The carefully preserved Alexander Majors home will host holiday candlelight tours complete with festive music, treats and performances. Photo by Bill Rankin
Four historic homes tours offer a festive beginning to the holiday season
By Diane Euston
It’s hard to believe the Christmas season is fast approaching, but numerous organizations around the Kansas City area are already meticulously planning holiday tours that give you an opportunity to enter private historic homes beautifully decorated for Christmas time.
Four different events across the metropolitan area, all falling the weekend of December 7, offer an opportunity to see inside many unique, historic homes and learn a bit of the history of these communities.
Alexander Majors “Homestead for the Holidays” Candlelight Tours
Explore how the holidays would have been celebrated in the 19thcentury with festive music, holiday treats and performances at the historic Alexander Majors home. Touted as being only one of four surviving antebellum homes in Kansas City, the Alexander Majors home has been carefully preserved and will be open for candlelight tours just in time for the holiday season.
Built in 1856 for Alexander Majors and his family, the home was the headquarters for his freighting business. Likely built by slaves, the home was constructed of oak timbers and square nails and originally included nine rooms with a fireplace in each room. The house strategically faced west toward Kansas Territory where Majors leased land for businesses purposes allegedly to save money– the land wasn’t taxed because Kansas was a territory. The home stayed in the Majors family until 1904, and the land around it was sold in 1924 for suburban development.
By 1930, the house was in disrepair. The great-granddaughter of Alexander Majors purchased the home and worked on renovations in order to save it. Upon her death, the home was put in trust and was open to the public in 1984.
Candlelight tours will be available at the Alexander Majors home and museum at 8201 State Line Rd. Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7 from 6-7:30pm. Tours will leave every 15 minutes and are an hour long. Tickets are $15 and are available by searching Alexander Majors House on Eventbrite.com or by calling 816-444-1858.
Isaac Pickering home in 1960 is one of five homes available to tour in Olathe on Dec. 7. Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Museum
Olathe Historic Homes Tour
Bring in the holiday cheer in nearby Olathe, Ks. as you get the chance to tour five historic homes and one historic event space. Make a day of it by staying a bit longer and perusing the boutiques in downtown Olathe. One home featured on the tour is an Italianate villa built over the course of ten years in the 1870s.
Sitting at 507 W. Park, the Isaac Pickering home is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been undergoing careful renovations over the past few years. The house had been gutted, so the new owner has started over, preserving the home from the few interior photos that do exist. The original stained glass, staircase and doors have been preserved. A previous owner even had a fish pond inside the home which damaged the foundation.
Isaac Pickering (1842-1923) was born in Ohio and raised in Illinois. He came to Kansas Territory in 1859 and worked as a teacher and farmer. In November 1861, he joined Company F, 9th Kansas Cavalry and made the rank of First Lieutenant. After the war, he engaged in the mercantile and livery businesses in Leavenworth and Olathe, and in 1872, he was admitted into the bar. He was mayor of Olathe from 1878-1885, a period of time when he lived in his beautiful home he named “Old Liberty Hall” featured on the tour.
Tours of this home and four others are available December 7 from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Tickets are $10 and are available along the homes tour or at the Heritage Center at 1200 E. Kansas City Road. For more information, go to www.olathehistoricalsociety.org.
Tiffany Castle on 100 Garfield is one of six houses on the Pendleton Heights Holiday Homes Tour on Dec. 7th. Photo courtesy of John Bordeau
Pendleton Heights Holiday Homes Tour and Artist’s Market
Located in the historic Northeast neighborhood just off Independence Ave., Pendleton Heights features the largest collection of Victorian Homes in Kansas City. Six Victorian homes will be open on the homes tour, one of which is historic Tiffany Castle at 100 Garfield.
Flavel B. Tiffany (1846-1918) was born in New York but grew up in the west. He graduated from the University of Minnesota and became a doctor specializing in the ears, nose and throat. He came to Kansas City in 1878 and founded one of Kansas City’s pioneer medical schools, University Medical College in 1889.
After amassing a fortune and living on Millionaire’s Row on Troost Ave., Tiffany decided to build his own Tudor-style castle modeled after the architecture he had seen from travels in Europe. In 1909, the castle was completed, the first house to have floors and a roof built of reinforced concrete. The walls are solid stone quarried at 2nd and Lydia. It sits atop the Cliff Drive bluffs overlooking the Missouri River and can be seen for miles.
In the late 1800s, Tiffany bought 70 acres of land north of Kansas City with the dream of opening a health resort. Although this dream never came to fruition, the name Tiffany Springs marks the location of his idea.
This home along with five others in the historic Pendleton Heights area will be open for tours Dec. 7th from 12-5pm. A pop-up market at 2200 Lexington will also offer gifts for sale. Food trucks will be parked along the neighborhood streets offering delicious snacks while visiting the homes. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 the day of the event and benefit the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association. For tickets, call 816-875-0162 or visit www.pendletonheights.org where you can see all the homes open for tours and purchase tickets.
Lincoln’s Other Mary Home at 613 Walnut in Weston is part of the historic homes tour Dec. 7-8.
38thAnnual Weston Candlelight Homes Tour
Less than 45 minutes away from Kansas City, Weston was founded in 1837 and became the second largest port on the Missouri River next to St. Louis. At one point, the town soared to a population of 5,000. Today, less than 2,000 residents call Weston home.
Their wineries, a distillery, quaint downtown lined with boutiques and restaurants as well as blocks of historic homes make it a desirable day trip for Kansas City residents. Five homes and two churches with Christmas décor and music will be featured in the 38th Annual Weston Candlelight Homes Tour.
One home open to the public during the homes tour holds some unique history linked to Abraham Lincoln. Built in 1846, the Vineyard Home of “Lincoln’s Other Mary” at 613 Walnut is a five-room federal style cottage. Mary Owens (b. 1808) from Greene Co., Ky. was introduced to the young lawyer Abraham Lincoln in 1833. While in Illinois in 1836, Lincoln proposed marriage to Owens–twice. When he first met Owens, he found her most handsome and well-educated. When she returned for a visit in 1837, Lincoln was surprised at how different she looked. He described her as being heavier than she had been as well as “want of teeth” and “weather-beaten.” He kept to his word and proposed a second time, yet she declined the invitation.
In 1841, Owens married Jesse Vineyard and they moved to Platte County, Mo., shortly thereafter where he founded Pleasant Valley College. Her husband was killed during the Civil War in 1862 serving in the Confederacy, and she returned to Weston where she lived out the remainder of her years at the home on this tour. She died July 4, 1877. An original print of a young Lincoln and a lithograph of Owens has stayed with the home through its many owners.
Tickets are $15 for this homes tour are available through the Weston Chamber of Commerce at 816-640-2909 or by searching Weston Candlelight Homes Tour on Eventbrite.com. Tours are available Dec. 7th 2:00-7:00 and Dec. 8th 2:00-7:00.
Diane writes a blog on the history of the area. To read more of the stories, go to www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com.