By Michelle Durham

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s only historic waterfront mansion still open to the public has been beautifully decorated for the holidays, with a color palette based on an unusual treasure found hidden in a closet there.

“We were clearing out a locked closet, and there was a water color,” explains Meg Sharp Walton, executive director of the Glen Foerd mansion in Northeast Philadelphia.  “We invited in two very knowledgable art collectors, and they identified it as a Violet Oakley watercolor!”

("Joy Followed By Tears," a newly discovered water color by Violet Oakley.  Photo provided)

(“Joy Followed By Tears,” a newly discovered water color by Violet Oakley. Photo provided)


Oakley is the artist who did the murals at the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.  She was a good friend of the former owner of the mansion, Florence Foerder Tanner.

The watercolor was painstakingly restored, and Walton decided to decorate the mansion in the colors of the painting.

“There’s a lot of white, greens, and blues,” she says.  “The paper it’s painted on is actually brown.  We’re going to wrap presents under the tree in brown craft paper with blue and silver ribbons.”

You can see the decor for yourself on Wednesday, December 12th, from 4pm to 7:30 pm, when there will be tours, music, food, and lots of entertainment for the whole family.

More information at

Watch & Listen LIVE