Tag Archives: Historic

Vaile Mansion, Decorated for Christmas

Vaile Mansion, Independence, Missouri, in Snow Poster

Vaile Mansion, Independence, Missouri.

Each Christmas season, the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, is lavishly decorated for Christmas in a Victorian style. I recently toured the beautiful mansion with a friend, who had visited the mansion when it was decorated for a previous Christmas season. Each Christmas season’s decor is different, based on a Victorian theme. This year was a Victorian Christmas Romance. Some of the themed rooms, all decorated by different designers, were Phantom of the Opera, Sunflowers and Music, coordinated by the Vaile Victorian Society. Mother Nature added her own touch with a blanket of snow on the lawn. It was all gorgeous!

The Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, is decorated every Christmas season, coordinated by the Vaile Victorian Society, with a Victorian theme and is open for tours.


The follow information about the Vaile Mansion is from three separate sources, which I have linked at the bottom:

Built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey M. Vaile in 1881, the Vaile Mansion was “the most princely house and the most comfortable home in the entire west,” the Kansas City Times reported in 1882. Situated on North Liberty Street, a mile north of the historic Independence Square, according to the Vaile Mansion’s website.

The three-story Gothic-like mansion includes 31 rooms, 9 marble fireplaces, spectacular painted ceilings, flushing toilets. This mansion is one of the best examples of Second Empire style architecture in the United States. The Vaile Mansion was designed by Kansas City architect Asa Beebe Cross (1826–1894) in the Second Empire style; its design was reportedly inspired by a large house visited by Vaile and his wife Sophie in Normandy. The mansion is constructed of hand-pressed red brick, partially trimmed with white limestone.

Servant gossip and a local newspaper reporter’s description in 1882 of the mural on the ceiling over Colonel Vaile’s bed caused tongues to wag in Independence, Missouri. An Italian artist painted the mural titled “Innocence” of a woman rising from a bed. Part of her anatomy is revealed, which was the cause of the scandalous talk.

The mansion features thirty-one rooms with fourteen-feet-high ceilings decorated by French, German, and Italian artists. All of the original furniture was auctioned off when the estate left the Vaile family (the house was refurnished by the Vaile Victorian Society after 1983); however, the interiors still boast much of the original paintwork, nine marble fireplaces (one of which cost $1,500), and two of the three original chandeliers, originally intended for the White House (Harvey Vaile was able to purchase them for $800 while he was in Washington, D.C., because there was some flaw in them). State-of-the-art amenities original to the house include speaking tubes, gasoliers, indoor running hot and cold water, and flush toilets; equipped with a built-in 6,000 gallon water tank, the Vaile Mansion was the first house in Jackson County with indoor plumbing.

This chandelier — or upside down — Christmas tree hangs in the entry of the Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri.

The mansion was originally surrounded by a 630-acre estate (now reduced to 5.6 acres), which included a grape vineyard and an apple orchard. Vaile had a wine processing plant on his property, as well as a wine cellar capable of holding 48,000 gallons.

A “strong supporter of the abolitionism movement” with a passion for politics, Vaile was among the founders of the Republican Party in Jackson County. Vaile built his wealth by investing in several business ventures, primarily interests in the construction of the Erie Canal; he was also part-owner and operator of Star Mail routes, with rights for the route to Santa Fe.

Sophie Vaile died in 1883. Her husband lived in the house for 12 years afterward. The Vailes were childless, and Colonel Vaile bequeathed the mansion to a college. Relatives contested the will. The mansion turned into a retirement home until it was purchased after the owner’s death by Roger and Mary Mildred Dewitt, who gifted the mansion to the city of Independence in 1983. That year neighbors formed the Vaile Victorian Society, and they’ve been meticulously restoring, decorating and caring for the house ever since.

Vaile Victorian Mansion Official Website.

About the Vaile Mansion.

Mansion Visitors Have Themselves a Scandalous Victorian Christmas.

Scenes from the 2018 Vaile Mansion Victorian Christmas Romance. Each room is decorated, even the bathrooms.

 

 

The Ladies’ Parlor features one of a pair of chandeliers, original to the mansion, that were intended for the White House. The White House staff rejected the chandeliers, because they didn’t match. Vaile was able to purchase them for $800 while on a visit to Washington, D.C.

Click on any photo below to see a large size.

