Is this house really called, "The Christmas House?" Last time, I talked about "The Gingerbread House," and it was unclear if that home was really called that. In this post, I analyzed the architecture and history of this building to determine if this is truly, "The Christmas House."
"This property, located on the corner of Skippack Pike and Cathcart Road, owned by Peter Cross [who purchased the property in 1965], was named after Mr. Cross's great, great uncle Clement C. Moore, who wrote 'The Night Before Christmas."
- Whitpain... Crossroads in Time (233)
The description of this home intrigued me because of who owned this home. The Whitpain... Crossroads in Time book was written the late 1970s, and they only recorded whoever was the recent owner at that time, and that was Peter Cross. He purchased this property in 1965, and it was claimed that he was the great-great uncle of Clement C. Moore, author of The Night Before Christmas.
It is undetermined whether Peter Cross was related to Clement C. Moore or not. But what I do know about him was that he sold this house in 1975, and his real name was "William P.R. Cross." His wife was named "Dulcy J."
NOTE: This would be difficult to do any family searches since I didn't know Peter Cross's information. If anyone knows about Peter Cross, please contact me.
But in the meantime... why not talk about who Clement C. Moore was?
Clement Clarke Moore and the Authorship Battle of
"The Night Before Christmas"
Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) was born the only child to Reverend Benjamin Moore and Charity Clarke Moore in New York City, NY. He was homeschooled by his father until he attended and graduated from Columbia College*.
Fun Fact #1: Clement graduated first in his class, just like his father 30 years ago
*Columbia College was the former name for Columbia University from 1784–1896
There were claims that Clement created the poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" for his 9 children, and recited it to them on Christmas Eve in 1822.
Here's the catch: "Anonymous" was listed on the poem. Was it possible Clement, or someone else, forgot to credit the author on the poem?
"Because the poem was published anonymously and became very popular, other people tried to claim authorship. Authorship is typically attibuted now to Major Henry Livingston, Jr., whose great-grandson spent many years trying to establish Major Livingston as the author. Livingston had also written verses for his children, but he made no written mention of 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' during his lifetime, nor had his friends heard of his connection with the verses. They were said to have been published in a Poughkeepsie newspaper long before they appeared in the Troy Sentinel, but no copies of the paper containing the poem have ever turned up. Several magazine and newspaper articles appeared, especially during the 1940s, questioning the authorship, but scholars today give the credit to Livingston."
- Poetry Foundation
In 1837, while the poem was published to the public, the New-York Book of Poetry, a anthology of works by New York poets, contained some poems written by Clement, including his poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas." In 1844, his collection Poems contained his "A Visit from St. Nicholas" poem.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
It is a 2 1/2 story building with few additions to it. Right away when I look at this house, it looks colonial based on the structure and architectural features:
6x6 sash windows
Rough-cut stone structure
Paired interior chimneys
Lights in transom window above the entrance door
Since it was altered and added with different owners throughout the years, there are other features that stood out that is not really colonial:
Shed dormer (considered common in Colonial Revival buildings)
The most important feature on the house was date stones. Date stones are very important because it tells you when that building was built. Or it could tell you when the building was altered or renovated. In this case, this home has a date stone "1810." It could be that this home was built in 1810. I don't ever think the owner at that time would alter the home. Was there such thing as "altering" or "renovating" back then?
Most of the architectural features are Georgian, and Georgian-style architecture dates was common from the early 1700s to the early 1800s. I would say that this house is Georgian even with altered features and the date stone.
Read and view the survey done by the Pennsylvania Historic Resource Survey Form here!
It's interesting that there was an authorship battle that involved an innocent poem about Christmas and Santa Claus. It was very difficult to decide who wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas." I couldn't even decide who truly wrote this poem.
I think it's up to how this poem was written; in terms of writing style and the context of the story. Who do you think wrote this poem?
Regards to the house, I don't think it should be called, "The Christmas House" when there's zero evidence that it has any Christmas festivities surrounding it. The owner during the 1960s, Peter Cross, claimed to be the great-great uncle of Clement C. Moore, but there's still no evidence to prove his ancestry. Otherwise, it's a nice house that has been perfectly renovated, and kept some if its original architectural features.
It's interesting that the Whitpain... Crossroads in Time book were naming buildings based on the owners during the 1970s. It bothered me when examining those old home in Whitpain Township. But at the same time, it intrigued me to look into the names behind these old homes.
"Clement Clarke Moore." Poetry Foundation. Accessed November 25, 2020. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/clement-clarke-moore.
"Distance Calculator." DaftLogic. Accessed October 9, 2020. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.
Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Page 031, 1871.
McAlester, Virginia Savage. A Field Guide to American Houses. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017): xvi, 41, 201-214.
"Property Search." Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Accessed November 23, 2020. https://propertyrecords.montcopa.org/pt/search/commonsearch.aspx?mode=owner.
Smith, J.L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.
"The Authors and Illustrators - Profiles: Clement C. Moore." Through The Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews: An Online Children’s Book Review Journal. Accessed November 23, 2020. http://www.lookingglassreview.com/html/clement_c_moore.html.
Whitpain... Crossroads in Time. (Montgomery County, PA: Whitpain Township Bicentennial Commission, 1977): 233.
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