Taking Tea at Hackett House

In 1986, Tempe Sister Cities took possession of the Hackett House which was restored and is owned by the City of Tempe. Tempe Sister Cities, under the guidance of Jane Neuheisel, won a bid to the city for a plan to use the original bakery, and later home of Estelle Hackett, as a cooking school, gathering place, and educational venue. Preparation began for repurposing Tempe’s former bakery with a new paint job, wallpaper, sanded floors, and new cupboards.

Around 1988, in honor of the former bakery and of our new Sister City in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, the Hackett House team decided to institute High Tea in the 4 Friendship rooms (previously known as the “bake house” as that is where the original ovens for the bakery were located). Tables and chairs were purchased second hand and the same bentwood chairs and little square tables are still in use today. One of the first teas was attended by a group of Virginia Cresswell’s friends with a loan of her beautiful English bone china teacups. The set was later donated to the Hackett House by Virginia. Past chairs and important “tea personnel” are Barbara Colleary, the first chair; Jane’s mom – Verna Hagen – who laundered the linens into her 90’s; Sue Searcy – whose family recently donated cups, saucers and tea pots treasured by Sue; Donna Allen who ran the tea kitchen; Carol Walsh, Mary Thielemeier, Lois Standish, Mary Evans and many others. Currently our tea “force” consists of Cheryl Moritz and Lesa Emery-Mazzacavallo who work with various kitchen volunteers to create the wonderful delicacies enjoyed at the teas. Gail Ewen leads up the volunteers who organize the tables and tea cups. Marney Glancy, Piot Mudry, Roxanne Pazul, and Jean Peters set beautiful tables and centerpieces. Gwen Davis works with the National Charity League Mother/Daughter teams who volunteer the days of our teas.

Since the beginning, generations of “tea goers” have enjoyed delectable scones, dainty finger sandwiches, and desserts prepared by the in-house team of volunteers.

Meet two of the generations:

Heidi Ostroff’s Grandmother, Betty Parker, her daughters, Jana Ruth and Chris Rhees and her daughter-in-law, Donna Parker came to tea at the Hackett House shortly after the tea parties started. Betty was also a volunteer with Hackett House in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When granddaughter, Heidi, turned 9 or 10, she and her cousin, Erin Lillo were added to the party. Since that time, the family has lost Betty, Jana, and Chris. However, the tradition continues with Donna and the grandchildren and now great-grandchildren of Betty.

Sue Lofgren is a long-time member of Tempe Sister Cities. Sue was the country director for Timbuktu in Mali, West Africa for a number of years coordinating efforts for the humanitarian outreach such as digging wells, sending school and medical supplies. It was December 1997 that a Christmas tradition was born…the Lofgren Women’s Christmas Tea. Three daughters, a daughter-in-law, a mother-in-law, a granddaughter and Sue were the nucleus of the event. Over the years, the number expanded. There were new granddaughters-in law and more granddaughters who reached 18 years, the magic number when they are included at the tea. By 2019 the number had grown to 15 attending. It is the event of the year for the women, the real beginning of the Christmas season to which they all look forward to and make sure to attend.

HACKETT House continues with “Taking Tea” at the Hackett with its annual Nutcracker Children’s Tea, Christmas Tea, Valentine Tea, Spring Tea and Mother’s Day tea. In addition, a new tea was scheduled this year. In partnership with the Tempe Historical Society, Hackett House was set to host the Hayden’s Ferry Days Tea before it had to be cancelled (in addition to our Spring and Mother’s Day teas) due to concern over the corona virus. The Hackett House team will continue its now 32 year old tradition as it looks forward to next fall and a another year of new beginnings and honoring our past!

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