Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Afternoon Tea is happening at Dunsmuir House

Welcome to the Dunsmuir-Hellman (beware of link audio!) house in Oakland. Tea Time enjoyed afternoon tea at the Dinkelspiel House. We purchased our tickets from the Oakland Parks and Rec, which included afternoon tea with a tour of the main mansion and the opportunity to wander the estate grounds to our hearts content. There was also holiday entertainment and crafting at this historic site on the day of our visit.

The pre-set menu for this event was chosen by the volunteers who work on-site (in the kitchen, serving, even guiding you through your adventures in the mansion). Our table shared a pot of the house black tea, usually decaf tea is available on request, although you are committed to whatever the kitchen has brewed that day. Our tea tray held scones (cranberry or blueberry), sweet breads, cookies (chocolate chip or raisin), four kinds of sandwiches (salmon, egg, cucumber and chicken salad), plus chocolate covered strawberries. Lots of carbs at this tea! Don't worry, we ate salad for dinner later.
Let's have hot tea and get warm, it was rainy and chill outside.
Pretty as a picture.
Lots of sweets!
Tea Time loves chocolate!

Cranberry Scone.
Scones, spreads and sammies make an afternoon tea.
After our group finished eating we wandered over to see the main mansion, our tour time was set for later, but they let us in early since the house was not busy. The weather was better (we didn't need our umbrellas), but it was still pretty drippy outside so we were happy to be in the warmth of the house. Here's a little info from the website about the history of this mansion and grounds.

IA Wedding Corporate Events Dunsmuir House was built by Alexander Dunsmuir, who came to the Bay Area in 1878. The son of Robert Dunsmuir, a wealthy coal baron from Victoria, British Columbia, Alexander oversaw the family business in San Francisco.The elegant mansion was built as a wedding gift for his beloved Josephine in December 1899.

In 1906, the estate was purchased by I.W. Hellman Jr. who worked for Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco, as a summer home for his family. They dubbed their estate Oakvale Park.Golden Gate Park's landscape architect, John McLaren, is said to have assisted the Hellmans in designing the Dunsmuir gardens.The estate was purchased by the City of Oakland in the early 1960s with the intent of using the grounds and mansion as a conference center. A non-profit organization was formed in 1971 to preserve and restore the estate for the public benefit. For many years, the non-profit group and the City jointly operated the estate until 2010 where the City of Oakland became the sole proprietor. The Dunsmuir Hellman mansion has been designated a National Historic Site by the United States Department of the Interior and both the mansion and the Carriage House have been designated Historic Landmarks by the City of Oakland.

Personalized touches.

Landscaping for the ages.
The inside of the house is "preserved" to look much as it would have when the it was inhabited by the family. (Although we doubt there was a Christmas tree in Every room.) Some of the personal touches by the volunteers are very entertaining, and this mansion is a good interpretation of the past. It allows the visitor a glimpse into how and what things were used for in yesteryears.

The Dunsmuir mansion, designed by San Francisco architect, J. Eugene Freeman, is an example of Neoclassical-Revival architecture popular in the late 1800s. The 37-room mansion features a Tiffany-style dome, woodpaneled public rooms, 10 fireplaces and inlaid parquet floors within its 16,224 square feet. Servants quarters in the house are designed to accommodate 12 live-in staff.

Tiffany-style stained glass dome above the stairs.
A Christmas tree in every room.
Formal dining room.
Children's room decorated by volunteers.
Holiday spirits?
When our group had completed the mansion tour (including the wine cellar and gift shop in the basement) we headed outside and saw that the sun had completely broken through the grey skies overhead! Hooray! Plus entertainment was about to start in the pavilion across from the mansion. Angela is hooked on Hawaiiana, so she had to stick around for the holiday cheer provided by the Hawaiian ukulele choir and keiki Hula dancers. (Interested in Hawaiiana? Check out SF Bay Area AHA.) J.K. went with the group to check out the crafting tent.

The Dunsmuir mansion and grounds are a great place to visit.Open year round, they offer a chance to take afternoon tea with a glimpse into the past, as well as being a beautiful getaway within the Oakland city limits. The next time we visit it will be in the spring, so we can find the maze and Japanese gardens! Do you have a favorite local getaway? If you appreciate local history and spying on how the wealthy lived with their servants, make sure to visit Dunsmuir.

The star of the show, Mr. Sun.
Happy Holidays!!