Partying in Bliss |

Partying in Bliss

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Third-graders Nathanial Bolle, 8, and Ariana Arias, 8, from Fritsh Elementary School, enjoy their last day at school before winter break by singing "Feliz Navidad" while on a field trip to Bliss Mansion on Wednesday.

One third-grade class in the Carson City School District took their end-of-the-year Christmas party out from the classroom Wednesday to a place much more Victorian and exciting – the Bliss Mansion, built in 1879.

“The kids were very excited and happy about coming,” said Fritsch Elementary School Teacher Kathy Bakst. “They knew we were going to the Bliss Mansion, and they know it was a special place.”

Students entered through the main door of the house, off the side on Elizabeth Street, and “oohed” and “aahed” at the large entrance and the stairwell that rose before them.

After taking off their coats, they followed 9-year-old student Brittni Crossman, whose mother works at the mansion, into the parlor. They sat down on the floor and readied for Christmas carols played by guitarist Rich Berger, father of 8-year-old student Spencer.

Berger threw in one Christmas piece for which the students had no lyrics, but they picked up the words right away – “Feliz Navidad.”

“I just wanted to come and spread holiday cheer to the class,” Berger said. “And play my guitar for the first time in six months. I didn’t rehearse, but it’s an easy audience.”

There are actually two parlors in the Bliss Mansion, and the students were in the main one that likely would have been used in the 19th century by female visitors, according to mansion co-owner Joyce Harrington.

The parlor off of the main entry most likely would have been used by men, she said. Harrington demonstrated how a sliding door could be pulled out to separate the two rooms.

In the parlor with the singing children, were a Christmas tree with flashing white lights, a fireplace with three stockings hanging from the mantle, and three large Christmas bulbs dangling from the chandelier.

Four candles glowed on the three-piece 1950s coffee table and the house smelled of cinnamon spice. In one corner was a Victorian piano.

“We haven’t had the little kids in like this before, but Brittni is part of the family, and when her mother suggested that we have her class here for a Christmas party, we said it would be fun,” Harrington said.

Harrington and business partner Ron Smith have owned the 7,897-square-foot mansion since 2001, but put the three-story bed and breakfast up for sale for $2.5 million in November.

“I wanted to make sure the kids saw it, just in case this is the last year they can come here,” explained Nicole Crossman, Brittni’s mom, who has done “a little bit of everything” while working with Harrington for the past three years.

Students removed their shoes before ascending the grand staircase for a tour of the upper level. There, they saw two of the bedrooms and the adjacent bathrooms, which were impressive with their spaciousness and standalone tubs.

“My favorite thing was probably looking at the big bath tubs,” said Angela McCraw, 8. “I was like, ‘I want to jump in.'”

Classmate Grant Watkins, 8, liked another detail even better.

“One of the bedrooms had a fireplace, and so did its bathroom,” he said.

The students then went into the kitchen and ate snacks of fruit and one Christmas cookie.

Grant said he insisted on going to school Wednesday, even though he wasn’t feeling well in the morning.

“I was very excited because I’d never seen the Bliss Mansion before,” he said.

The only thing threatening the end-of-year Christmas party was the rain. Bakst had told her students if it was raining when it was time to leave, they wouldn’t go.

“It was only raining a little bit on the way over,” explained 9-year-old Alondra Davalos.

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.