Michigan’s Historic Homes Open their Doors for Holiday Tours
By Caroline Cousineau
‘Tis the season, and the halls are decked! Check out these historical sites all over Michigan to see beautifully decorated homes that are sure to enchant and put you in the holiday spirit.
Felt Estate, Laketown Township
Celebrate the holidays in grand style at the Felt Estate, where this year the theme is All That Jazz. There are many activities throughout December – fun for the entire family.
December 10 (Noon-2 pm) is Winterfest, an annual event with horse-drawn wagon rides, a free lunch, cupcakes, face-painting, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Admission is free (but a suggestion donation for lunch is $5 per family).
December 17 (5:45-8 pm) is the Taste and Tour, an annual wine, beer and cider-tasting event, including a tour of this historic home. The first 50 people to arrive will receive a Felt Estate wine glass – theirs to keep. Admission is $30 per person, and $25 for seniors.
Chicago inventor Dorr Eugene Felt purchased several hundred acres on Lake Michigan in the rolling dunes between Holland and Saugatuck in 1919, calling it “Shore Acres Farm.” He began construction of the “Big House” in 1925 for his wife, Agnes—a 12,000-square-foot summer mansion consisting of 25 rooms (including a third-floor ballroom). These rooms are now open for touring.
An “Old Fashion Christmas in Chassell” is scheduled on Saturday, December 10 (10 am-5 pm) in this Keweenaw Peninsula community. Among the activities is a Holiday Home tour (Noon-5 pm), by the Holiday Handicrafts Bazaar at the school, Story Hour at the VFW Home, visiting Santa & Mrs. Claus at the Chassell Heritage Center, and traditional holiday music performed by “Chassell Centennial Chorus.” Tickets are $10 and available at the Chassell General Store, the Chassell Heritage Center and the Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Provencal-Weir House, Grosse Pointe
On Saturday December 10 (1-4 pm), visit Grosse Pointe’s oldest surviving residence farmhouse from 1823, The Provencal-Weir House. Behind this beautifully restored home is an 1840s hand-hewn log cabin, built by Detroiter Pierre Provencal. This historical site will be decorated with the spirit of Christmas. After touring the house, and the cabin, visit LaBelle Country Store for one of a kind historic gifts.
Hackley & Hume Historic Site, Muskegon
Tour the homes of Muskegon’s most well-known lumber barons from the late 1800s, decorated to celebrate the holiday season. Start in the Hackley House, where a tree in the bay window of the Reception Hall greets visitors, continuing across the courtyard in the Hume family home. The tours are walk-through style with guides placed throughout the houses to answer questions. Holiday tours of the Hackley & Hume Historic Site run Monday, December 26 (4-8 pm) and Tuesday, December 27 (1-4 pm). Tours are $7 for adults and teens, $5 for age 65 and older, and free for visitors 12 and younger.
Embrace the holiday spirit and join the Friends of Turner Dodge House and Lansing Parks and Recreation for the 5th Annual Turner Dodge House Festival of Trees. All three floors will feature as many as 60 trees decorated for the Holidays. The tree lighting is reoccurring Tuesday through Sunday until January 3, 2017. The Dodge Mansion, also known as Turner-Dodge House, was built in 1855 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Money raised from the admission price of this holiday event go toward projects to preserve and enhance the house. The admission is $5 per person or $10 per family of 4, children 12 and under are free.
One of Michigan’s most noted historic sites is celebrating the holidays like no other. Greenfield Village is decorated head-to-toe with lights and garland, as costumed interpreters walk the grounds and welcome guests for sleigh rides, ice-skating, jingle bells, caroling, and more, including Santa and his reindeer. Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village starting at 6:30 pm on various evenings in December. This is an event the whole family can enjoy ticket prices vary from free to $26.
Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores
One of Michigan’s most noted historic homes is open for holiday tours through January 4. Visit the former home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, son and daughter-in-law of auto icon Henry Ford. Designed by Albert Kahn to resemble a cluster of Cotswold village cottages, this 1927 home features stone roofs, lead-pained windows, vine-covered walls and expansive gardens on the shore of Lake St. Clair. Among the holiday décor are Eleanor’s custom-made vintage ornaments and glowing candles. Tour hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 am-4 pm and Sundays, Noon-4 pm. Admission is $12 adults, $8 children ages 6-12.
Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester Hills
Built in the 1920s, this 110-room Tudor-revival hall is decked out for the holidays now through December 22, with special Christmas exhibits. The Great Estate is offering holiday walking tours, holiday shopping, a holiday tea, the Oakland University Community Night, Santa Programs and a starlight stroll. Self-guided tours are available daily (11 am-5 pm), with evening tours are available December 18-21 until 9 pm. Admission is $20 for adults or seniors and $5 for kids 17 and under (kids 2 and under are free).
Bring the family for the Historical Christmas Past at Charlton Park, Saturday, December 10 and Sunday December 11 (Noon-5 pm). This turn-of-the-century village and museum will be adorned with festive decorations, including fresh evergreens. Take a wagon ride, visit with St. Nick, make holiday crafts, and listen to live music. Traditional food and drink samples will be available throughout the village including roasted chestnuts, cinnamon and sugar apples, popcorn and more. Admission is $6 for ages 13 and up, $4 for ages 5 to 12; children 4 and under are free.
See how the holidays were celebrated in the 1800s during the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s annual Holidays at the Homestead, Sunday, December 11 (1-4 pm). Start by touring the farmhouse and then watch the craftsmen perform at the blacksmith’s shop, see how candles were made, and then spinners and weavers perform their craft. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 seniors, $4 children & students 4-17, kids 3 and under are free. KNC members enjoy free admission.
John C. Blanchard House, Ionia
The 1880s historic John C. Blanchard House in Ionia is elegantly dressed for the holiday season and is open for public tours on Sundays, December 11 and 18 (1-4 pm). This Italianate-style, post-Civil War period home was affectionately given a Spanish name – “La Palistina” – meaning, “Delightful Home.” It is listed with both the Michigan and National Register of Historic Places.
Holiday Home Tour, Marine City
The Marine City Women’s Civic Club is sponsoring its annual Downtown Holiday Home Tour on Saturday December 10 (5-9 pm). This warm-spirited event features a look inside some of the town’s most noted homes, decorated in their seasonal splendor.
Loren Andrus Octagon House, Washington
Step inside the Loren Andrus Octagon House and check out its Victorian-style Christmas charm on Sunday, December 11 (Noon-4 pm). Families are invited to enjoy period crafts and visit with Santa as well. Admission is $5 per person, for those five and older. Known as the “house of eights,” this house was built between 1858 and 1860 by Andrus and his brother-in-law David Stewart using materials acquired from the surrounding farmland. In the early 1970s, the Octagon House was listed on both the State and National Register of Historic Places.
Ginkgo Tree Inn, Mount Pleasant
This historic bed-and-breakfast is ready for the holiday season. You’re invited to top in to see the beautiful decor and get a personal tour by one of the staff. Of course, planning a romantic get-away is also an option. Built in 1902 by Dr. Sheridan E. Gardiner, this Victorian gem is adorned with a large front veranda, turret room, ornate woodwork, stained glass and even secret stairways.
Caroline Cousineau is a recent Ferris State University graduate with a degree in Public Relations. She is serving a year with the Americorps and Advise MI as a College Adviser for high school students.