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Lippitt House Serves Up Victorian Hospitality

A new exhibit at the East Side museum takes a look at 19th century table manners

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It’s no secret that America’s favorite pastime is eating, drinking and, well, having a good time.

But dinner in the digital age can often look something like two-day-old leftovers and frozen veggies at 8pm, probably more than anyone cares to admit. Of course, the bar is raised a bit when entertaining company. But even at the snazziest of dinner parties, a well-composed three-course meal and a bar stocked with mid-shelf wine and cold beer is about all anyone can ask for (which, let’s be honest, sounds amazing).

While modern-day dining trends naturally find their roots in history, mealtime today looks very different than it did 100 years ago. For those who are curious to see how our dining customs have evolved over the last century and a half, the Lippitt House Museum invites you to come experience their newest exhibit, which spotlights Victorian dining and social practices.

The exhibit, titled “The Art of Dining: A Taste of Providence’s Golden Age,” runs through October and tells a story of Victorian dining through the real-life accounts of the Lippitt family.

Each of the six rooms depicts a specific scene that would have been customary in the Victorian era, with some rooms even recreating specific events hosted by the Lippitt family. Guests can explore the dining room, where Mary Ann Lippitt hosted a gossip-filled, eight-course ladies luncheon on September 28, 1877, or check out the music room, where men withdrew after dinner to drink brandy, smoke cigars and discuss politics. Visit the butler’s pantry to discover how the household staff produced such elaborate meals, and get a glimpse of the impressive glass and silver collection from which the Lippitts sipped their libations.

The exhibit’s decor and elaborate displays outshine even the most Pinterest-worthy meals and tablescapes. For all social beings who put eating and drinking at the center of our culture, this exhibit is not to be missed.