Hayes Presidential Center hosts Victorian Tea gathering

FREMONT Tea enthusiasts came from near and far to enjoy an afternoon of Victorian simplicity at the
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

FREMONT

Tea enthusiasts came from near and far to enjoy an afternoon of Victorian simplicity at the Dillon House.

The sprawling Victorian home -- owned by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center -- hosts monthly Victorian Tea gatherings from March through November.

Wednesday, for a minimal fee, visitors enjoyed two hours of food, beverages, laughter and soothing music.

China teapots held the afternoon tea -- steaming raspberry -- served atop lacy tablecloths with a backdrop of crystal chandeliers and vases of white roses.

Groups of mothers, daughters, friends and siblings nibbled on miniature sandwiches of cucumber and cream cheese, chicken and egg salad and ham with jezebel sauce.

While visitors dined, pianist Tom Hoffert's fingers danced along the keys of a piano once owned by Hayes' son, James Webb Cook. The tune "It's a Wonderful World" floated through the small room.

For dessert, welcoming staff members provided trays of brownies, custard and cookies, making sure to refill the delicate tea pots.

Fremont native Connie Saffran brought her 12-year-old daughter Lexie, but she said it wasn't the first time the two have donned fancy dresses for the commute from Oregon.

"We've been bringing her every summer since she was three-and-a-half," Saffran said. "It's been so much fun. It's sort of a tradition now."

An hour into the afternoon, local acoustic guitarist Dan Lester serenaded the diners with sweet music from his skillful, strumming fingers.

Several requests were made, and he obliged.

"It's easy to do something you love to do," he said, smiling.

Toledo native Helena Louviaux was a special guest of honor at the tea.

"We came here because my brother decided to surprise me," she said.

Her brother, Gregory Louviaux, traveled from California to Toledo and then drove his sister to the historic home.

In another room, a trio of women brought Victorian elegance to life.

Mother and daughter Marie Garlick of Swanton and Rebecca Ott, of Jasper, Mich., said they've been "teaing" since the mid-1980s.

Along with friend Betty Barron, Toledo, the women were dressed in long dresses, gloves, delicate shawls, pearls and fancy hats.

"We travel for the tea," Ott said. "We're on the tea trail a lot. My sister and I brought mom here one year on her birthday and have been coming ever since. We met Betty at one of our teas and decided to plan trips together."

Barron said the tea group is normally much larger.

"We have about 11 to 13 ladies who travel with us," she said. "We've met people along the way that enjoy tea as much as we do, and picked them up along the way."

Ott said they try to make it to Fremont for the monthly tea as often as possible.

"It's just too nice to miss," she said.