Photos by Joshua Lindau
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Photos by Joshua Lindau
Tucked into the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve in Goshen is the home of Virginia Creasey Mahan and Howard Mahan. Originally built in 1805 from large tulip poplar logs, the home was a wedding gift to the couple in 1921. When Virginia Creasey Mahan passed away in 1975, the nonprofit nature preserve of the 170 acres surrounding the house was established as part of her legacy. Until his death in 1984, Howard Mahan served as chairman of the board of the nonprofit, which continues today.
“Our goal is to bring nature and community together,” says Tavia Cathcart Brown, executive director. “So that is why we are open 365 days per year, from dawn to dusk. Everyone is welcome, and it is always free to come.”
Although the grounds—with their 9 miles of wooded walking trails, springs, grasslands and small waterfalls—feel like a park, the nature preserve is a nonprofit charity. The organization relies on donations for operational expenses but emphasizes that visiting the grounds and manor house is free and open to the public.
The grand Mahan Manor, as it is now known, can be toured by appointment throughout the year, but at the annual Nature of Christmas in Goshen community event—on Dec. 5 this year—the home is open to the public. Each year, a group of dedicated volunteers lovingly decorates the home. Brown says while visitors can revel in the old-fashioned beauty of the antiques-filled rooms throughout the year, the house is gussied up for the holidays.
An old red wooden cart toting a live tree and adorned with a rustic “Season’s Greetings” sign welcomes visitors. A holly-trimmed sled sits beside the entrance, giving a hint of the natural holiday décor that awaits inside. Each room sports its own themed Christmas tree. Last year, one room’s theme was nature and featured a tree decorated with small forest animals made from natural materials, straw, feathers and pinecones. A squirrel couple dressed for winter in woolen clothing, scarves and boots are perched atop the room’s piano.
Visitors will find mantels filled with plenty of greenery, candles and an assortment of nutcrackers; a large collection of Santa Clauses, many of which are made from gourds; a pair of vintage porcelain angels, their tiny mouths open in silent song; and the dining room table set with holiday china, awaiting guests to arrive for Christmas dinner. Holly, pine, feathers and pinecones adorn the doors, banisters and tabletops, reflecting the Mahans’ love of nature.
To add to the charm, the outside trees surrounding the picture-perfect home are decorated with strung popcorn and cranberries. When the grounds are covered in a light snow, you can picture a jingle-bell laden, one-horse-open sleigh gliding over the grounds.
“The Mahans wanted everyone to be able to gather together, and so do we,” Brown says. “We do all we can keep old-fashioned fun alive.”