Home / Articles / Features / Holiday / Historic Christmas
Print this Article
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 02:56 am

Historic Christmas

Six historic sites welcome visitors for holiday tour

Lincoln Home dining room set for the holidays.
This Saturday, Dec. 15, six downtown historic sites are combining efforts and welcoming visitors to celebrate the holidays, a bit like the hospitable ol’ Fezziwig in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, who threw open his business to host a joyous holiday celebration for Scrooge and much of the town. Visitors will see decorations at some sites similar to those at Fezziwigs’ 19th century digs and enjoy (nonalcoholic) refreshments. But you won’t have to put up with Scrooge at a single site, though he was nicer during that period of his life, but I digress….

Between noon and 5 p.m., the Lincoln Home, the Illinois Executive Mansion, the Elijah Iles House, the Vachel Lindsay Home, Edwards Place and Pasfield House Inn will welcome visitors. Special holiday activities will be offered at various times at each site.

There is no charge to enter the historic sites, but there is a $2 fee to ride a horse-drawn trolley that will transport visitors between sites (weather permitting) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The round-trip trolley tickets are available on Saturday at the Elijah Iles House, 628 S. Seventh St.

This is the second year for this “Historic Christmas” event. “Historic sites are being asked to do more with less these days, and all the sites feel that by working together we can better leverage our resources to create stronger programming for the community,” says Erika Holst, curator of collections at Edwards Place (700 N. Fourth St.), the home of Benjamin and Helen Edwards, extended family of the Lincolns. “Last year we had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised by the result. At Edwards Place we had a steady stream of visitors all day – about 150 total. I know some of the downtown sites drew in the neighborhood of 300 people and up.” The Lincoln Home drew 1,000, according to Laura Gundrum, the home’s chief of interpretation.

Edwards Place’s theme will be “A Civil War Christmas,” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and will feature costumed reenactors from the 114th Infantry Illinois Regiment and interpreters from the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry and the Soldier‘s Aid Society who will describe Civil War holiday customs. Visitors can make an ornament and decorate a gingerbread house, or shop at the Holiday Hall which offers handmade works by more than 45 regional artists.

Abraham and Mary Lincoln impersonators will appear at different times at each historic site to greet visitors. Likewise, Sound Celebration Chorus members will perform 19th century Christmas carols at various times at each site.

The day’s events begin with a Sound Celebration Chorus Christmas concert at 12:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Home Visitor Center (426 S. Seventh St.), where Mary and Abraham will appear from noon until 12:30 p.m. Home tours will be available. Inside the home, visitors will see the Lincolns’ dining table set for a feast with ham, clove-studded oranges and other period delights. “The Lincolns had ham on their menu for New Year’s. We do not have the Lincolns’ Christmas menu so we do not know if they ate ham that day. We know that the Lincolns ate ham for a typical meal,” says Laura Gundrum.

At the Executive Mansion (410 E. Jackson St.), visitors can tour the ballroom, formal parlors and Lincoln bedroom, and see the Mansion’s Christmas trees, which were decorated by staff from 22 Illinois museums and historic sites.

Period trees, candles and decorations will be featured at the Elijah Iles House, along with an opportunity to decorate cookies. A collection of pre-Civil War furniture and local spinning wheels will be displayed as well.

Visitors at the Vachel Lindsay Home (603 S. Fifth St.) can take candle-lit tours of the home, which will be decked with greenery and an old-fashioned Christmas tree. Between noon and 3 p.m. they can also hear readings of Lindsay’s Christmas poetry and piano music. Here they can also make a Christmas ornament and enjoy Christmas cookies.

Three Christmas trees, one decorated with 1840s handmade ornaments, adorn the 1896 Pasfield House Inn (525 S. Pasfield St.) where visitors can also see a display of Civil War Santa figures and watch an Illinois Stories program about the 2010 and 2011 Executive Mansion tree displays.

Living history volunteers at the Lincoln Home Visitor Center, the Vachel Lindsay Home, and the Illinois Executive Mansion will provide information about the day‘s events and directions to the various sites.

For more information about the day’s events, call any of the participating historic sites. 


  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed