything."

Tabor estimated that a few hundred people would make the trip to Rice Homestead by the end of the weekend.

The open house was not without a display of local talent. Gloversville's Teddi Knapp, a folk artist, was on hand, painting a large gourd to look like Santa Claus, and the Harry, Dave and Barry Trio performed its music. Knapp's art, featuring snowmen painted on chalk figures, was also on display. She described the historical society's efforts to preserve the town's past as "fabulous."

"I don't think they could do any better than they're doing right now," she said.

The event is put on as a season-ending celebration of sorts. Rice Homestead is closed during the winter since it is not built to handle cold temperatures. The open house gives people a last chance to enjoy what the museum has to offer.

"It's so special," said Parker. "There's just a very few of these old places left that are kept. Nobody has the money to fix them up, and it's expensive."

The historical society conducts events throughout the year, such as an antique show and sale, to raise money for the museum.

Rice Homestead will also be open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In 2009, it will be open from June 13 to Sept. 13 Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Zachary Subar covers rural Fulton County. He can be reached at



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