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.