Wrought iron chandeliers, white tablecloths, and English floral-patterned porcelain cups and saucers will decorate the historic Atlee House in New Windsor during the New Windsor Heritage's fifth annual Tea at 2 p.m. March 12.
The event is designed to help New Windsor Heritage, a nonprofit formed about 30 years ago with the goal of preserving New Windsor history, to do just that.
"This little town was created in 1797 by Isaac Atlee who came in from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, about 1793 and started buying up tracts of land," said Doris Ann Pierce, president of New Windsor Heritage and co-owner of the Atlee House, a bed and breakfast in New Windsor.
In 2006, after New Windsor Bank provided a building at 207 Main St. for it, the nonprofit created the New Windsor Museum. It has been renting the building and raising funds to buy it since 2006.
Over the past two centuries, New Windsor has been home to several women who loved to host gatherings and chat about happenings of the day.
The nonprofit will honor and recognize five such women, all of whom are deceased, at the tea, which has the theme New Windsor Entertains.
New Windsor Heritage member Dori Batavick spoke of one of the women, LaRue Sipes, who died unexpectedly last fall at the age of 80.
"She grew up here and was so entrenched in the history of the town," she said. "People turned to her with questions about the town and we want to honor her at the tea."
Batavick said Sipes was active in New Windsor Heritage and also an activist in the New Windsor community. She organized and served as the president of the Sulphur Spring Lions Club, was involved in the Linwood Brethren Church and volunteered in many capacities.
Also honored will be Thelma Hartzler, who hosted coffees and cocktail parties with seasonal themes and had a great sense of humor, often playing pranks on guests and friends; Nellie Lantz, the first female head cashier of New Windsor State Bank and the first female to serve on its board of directors; Elizabeth "Libby" Bixler, who inherited the Buckey Farm just outside New Windsor and had an extensive guest list for her parties; and Gretchen Sporelein, the wife of Mayor Randall Sporelein who once hosted a breakfast for 200 people at the Brethren Service Center and was known as the "Hostess with the Mostest."
A tea event wouldn't be complete without tea sandwiches and similar treats, and this one is no exception, Batavick said.
"We'll have orange cranberry scones, truffles, veggie delight and chicken salad sandwiches and a new one we are calling Miss Nelly's pink wedge sandwich," she said. "We are not going to tell them what is in it until they taste it. Miss Nelly [Lantz] would have people taste it and then have them guess. And everything is homemade."
The tea, which costs $25 to attend, will also feature door prizes and those who attend can purchase tickets for a raffle basket for $2 a piece or three for $5.
It might be a quaint event, but it serves to remind people of not just the past, but what's preserved of it in places like the New Windsor Museum.
"We've worked diligently to put together a museum that tells the story of this little town," Pierce said. "We want to be a repository for clippings and things from the past because the younger generations won't have it we don't preserve it for them."
The museum — with historical artifacts, furniture, news clippings, period wear and other items — is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Batavick said the museum operates with a docent and has a small gift shop. It has a record room and a room with a television where the documentary "Time's Crossroad," produced by her husband Frank, is shown.
Frank Batavick, a television producer for Maryland Public Television for 16 years, won a regional Emmy from the National Capital/Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Documentary Historical for the film in June 2012.
"This town has so much in its history. New Windsor was sacked by Confederate troops 150 years ago last year," Frank said of soldiers who entered town after fleeing the Battle of the Monocacy. "The troops going to and from Gettysburg traveled right through New Windsor. We have a diary kept by Maggie Mehring, a 16-year-old school girl who lived in town. She acted like a modern-day news correspondent. She went out and met the Union soldiers who were passing through town and it is all written in her diary. Over the years, many famous people have passed through the town or stopped to stay. Teddy Roosevelt, George W. Bush, and although she is not historical, Julia Roberts came here to film 'The Runaway Bride.'"
Frank said the making of his documentary began in 1987 when he prepared a slide and tape presentation on the town history for New Windsor Heritage. About seven years ago, the New Windsor Heritage Committee asked him to remake the presentation for a DVD, which is now sold at the museum.
New Windsor offered a rich history for Frank to work with when producing the DVD.
"There are many short vignettes in the film," Frank said. "I talk about the Bloom sisters, Marion and Estelle, who were a bit notorious. They were from New Windsor and very liberal in life's pursuits. They had [American journalist] H. L. Mencken and Theodore Dreiser visiting from Baltimore and New York City, respectively. This was back in the early 20th century, before Dreiser wrote 'An American Tragedy.' Two single women entertaining these men was quite a scandal at the time."
In addition to recognizing the past, Pierce said, the tea is a good way to appreciate the present and embrace the future, with good conversation and fellowship.
"The tea is a good, fun time to get together with your friends, to have something to talk about, to chat and find new friendships," Pierce said.
Dori Batavick said she hopes to see a good turnout for a good cause.