 

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Filed under Architecture, Christmas, History, Holidays, Kansas City, Photography

Webster House in Kansas City

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

The historic Webster House has been transformed from a school to a beautiful shopping and dining destination. It stands next to the modern Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri.

One of my favorite buildings to photograph is the Webster House, formerly the Webster School. It’s in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, Missouri. 

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

Nutcrackers for sale at the Webster House

It’s a beautiful work of art, designed in the “Richardson Romanesque” style.  What a grand place it must have been to attend school there! It’s lovely inside and out with fabulous interior wood woodwork. The school officially opened in 1886 and then closed in 1932. It was restored, opening in 2002, as a beautiful dining and shopping location. The Webster House has a beautiful bell tower, which is a reconstruction. The original was removed after another school’s bell tower fell during a tornado and caused the death of fifteen students.  I like to meet friends and family at the Webster House for lunch or dinner, served in a couple of lovely dining rooms, which were once school rooms.

Behind the Webster House are the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Bartle Hall Pylons, architectural icons and modern additions to the Downtown Kansas City landscape.

The Webster School was designed by the Kansas City School Board’s architect, Manuel Diaz. Webster House is one of the oldest remaining public school buildings in Kansas City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Webster School was the last area school built with a bell tower on top. In 1886 a tornado caused the bell tower on the Lathrop School at Ninth and Broadway to crash into the school, collapsing the third and second floors into the basement and burying children in the debris.  Bell towers were no longer permitted on top of schools after this tragedy.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

The old Webster School is now a restaurant and store. Here beautifully decorated trees display Christmas ornaments for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

Beautiful cabinets that match the original woodwork of the old Webster School display jewelry for sale.

History of the Webster House.

History of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Crossroads Arts District.

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Filed under Education, Kansas City, Personal, Photography

The Hottest Little Festival in Texas

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

Amazingly, the winner James can still speak even after eating a ghost pepper, which is rated at over one million Scoville units in heat.

 

There are a lot of festivals in east Texas, celebrating everything from roses, peanuts, yams, trains, pecans, mushrooms, pipe organs, chili making, stew making, duclimers, dogwoods and even feral hogs.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

The Hot Pepper Eating Contest trophy with some of the hot peppers in the contest.

Palestine, Texas, boasts that it hosts the Hottest Little Festival in Texas every October. My family and I arrived in historic downtown Palestine in time for the hot pepper eating contest on Saturday, October 22, 2016.  Six brave people entered the contest. (Another two were turned away because they weren’t eighteen.)

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

The master of ceremonies of the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, which was sponsored by Brookshire Grocery Company.

Contestants were given a series of peppers in order of heat, beginning with green peppers with a Scovill rating of zero. Next was the banana pepper, the jalapeno, the serrano, the seven-pot and then the ghost pepper. The scorpion and the Carolina reaper were next, but all of the contestants except two had already dropped out when the ghost pepper was presented.  The runner-up declined the ghost pepper, so after James ate the ghost pepper, he was spared any further torture. The Carolina reaper is currently the hottest pepper in the world.

The master of ceremony told each contestant that they had to chew the pepper for a while and not swallow it until he told them to. I would have stopped after the banana pepper. James, the winner, received $150 and a trophy in the shape of a red hot pepper. The two runners up received a cake.  Each contestant got a glass of milk to drink to neutralize the heat.

According to Wikipedia, Palestine is a relatively small town located in the Piney Woods area of Texas,  equidistant from the major airport cities of Dallas, Houston and Shreveport.  It celebrates its natural beauty characterized by a magnificent dogwood floral blooming season with an annual Dogwood Trails festival in April. It’s a small town of about 20,000 people, but it’s big on history, with 1,800 historical sites on the National Register of Historic Places.  It’s the western terminus of the Texas State Railroad, a steam and diesel railroad museum operating between Palestine and Rusk.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

All six of the entrants were able to eat the banana peppers.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

Contest participants prepare to eat their jalapenos.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times previously.

The winner James, holding his trophy, drinks milk to neutralize the burning sensation. James has won the contest several times.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

James, the hot pepper eating contest winner, shows off his $150 check.

Click on a thumbnail to start the slideshow:

The Scoville Scale measurement of the pungency and heat of chili peppers.

Hot Pepper Festival Facebook Page

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Filed under Entertainment, Photography, Travel

Inn at 835 on Route 66 in Springfield, Illinois

Inn at 835, Springfield, Illinois Poster

You’ll enjoy luxurious vintage surroundings at the Inn at 835, in Springfield, Illinois, in an historic neighborhood and on Route 66. There’s even rumored to be a ghost, but we didn’t see her.

