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Mansion Tour Highlights Christmas Past

Ewing Cultural Center
Ewing Manor is featured on the Christmas at the Mansions Tour.

The halls of three historic homes are decked with holiday cheer for the annual Christmas at the Mansions Tour.

In an annual Bloomington-Normal tradition, the Christmas at the Mansions tour allows guests to visit some of the Twin Cities most prestigious addresses. The David Davis Mansion and Ewing Manor will throw open their doors for the tours on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 2-5 p.m. There's also a Mystery Mansion that will be featured on the tour. Shuttles provide transport between the holiday-bedecked homes.

Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
Audrey Paulson, left, from the David Davis Mansion and Toni Tucker from Ewing Cultural Center helm the annual home tour event.

The Ewing home features holiday decor inspired by the family that once called the Manor home.

"Fortunately, the grandchildren, who spent their Christmases with their grandmother, Hazel Buck Ewing, remember those days, and they've helped us with how it was decorated and actually shared photos with us," said Toni Tucker, director of Ewing Cultural Center.

While the Ewings did not leave their holiday decorations behind, volunteer staff of the Manor have been able to recreate some pieces, such as the stockings that hang by the fireside, awaiting holiday booty from Santa. 

The theme at Ewing Manor this year is The World Tour. Up in Hazel Buck Ewing's bedroom is a display of items she acquired in her travels in the mid-1920s.

"Hazel purchased a lot of items from women street vendors," said Tucker. "Because she wanted to support women in creating their handicrafts. We have hundreds of textiles and purses and scarves which are all homemade, and so those are on display. And the Christmas tree that is in Hazel's suite are all ornaments that are international."

Ewing Manor sports three live trees in the house, plus a holiday display in the stables. At the David Davis Mansion, in keeping with the 19th century origins of the house, the theme is Dickens this year.

Audrey Paulson, the program coordinator at the Mansion, revealed the dining room is set up for a sumptuous Christmas dinner, complete with wassail, mince pies, roast turkey and plum pudding.

The tour also includes a Mystery House. Paulson wouldn't divulge the identity of the house or owners but threw out a few hints.

"It is a historic home. It's over 100 years old. It's currently owned by someone who is prominent in the community, and it has strong ties with ISU," Paulson said.

Funds from the Christmas as the Mansions Tour go to programs at the historic homes.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.