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This Sat­urday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, the Grosvenor House in Jonesville, Mich., will host  “A Vic­torian Christmas,” a chance to go back in time and enjoy the sights and smells of Christ­mases long, long ago.

The Vic­torian-style house,  built in 1874 by Ebenezer Oliver Grosvenor, has hosted a “Vic­torian Christmas” for the past 35 years. Junior Julia Kilgore, who vol­un­teers at the museum, said that each room in the mansion is dec­o­rated by a Grosvenor House Museum board member in resplendent Christmas fashion. Gar­lands and lights wind around the ban­isters and Christmas trees and Santa fig­urines leave guests with a healthy dose of holiday cheer. Homemade refresh­ments are served while guests enjoy Christmas ensembles played by dif­ferent musical groups including Hillsdale’s music fra­ter­nities, Phi Mu Alpha, Mu Alpha and Sigma Alpha Iota –– all for an admission price of $4 for adults, Kilgore said.

Children have a special “Kids Day” on Dec. 8 where they can ride a horse and wagon downtown. Bonnie Drake, who is a former member and current vol­unteer at the Grosvenor house, said last year they had local vendors put together orange aprons and pack of tools for the kids to take home.

Drake said her first year as a board member she dec­o­rated the parlor with a 14-foot tree, but this year she is charge of the entryway. Junior Gwen­dolyn Stoldt, who also vol­un­teers, said she and Kilgore are helping Drake with the dec­o­rating. Members rotate rooms from year to year so the dec­o­ra­tions are always dif­ferent. She laughed, explaining how one member has been strug­gling to find his inner cre­ative side dec­o­rating a pink child’s room.

The house itself is some­thing to behold. Built for $37,000 in the late 1800’s, it would cost nearly five or six million dollars to replicate it today according to the Grosvenor House brochure. Grosvenor was appointed head of the State Building Com­mission to build the Lansing state capitol building and taking advantage of the oppor­tunity, built himself a house made of the same mate­rials he used in the capitol building.

Com­plete with servant quarters, hot and cold running water, gas lamps and water that pumped up to the upper floors from the basement, the Grosvenor house has all the “bells and whistles” the 19th century could offer.

History is in every nook, cranny and closet. Drake said she found a shoebox labeled “Pa’s papers” not too long ago and when she lifted the lid, a news­paper with the headline “Ulysses S. Grant Dead” was staring back at her. A grad­u­ation dress worn by a Hillsdale College graduate around the same time period is on a man­nequin in one of the upstairs bed­rooms.

Unfor­tu­nately, the house itself is in dis­repair – – all seven fire­places are in need of repairs that will cost $25,000 each, Drake said. All that pre­cious history will soon be lost, according to Drake, unless some serious changes happen – – the last trust fund keeping the house open runs out this January.

The “Vic­torian Christmas” is their yearly fundraiser and orna­ments will be sold for extra revenue, but Drake fears that will not be enough to keep the vol­unteer-run museum open.

“Last year we had a pretty good turn out after a lot of mar­keting that cost a pretty penny, but the year before the turnout was hor­rible due to bad weather,” Drake said.

After their last fundraiser that ended up losing money, Drake said she hopes that this one will be more suc­cessful.

“I really want to see growth so this place can go on for years to come,” Drake said. She said she is hoping for a Christmas miracle.

 

                        ndemacedo@hillsdale.edu