Homes for the Holiday
These four historic residences offer tours that provide a look into the lives of the families who lived there and plenty of decorating inspiration.
Glendower Mansion, Lebanon
Year Built: 1845 | Architectural Style: Greek Revival
The History: In the 18th and 19th centuries, builders would draw up house plans, and families could choose their home design from the published options. That is how John Milton Williams, a descendant of the area’s original Welsh pioneers, selected the style for Glendower Mansion. After the Williams family lived there, the home remained in private hands until it was turned into a museum during the 1940s. “This was a very patriotic time,” says Vicky Van Harlingen, director of Glendower Mansion. “Everyone was remembering their history, remembering who they were.”
On the Tour: The exterior of the 10-room residence features Ionic and Doric columns, carved cornices and a roof with a captain’s walk. The home’s dining parlor and open floor plan were perfect for entertaining. Today, visitors enter the home through the back entrance to begin the tour, and their first glimpse of glamour is what many guests refer to as the ballroom or drawing room. “That’s the money room in the house,” says Van Harlingen. “That’s the room where all the people of the day who were anybody came to parties.”
The Traditions: Visitors return year after year to gather holiday inspiration from the lush greenery and warm candlelight. While the Williams family’s Welsh descent may have made for demure Christmas decor (no records exist regarding their holiday customs), the family lived during the Christmas-decorating revolution. “The Williams’ were there in the early times of the country really getting into holiday decorating,” says Van Harlingen. “You start seeing Christmas trees coming in that time frame and decorating starting to happen.”
Visit website for dates, pricing and more information. 105 S. Broadway, Lebanon 45036, 513/932-1817, glendower.org
Promont House Museum, Milford
Year Built: 1865 | Architectural style: Victorian Italianate
The History: This 5-acre property was once home to Ohio’s 43rd governor, John Pattison, and his family. “It was an exciting time — the Civil War was over, and it was a good time in our history,” says Promont House Museum administrator Donna Amann. “The Victorians enjoyed a little wealth, a little prosperity, and were proud to show it off.” The residence passed through private owners over the years until the Greater Milford Historical Society restored the home in 1983.
On the Tour: The Italianate architecture combines function and elegance, with each floor featuring a center hall with two rooms flanking it. “What Victorians could have done, and one thing that we do, is sometimes hang a tree upside down between the two parlors,” says Amann. “That was supposed to be for good luck.” The Italianate details include windows with balconettes and a tower at the front of the home. Keep an eye out for the sky painted on the porch ceiling near the entrance and the “Tree of Life” stained glass panel at the top of the main staircase.
The Traditions: Along with greenery, decorations that included natural elements such as pine cones, feathers and nuts were an ode to the hunting culture of the area, since the woods that once surrounded Promont served as a prime place to bag a turkey for the holiday meal. “The feathers would be used because they’re beautiful,” says Amann. “They would use them in their centerpieces, decorations for the tree, adornments for gifts.”
Visit website for dates, pricing and more information. 906 Main St., Milford 45150, 513/248-0324, milfordhistory.net
J. E. Reeves Victorian Mansion & Museum, Dover
Year Built: Circa 1870 | Architectural Style: Queen Anne, Italianate
The History: Englishman Jeremiah Reeves purchased this home, which was originally part of a larger 400-acre property, in 1898. He renovated the residence for three years, during which time the eight-room farmhouse morphed into a 17-room mansion. In 1976, Reeves’ grandson negotiated to have the home donated to the Dover Historical Society, and the house was restored. “Luckily, we had all of their furniture here in the carriage house,” says Shelagh Pruni, mansion and museum director. “Ninety-five percent of the belongings in the house were the original belongings of the house.”
On the Tour: There are no roped-off areas in the home, and guests are free to step inside each room. “You’re not going down the hallway and looking in,” explains Pruni. “You can walk through all the rooms.” Each room has a Christmas tree decorated to complement it and bring new surprises at every turn. Be sure to check out the stunning details of the home’s furniture, particularly the 1860s carved wooden furnishings filling the drawing room.
The Traditions: The Reeves family didn’t decorate much for the holidays, but visitors will find that the museum’s staff goes all out, with garlands adorning mantels and tracing the railing of the main staircase. The decorations showcase the luxury that the Reeves family enjoyed during the years they lived there. “You just slow down — you look at these gorgeous decorations,” says Pruni, “and that beauty just touches your heart in a different way.”
Visit website for dates, pricing and more information. 325 E. Iron Ave., Dover 44622, 330/343-7040, doverhistory.org
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron
Year Built: 1913 | Architectural Style: English Tudor Revival
The History: F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and his wife, Gertrude, designed this home as a place where their six children and 21 grandchildren could gather during the holidays. “Guests say that the rooms have a cozy quality,” says Julie Frey, curator and director of museum services. “There’s a warmth to the house that people really pick up on.” In 1955, the Akron community formed the Stan Hywet Hall Foundation to which the home was donated.
On the Tour: Designed by Cleveland architect Charles Schneider, the home features 65 rooms (90 if you count bathrooms), but the tour focuses on the 20 most notable, including the Great Hall and Music Room. Although the Seiberling family decorated minimally for Christmas, the estate’s annual Deck the Hall event features plenty of decorations and a different theme, with this year’s being Storybook Christmas.
The Traditions: Although the Seiberlings favored minimal decorations, the family would garnish a Christmas tree with glass bulbs, tinsel and paper chains made by the grandchildren. “To the 2016 aesthetic, it might look crafty and homemade,” says Frey. “That over-commercialization of Christmas decorations hadn’t happened yet.” Holiday traditions also included the Yule log: A horse would pull a 4-foot-long log through the door on a sled. The children would ride the horse around the room as the adults gathered by the fireplace until the log burned out.
Visit website for dates, pricing and more information. 714 N. Portage Path, Akron 44303, 330/836-5533, stanhywet.org