Revival Wheeler Mansion in Orange celebrating 120th birthday with ‘Great Gatsby’ party

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-02-2023 1:39 PM

ORANGE — Now that’s a lot of candles to blow out!

The Revival Wheeler Mansion turns 120 years old this year and owner Cynthia Butler is planning an outdoor shindig on Saturday, Sept. 2, to celebrate the life of the only Gilded Age mansion in the North Quabbin region. The event will also benefit The Revival Society, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to preserving and maintain the historic residence at 75 East Main St. through repairs, upgrades and facility improvements.

“[It’s] something to bring people together to celebrate, specifically just this building,” Butler said. “It’s basically a reason to get dressed and dance and mingle.”

The 120th birthday celebration will be held from 7 to 11 p.m., with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” serving as its theme. Tickets are available at bit.ly/3DDMZFv. Guests are encouraged to wear flapper dresses with bling and fringe, beaded shawls, fedoras, zoot suits and other attire from the Roaring ’20s.

“Think ‘speakeasy,’ ‘bathtub gin,’” Butler said. “[The 1920s were] such a wild party. All they wanted to do was have fun at that time, so I want to mirror that.”

This won’t be the first festive occasion for the Revival Wheeler Mansion this year. Although Butler has been working with town officials to bring the interior up to modern fire and building codes, she has been holding outdoor events in the meantime. The mansion was the site of the outdoor Hogwarts Ball and Wizardry Mystery Game last weekend as part of five days of “Harry Potter”-themed events marking the titular character’s July 31 birthday. She said some early rain cleared up and the 100 attendees had a wonderful time.

“It was good. Everybody had a blast,” she said. “I love to see everybody dancing and having fun.”

But, she mentioned, the birthday celebration will be “more over the top.” In fact, she said she will have different performers present and she is trying to recruit a drag queen to emcee the event. There will also be a cash bar and a DJ.

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“And, quite honestly, I’m always down for a theme party,” Butler said. “I love them. I love Halloween. I love Christmas. Anything we can attach a theme to, I love it.”

Butler is a California transplant who bought the mansion in July 2020 and now lives on its second floor.

The home was built in 1902 and 1903 by John W. Wheeler, who made his fortune manufacturing and selling sewing machines and served as president of the New Home Sewing Machine Co. He built the mansion for his wife, Almira, and died in the building in 1910, deeding it to the Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic sisterhood. Former Athol Daily News writer Allen Young has reported the building was owned by the Eastern Star for much of the 20th century, serving as a home for its elderly members, who are said to have surrendered their wealth “in exchange for unparalleled comfort and care in their last days.” The Eastern Star closed the building in 1990, and Karen and Robert Anderson bought it from the Star Realty Trust for $240,000 in 1996, according to Young. The new owners had intended to open a bed and breakfast called Anderson Manor, but those plans never came to fruition.

“This mansion was built as a grandiose display of wealth, and I feel that ‘The Great Gatsby’ is mirroring that,” Butler said. “If you think about this mansion, there is nothing like it anywhere close to here. So when [John Wheeler] built this, it was to show the world what he had, I feel.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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