Victorian Christmas in miniature

MARION — Family members, friends and neighbors are treated to a nostalgic glimpse of the Victorian era as they admire the miniature world of a Dickensian Christmas village at the home of John and Susan Thompson.

The enchanting village casts its spell on visitors who imagine exploring its inviting streets, visiting quaint houses and shops, strolling in the parks and singing carols in the church.

The charm of the Thompson village — which is not set up traditionally on a table top — derives in large part from its creative display.

It is arranged on 31 feet of custom-designed shelving constructed above panoramic windows overlooking the picturesque setting of the couple’s home on the banks of the Middle Branch River near Marion where they have lived for nearly 25 years.

A wallpaper border running the length of the shelves provides a perfect village backdrop--a typical winter scene complete with hills and forests.

The windows of cozy homes and shops glow with soft yellow light, icy rivers flow under arched stone bridges and gas street lamps cast a cheery glow as more than four dozen figurines bring life to the village.

Tiny figures busily work and play in a village bustling with activity.

A smithy shoes a horse, dad and children head for home with a freshly cut Christmas tree, a horse and carriage wait near a cottage, the lamplighter climbs his ladder to ignite gaslights, a chimney sweep trudges to the next job, a horse-drawn truck is loaded with deliveries, the town crier proclaims the village news and a couple on a park bench listen to carolers.

The town buildings include a blacksmith shop, a church with twin spires and gothic windows, a mill with turning waterwheel, Bob Cratchit’s humble home and an imposing half-timbered house with leaded windows.

Just outside of town, the beauty of the countryside is captured with waterfall, streams, ponds and many of the 88 trees placed throughout the village and outlying areas.

Under snow-dusted pines and birches, nearly three dozen animals and birds including bears, wolves, moose, deer, rabbits, cardinals, eagles and ducks inhabit a magical winter scene.

Flying above it all is the jolly old elf himself — Santa with his sleigh and reindeer — to bring a merry Christmas to the entire village.

Many of the village pieces originally belonged to Susan’s mother. Susan acquired them a few years ago and has been adding items ever since.

“Putting up the village is a labor of love for me,” Susan said. “I remember it from years ago at home when I was growing up and it’s important to me to continue it because it was my mom who started it.”

One of Susan’s favorite pieces is a house from her mother’s collection, an elegant Victorian mansion complete with corner turrets. Visitors are delighted with the animation as they peer into the tall windows of the festive drawing room and watch parents and children dance around the Christmas tree.

“I designed and built the shelves for the village,” John said. “They give Susan a chance to lay out the village in a very different way than you would on a table.

"We have plenty of room to set up the outskirts of the village with trees and wildlife as well as the town itself. At one end we even have a golf course. We worked together on the project and it turned out to be a lot of fun to imagine a layout and set it up.”