The Dickens You Say

Stewart Manning

The twinkling lights of houses illuminate the gently falling snow of the alpine village.  The whistle of the train pierces the air as it traverses the rugged hillside.  The sounds of Christmas carols float above the holiday shoppers. 

Can there be anything more heart-warming than this Dickens-inspired scene?  You’re not in New York or Zurich.  You are in a home in Highlands Falls Country Club looking at the creative genius of Stewart Manning – a man of many talents. 

A child’s coloring book or a set of paints weren’t enough for Stewart.  As a youngster he recalls turning the sandbox in his grandparent’s yard into a major battlefield with breastworks and barricades created from whatever lay near.  The armies were bottlecaps – different brands represented each side.  In the eye of a young man, this creation was as good as those of any of Hollywood’s best production designers.  As Stewart grew, so did his talents. 

Even while raising a family and running a successful business, Stewart found time to put his creative talents to work.  He fondly recalls the hours spent with his young children, building small neighborhoods to fulfill the children’s fantasies.  A piece of plywood, a shoebox house, construction paper trees – crude yet meaningful in the eyes of the youngsters.

As the owner of a food service company Stewart’s talents generated detailed kitchen designs complete with a full line of equipment to support his client’s needs.  A few years ago, after he had retired, the seven Dickens Village shops that had sat mostly unnoticed on his mother-in-law’s bookcase beckoned him to explore his love of Christmas.  

That simple city neighborhood has now grown to fill an entire room.  As your eyes scan the room you see the Empire State Building piercing the sky, a trolley ambles down the street between the Majestic Theatre and the dress shop with a mannequin turning slowly in the display window.  Radio City Music Hall and a multitude of houses and shops are intertwined among trees strung with twinkling lights.  Snow sits gingerly on the mountain tops far in the distance.  Houses climb the hillsides.  Stewart feeds his creative genius by searching the internet and by visiting various hobby shops in the area to see what is available.  It’s amazing what an artist can do with styrofoam, a little paint and glue and a huge amount of talent. 

You really must see this artistic endeavor to fully appreciate the magnificence of this creation.  Hundreds of plugs are hidden beneath hills and dales, behind closed doors and under train tunnels.

Stewart’s wife Brenda laughs when we ask how much time and energy he has invested here.

“It keeps him occupied” is all she can say.  When Stewart is not playing bridge, not visiting children and grandchildren or visiting the hobby shops, you can generally find Stewart “in his room,” finishing an update to The Christmas Village.