‘Magical Elf House’ takes over Johnson Mansion in Wallingford  

WALLINGFORD — A house of “magical elves” offers residents a chance to get into the holiday spirit and raise money for educational programs.

“It really does give you that kind of warm old school holiday feel,” said Jill Dichello, a North Haven resident organizing the Magical Elf House for the third year. This year, the elf house is hosted by the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust’s American Silver Museum at the Johnson Mansion, 153 S. Main St.

Around a dozen “elves” will give guided tours, bringing participants through seven rooms decked out in North Pole style. The rooms include a dining room with sweets, a playroom, a kitchen where Mrs. Claus is hard at work and an office where Santa can rest up before Christmas.

When children pass through the seamstress’ room, they’ll receive a stocking with their name and age on it, filled with candy and a pamphlet about the museum. Three sugarplum fairies will also be dancing for the tour groups as they pass through the fairies’ parlor.

Dichello said the Franklin Johnson Mansion is a good elf house, with an atmosphere lending itself perfectly to the 15 Christmas trees, gingerbread houses and countless decorations placed throughout its rooms. Along with the dozen or so volunteers playing elves, many more provided funding as sponsors or gave time to help set up decorations.

The sponsors allow the proceeds from ticket sales to go entirely back to the Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust, which will use the funding to support educational programs.

“You do have to do some fun events to do the day-to-day brick and mortar needs, as well as your long-term educational programming,” said Lorraine Connelly, a consultant for the trust.

Connelly said they’re hoping the elf house can continue to build interest in the trust and the two museums it operates in town.

“We have a lot of things in the pipeline, but of course the money we do raise will go towards our educational programming. Our other house, the Royce House, will be our permanent exhibit for our Enslaved Wallingford exhibit that we’ll have ready for the 350th Jubilee,” she said. The exhibit will tell the story of the 400 to 500 individuals the trust has identified who were enslaved in town in the 18th century.

For the first two years Dichello held the elf house it benefited the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce’s education fund and was hosted in Guilford and then Branford. After not holding it last year, her volunteers have stuck with her and she said the preservation trust has been generous in helping her get set up in Wallingford.

“I’ve been very welcomed by the Wallingford Historical Preservation Trust,” she said. “… You never know the elves might like Wallingford and stay for next year.”

The elf house grew out of a story Dichello’s mother told her as a child. As she pestered her mom with questions about how Santa knew what everyone was up to, her mother told her that he sends out elves disguised as humans to gather information ahead of Christmas.

“I thought everybody believed this to be quite honest,” she said. “So the magical elf house is my version of where the elves live and they move around each year so nobody knows where they are.”

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian

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