In July, my husband and I decided to drive to Chicago for a wedding, rather than fly, so that we could see sights along the way. One town we’d never visited was Springfield, Illinois, of Abraham Lincoln fame.  A quick check online, and I found this wonderful small hotel, the Inn at 835, which is in the historic area of Springfield, close to the state  capitol, the Abraham Lincoln presidential library and the Abraham Lincoln home.

Built in the early 1900s, the Inn at 835 in Springfield, Illinois, first housed luxury apartments. The building was the dream of Bell Miller, a turn of the century businesswoman.  It was designed during the Arts and Crafts movement by architect, George Helmle.

We returned from dinner at Obed & Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery to find this basket of chocolate chip cookies hanging on our doorknob. I quickly took a photo before the cookies disappeared.

We returned from dinner at Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery to find this basket of chocolate chip cookies hanging on our doorknob. I quickly took a photo before the cookies disappeared.

While still in her 20s, Miller began a floral business in the early 1890’s, catering to Springfield’s high society. Before long, she expanded her small business into a number of greenhouses, encompassing a city block.

In December 1909, her dream apartment building was completed, including airy verandahs, massive fireplaces and exquisite oak detailing in a neighborhood once termed “Aristocracy Hill.” It’s on an historic section of Route 66, a bonus!

In 1994, the building was completely renovated and the apartments were converted into seven luxurious guest rooms. In 1995, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the legend, Miller became so fond of her dream home, that she refuses to leave and haunts the place.

 

Inn at 835 Inn, Springfield, Illinois Postcard

Inn at 835, Springfield, Illinois.

Rubber Ducky Poster

A rubber ducky greets guests on the edge of the tub at the Inn at 835.

Obed & Isaac's Microbrewery & Eatery Poster

The owners of the Inn at 835 also own the nearby Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery, in an historic home.

 

One of the original guest bedrooms in the Inn at 835, formerly the Bell Miller Apartments, in Springfield, Illinois.

One of the original guest bedrooms in the Inn at 835, formerly the Bell Miller Apartments, in Springfield, Illinois.

 

Flag Outside Window at Inn at 835, Springfield, Illinois.

Flag Outside Window at Inn at 835, Springfield, Illinois.

 

Breakfast at the Inn at 835, Springfield, Illinois.

Breakfast at the Inn at 835, Springfield, Illinois.

 

Breakfast Room at the Inn at 835 in Springfield, Illinois.

Breakfast Room at the Inn at 835 in Springfield, Illinois.

 

 

The patio at Obed & Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery, Springfield, Illinois.

The patio at Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery, Springfield, Illinois.

 

I like dark beer! This was one of the dark hand-crafted beers at Obed & Isaac's.

I like dark beer! This was one of the dark hand-crafted beers at Obed & Isaac’s.

 

Obed & Isaac's Microbrewery & Eatery, Springfield, Illinois.

Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery, Springfield, Illinois.

 

One of the living rooms in the suites at the Inn at 835 in Springfield, Illinois.

One of the living rooms in the suites at the Inn at 835 in Springfield, Illinois.

 

Wine and cheese are offered every evening.

Wine and cheese are offered every evening.

 

Bell Miller Apartments, City of Springfield (Illinois) Historic Landmark.

Bell Miller Apartments, City of Springfield (Illinois) Historic Landmark.

 

Inn at 835 Entrance, Springfield, Illinois.

Inn at 835 Entrance, Springfield, Illinois.

 

The Inn at 835 is on the historic Route 66.

The Inn at 835 is on the historic Route 66.

 

The Inn at 835 is in the Old Aristocracy Hill Historic Area.

The Inn at 835 is in the Old Aristocracy Hill Historic Area.

Illinois State Capitol Building Poster

A statue of Abraham Lincoln stands in front of the Illinois State Capitol.

Is the “Inn at 835” Haunted?

Official Website of the Inn at 835.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Photography, Travel

Great Blue Heron at Watts Mill Waterfall

   A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

A Great Blue Heron watches for fish at the base of a waterfall at the Watts Mill Historic Site in Kansas City, Missouri.

