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Victorian mourning subject of Beekman House program

The Victorians created elaborate rituals around the passing of a loved one. Death was considered part of life’s texture, giving it essential meaning.

Visit Jacksonville at the 1873 Beekman House between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday or Sunday, Oct. 15-16, to explore how Jacksonville's most prominent pioneer family honored the dearly departed in the late 1800s.

The Beekman House, 470 E. California St., will be decorated as a Victorian house in mourning. One-hour docent-led tours beginning every 15 minutes will discuss proper Victorian mourning etiquette for home décor, clothing, funerals and social behavior, as well as superstitions, seances, mementos and a few other popular practices of the time. Tour admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students.

For the Victorians, death was an integral part of life. Infant mortality was  high, while life expectancy, especially in some major cities, was low.

Most people died in their homes, and most funerals were held at home. Both Cornelius and Julia Beekman died in the Beekman House, and their daughter Carrie was at their sides as they declined and passed. Their younger daughter Lydia had died in 1873, shortly before the house was completed.

A funeral invitation and Victorian casket in the house parlor will recreate the sense of a home funeral of the era. Mirrors will be draped in black, clocks stopped, and photos of the deceased turned to the wall. Beekman mourning clothes and jewelry will be on display, along with mourning stationery and calling cards and other mementos of the dearly departed.

After starting as an express rider carrying mail, packages and gold over the Siskiyous to Yreka, Cornelius C. Beekman built a business empire of banking, insurance, mining and real-estate interests. The Beekmans were the only ones to occupy the family home, and all the contents are family possessions accumulated over their 60-plus years of occupancy.

For more information, call 541-245-3650 or see www.historicjacksonville.org

Photo courtesy of Historic Jacksonville