November 21, 2009

Holidays at the Mansion starts a new tradition

After 20 years, Festival of Trees ended its run last year, a shadow of its former self.

Today, a new tradition began, Holidays at the Mansion, at the Racine Masonic Center and its historic Henry Durand Mansion Many of the 1856 mansion's rooms are decorated for Christmas with trees, garlands and more ornaments than you can count from many sources.

There are theme trees and theme rooms, Nativity scenes from around the world, a Dickens Village with dozens of homes, a room full of snowmen, even Santa's workshop. There's a tree decorated with old-fashioned leaded tinsel, a Wizard of Oz tree, even a mouse family enjoying the music under the piano.

Jaden Svendsen, 5 (and 1/2!) writes her letter to Santa;
She wants a backpack, earrings and a pencil sharpener

Wendy Spencer, the event coordinator, said she and other volunteers began planning this year's event last December, and obtained the basics from after-Christmas sales. And then they put out the call for donations: A Twin Towers ornament, for example, led to a tree decorated only with patriotic ornaments. In the Ladies Parlor, there's a Cozy Christmas tree, decorated with dozens of cups and saucers. "We hit every resale shop in town for this," Spencer said.

And then there are new traditions, such as "find the pickle." Signs around the mansion remind children to look for the pickle ornaments hung on some trees. The unique ornaments are a reminder to look at the details, and appreciate what's on the tree. In homes that follow this tradition, the child who finds the pickle receives a special gift from St. Nick. (Pickle ornaments are available for sale, for you to start the tradition in your own home.)

There's a family crafts area at the Mansion, for kids to build tabletop trees, which can be moved from room to room as good-behavior treats, and also a place to make "reindeer food" to be sprinkled in the snow outside homes to help Santa's reindeer find their way.

The Mansion was a private home until 1919. Upon the death of Frederick Robinson, vice president of J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co. it was sold to the Masons, who added the adjoining Masonic Center in 1922. Besides the decorated rooms -- with names like Home for the Holidays, Old Fashioned Christmas, A Child's Wonderland, Snowman Follies -- there is a Santaland game for the kids, a Candy Cane Cafe for refreshments and a vendor showcase. Stockings full of gifts are being raffled, and there is a silent auction table; all proceeds go to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Holidays at the Mansion is open through Nov. 28. Hours are:Saturday, November 21 10am to 7pm
  • Sunday, November 22 8 am to 5 pm; Breakfast with Santa 8 am to 1 pm
  • Monday, November 23 10 am to 7 pm
  • Tuesday, November 24 10 am to 7 pm
  • Wednesday, November 25 10 am to 7 pm
  • Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • Friday, November 27 10 am to 7 pm
  • Saturday, November 28 8 am to 7 pm; Breakfast with Santa 8 am to 1 pm
Admission is $7; $6 for seniors; $3 for kids ages 3-12.

Dickens Village

Santa's Workshop showed the toys he's working on right now

Conner Messer, 2, looked everywhere for the pickle

Patriotic tree based on Twin Towers ornament, right


  1. Happy Holidays!

  2. Thank you Masonic Center for giving my daughter and myself a fun day. We loved the beautiful mansion, and the santa land game was great. We will be back, and enter to win more stockings. Happy Holidays.

  3. Kris O.H. Kringle11/22/2009 7:41 AM

    The John McGivern show last at the mansion was fabulous. Thanks for bringing this to Racine!

  4. This is a wonderful event for my Grand-Daughter and I. Thank you Masonic Center for this family fun event!!!!

  5. Another one of the wonderful things going on in the city. It's nice the Racine Post highlights such events.I hope the naysayers stay away from this article.

  6. Agreed Anon 9:59.

    The Racine Post does a fantastic job of covering local community events.

  7. My family had a wonderful time at the mansion. The kids loved seeing Santa, playing the Santa game, and decorating theri own little tree. I hope others in Racine will take the time to go. The mansion was beautiful and really put me in the holiday spirit!

  8. It was a great time. The hunt for the pickle was so much fun. I think we found all but 2. Thanks for a great way to start our Holiday Season. Hope to see this next year.