I’ve driven by the Watts Mill Historic Site a thousand times. Although it’s somewhat hidden,  it’s across from where I bought groceries for many years and down the street from my stylist’s former salon. I’d picked up my husband many times at the nearby car dealer when he was getting his car serviced. Favorite restaurants were nearby. How could I have missed this idyllic spot? I even knew about it. I just didn’t realize how peaceful and lovely it would be, nestled as it is among shopping centers and car dealerships.

My friend Lynn and I were on a photography expedition, and she pulled into the parking lot to check out the falls for a photography opportunity. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the water was really flowing.

The park, at 103rd and State Line, was a campsite for people heading out on the Oregon, California and Santa Fe Trails. The area that is now a park was the site of gristmill, built in 1832, known as Watts Mill (first known as Fitzhugh’s Mill), and then Watts Mill. The park is situated on the banks of Indian Creek where the creek flows across flat rocks and tumbles over a waterfall. This location was dedicated June 10, 1974, as a historic site.

Also enjoying the creek were plenty of Canada geese and mallard ducks, as well as songbirds.

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird in the heron family Ardeidae, common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America as well as the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, History, Kansas City

Cycling in Denmark

Bicyclists are everywhere in Copenhagen, and they are very skilled at maneuvering in traffic.  Here, two young lovers hold hands as they speed down the street.

Bicyclists are everywhere in Copenhagen, and they are very skilled at maneuvering in traffic. Here, two young lovers hold hands as they speed down the street.

One of the first things my husband and I noticed in Copenhagen was that it’s a city on two wheels. The city is flat, has many bike lanes, a lot of narrow streets, limited parking in the city and everything costs a lot — at least for Americans. So bikes make a lot of economic sense. Almost 40 percent of the city’s inhabitants commute on bicycles.

A crowd of bicyclists peddle rapidly at rush hour on H.C. Andersens Boulevard at the Town Hall Square in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A crowd of bicyclists peddle rapidly at rush hour on H.C. Andersens Boulevard at the Town Hall Square in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Almost everyone on the bikes looked fit and attractive.  It was like being a Ralph Lauren ad without the pretentiousness. Copenhagen is considered the most bike-friendly city in the world. More people commute on bicycles in Copenhagen than in all of the much, much larger United States. Pedestrians need to be aware, because they will easily be knocked down at rush hour. There also were a lot of bikes in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, which is also a college town.

A mother and her son bike to the store together in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A mother and her son bike to the store together in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A father and son ride a tandem bicycle in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A father and son ride a tandem bicycle in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A pedicab enters an historic prison area at Slutterigade in Copenhagen.

A pedicab enters an historic prison area at Slutterigade in Copenhagen.

A biker crosses the courtyard of Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Danish royal family.  The equestrian statue is of Amalienborg's founder, King Frederick V.

A biker crosses the courtyard of Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Danish royal family. The equestrian statue depicts Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V.

Højbro Plads (Hojbro Square) is a popular spot for tourists and locals. On this July day, there were so many parked bicycles that there was hardly room for people.  Højbro  is public square located between the adjoining Amagertorv and Slotsholmen Canal in the City Center of Copenhagen, Denmark. According to Wikipedia, It takes its name from the Højbro Bridge which connects it to the Slotsholmen island on the other side of the canal while Gammel Strand extends along the near side of the canal.  The most striking feature of the square is an equestrian statue of Absalon, the warrior-bishop who has traditionally been credited as the founder of Copenhagen. It was inaugurated in 1901 to commemorate the septcentennial of his death.

Højbro Plads (Hojbro Square) is a popular spot for tourist and locals. On this July day, there were so many parked bicycles that there’s hardly room for people. Højbro is public square located between the adjoining Amagertorv and Slotsholmen Canal in the City Center of Copenhagen, Denmark. According to Wikipedia, It takes its name from the Højbro Bridge which connects it to the Slotsholmen island on the other side of the canal while Gammel Strand extends along the near side of the canal. The most striking feature of the square is an equestrian statue of Absalon, the warrior-bishop who has traditionally been credited as the founder of Copenhagen. It was inaugurated in 1901 to commemorate the septcentennial of his death.

 

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How Denmark Became a Cycling Nation.

Wikipedia: Cycling in Copenhagen

Wikipedia: About Denmark.

The Official Website of Denmark.

The Danish Royal Couple on Bikes (Horses, Yacht…)

The Danish People are the Happiest People on Earth.

 

 

Some of my Postcards of Bicycles in Copenhagen:

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Filed under Life, Photography, Royalty, Travel