Christmas at Fountain Elms in Utica, NY

I wrote a previous post that presented a Christmas decoration showcase of the formal rooms at Fountain Elms, here. Fountain Elms is a living museum in Utica, NY; it was once the home of Maria Munson Proctor. Her parents, Alfred Munson (a millionaire in the early 1800s) and Helen Watson Williams, built this house for Maria and her husband, Thomas Proctor. Maria and Thomas had no children and left their house and belongings for a museum after their deaths. The Proctors were world travelers and eclectic collectors of art and trinkets, so the house is a veritable jackpot of quirky 19th century treasures.

The downstairs of the home is set up as if the old family would walk through the doors at any moment. Family furniture (and some pieces purchased by the museum) are arranged, with dishes and toys and other household items displayed on the tables, chairs, and beds. Upstairs, the house is more like a museum, with displays cases and paintings on the walls. Some items are truly very valuable (like a Ming vase) and others are just quirky little things from the family’s everyday life.

Fans Display

I love these Queen Victoria playing cards.

Victoria Playing Cards

There were a few display cases filled with pocket watches from the family’s world travels.
Pocket Watches


Cross Watch

This porcelain candlestick is lovely. It is one of a set.

Porcelain Candlestick Germany


This is a lovely doll house. The two daughters of the house, Rachel and Maria, were given this by their parents for Christmas. (Maria grew up to inherit Fountain Elms, and she and her husband lived here).

doll house3

I always wanted a doll house like this when I was a little girl. The pieces are exquisite!

doll house

doll house2

doll stove

This is Rachel (dark hair) and Maria (light hair).

Rachel Maria Youth

This is a reproduction room of a girl’s bedroom. The crazy wallpaper and carpeting make it look very busy. I think this kind of decor would give me a headache after a while!


Tea Set

Maria and her husband, Frederick Proctor, had very eclectic tastes. They were fond of Rococco and Asian styles. On display was an interesting bamboo desk (photo didn’t turn out well, as the rooms are very dark). I liked this odd-looking lamp.

Odd Lamp

Black Laquer Sideboard

This is Maria Proctor in later years.

Maria Williams Proctor by Wiles

I also visited the adjoining Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute and Museum, which I will be writing about soon!

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (2)

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  1. Barbara says:

    I am developing a program on the thimbles collected by the Proctor sisters. Would I be able to use a couple of your pictures? Please advise. Barbara

  2. Mike says:

    Well, here’s a strange story from 1968 when I was twelve. My friend and I had to do a book report about Fountain Elms. We went through the house, looking into each room and taking notes. We ended up outside walking on the path on the side of the house. I happened to look behind me, and saw this young girl in white victorian clothes. She had long brown hair that seemed to be blowing in the wind, although there was no wind. I turned around and said to my friend “Nick do you see that girl?”When we turned around to look,there was nobody there. Over the years I have told this story to a few people. I happened to tell my 10 year old daughter and her friend a couple of months ago. Her friend didn’t believe me so we happened upon this website just to show them what Fountain Elms looked like. I was scrolling down and lo and behold to my utter amazement, I saw the picture of the girl I had seen that autumn day 42 years before. She was exactly what i had described to my daughter and her friend before I even knew this picture existed. We all got goosebumps and her friend needless to say believed my story after seeing that. Many people may not believe me and that’s okay. I’m not sure I would believe it myself if someone had told me that story. But it really happenned to me and I’m certain I saw Maria that day.